More and more disturbing information is coming out about the US air strike on a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan run by Doctors Without Borders. The strike killed 24 patients and staff at the facility.
The US now admits that intelligence had the hospital under surveillance in the previous few days before the strike, believing that a Pakistani agent was supplying the Taliban with information about the movement of US and Afghan troops.
The analysts knew it was a medical facility, but it’s unclear whether they passed that information along to the local commanders.
The new details about the military’s suspicions that the hospital was being misused complicate an already murky picture and add to the unanswered questions about one of the worst civilian casualty incidents of the Afghan war. They also raise the possibility of a breakdown in intelligence sharing and communication across the military chain of command.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said questions about what the Defense Department knew about the clinic and whether it was communicated to personnel operating the gunship would be part of the Pentagon’s investigation. He said President Barack Obama was expecting a “full accounting.”
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook declined to address the new information.
“As Gen. Campbell has said, we would never intentionally target a protected medical facility,” Cook said in a statement. “We have confidence that the ongoing investigations into this tragic incident will uncover exactly what happened and why this hospital was mistakenly struck.”
NBC News is reporting that the crew of the AC-130 gunship that carried out the strike is heard questioning the legality of the orders to attack the hospital on cockpit recordings:
Could this be another intelligence SNAFU? Recall that CENTCOM’s dysfunctional intelligence division was recently exposed cooking the books on ISIS. Has this had a spillover effect? Has there been a breakdown between intelligence analysts and the high command?
The sad fact is, there is never any excuse for bombing a hospital. If those cockpit recordings prove to be true, several American officers could be tried as war criminals. Of course, given the savagery of the Taliban, ISIS, President Assad, Hezbollah, and other regional actors, and how they routinely violate international law, charging Americans with war crimes is something of a sick joke. But the world has been looking to pounce on the US and now appears eager and ready to bring American citizens to the dock at the Hague.