Via The Guardian: Kunduz hospital attack: US military took 17 minutes to act on MSF warnings. Excerpt:
US military commanders in Afghanistan took 17 minutes to act after being warned by Médecins Sans Frontières that their aircraft was firing on a medical centre full of doctors and civilians, an internal investigation has found.
By the time officers made contact with an AC-130 gunship, which had mistaken the facility in Kunduz for a Taliban-controlled building several hundred metres away, it was too late. Thirty staff, patients and assistants were killed and 37 injured in one of the worst incidents of civilian casualties in the 14-year war.
General John Campbell, the US commander in Afghanistan, said on Wednesday that some of those most closely involved in the disastrous catalogue of errors have been suspended from their duties pending disciplinary action, but he declined to give names or say how many.
MSF has previously condemned the airstrike as a “war crime”, and demanded an international investigation into the incident. It was expected to respond to the findings later on Wednesday.
“The strike began at 2.08am,” Campbell said. “At 2.20am an SOF [special operations forces] officer at Bagram [airbase] received a call from MSF advising that their facility was under attack. It took the headquarters and the US special operations commander until 2.37am to realise the fatal mistake. At that time the AC-130 had already ceased firing. The strike lasted for approximately 29 minutes. This is an example of human process error.”
MSF has said it repeatedly gave the US military the GPS coordinates of its trauma centre to ensure it would not be targeted, most recently on 29 September. Campbell did not dispute this, blaming human error compounded by technical malfunctions and procedural failings.
He detailed a series of blunders that ended in tragedy. The aircraft launched without a normal mission brief or essential materials, including no-strike designations that would have identified the location of the MSF centre.
During the flight, the onboard electronic systems malfunctioned, preventing the operation of command and control and limiting the ability to send email or video. In addition, as it arrived in Kunduz, it also mistakenly reported the aircraft had been targeted by a missile, putting it off course, and in turn degrading the accuracy of some targeting systems.
Even when these were corrected, the crew remained “fixated” on the physical description of their original target, Campbell admitted, even though there were some “contradictory indicators”.
The crew of the AC-130 gunship relied on a physical description of the compound provided by Afghan forces, which led the crew to attack the wrong target on 2 October. It said the intended target, thought to be under Taliban control and being used in part as a prison, was 450 yards away from the hospital.
MSF is promising a response.