Doctors Without Borders calls for transparent investigation of hospital airstrike

The U.S. Commander of Coalition Forces in Afghanistan pledged that the truth will come out about an airstrike that killed 22 people at a Doctors Without Borders hospital. Initially the Pentagon said that U.S. troops called in the attack, but Gen. John Campbell now says it came from Afghan forces. Doctors Without Borders’ director has rejected the latest U.S. version. Judy Woodruff reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The fallout over a U.S. airstrike on a medical facility in Afghanistan continued today. The incident, which is being called a war crime by Doctors Without Borders, took center stage at the Pentagon this morning.

  • GEN. JOHN CAMPBELL, U.S. Army:

    If errors were committed, we will acknowledge them. We will hold those responsible accountable, and we will take steps to ensure mistakes are not repeated.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    That was General John Campbell, U.S. commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, pledging the facts will come out about Friday's deadly attack. The airstrike killed 22 people at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, amid heavy fighting between the Taliban and Afghan forces.

    Some Afghan officials say Taliban fighters were firing from inside the hospital, a charge that Doctors Without Borders denies. Initially, the Pentagon said U.S. troops called in the airstrikes, but Campbell changed that account today.

  • GEN. JOHN CAMPBELL:

    We have now learned that on October 3, Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces. An airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat, and several civilians were accidentally struck.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The general repeatedly declined to answer questions about exactly who authorized the bombardment.

  • GEN. JOHN CAMPBELL:

    That will come out in the investigation.

    I don't want to go into those great details yet until we get the investigation, and I don't want to cover the rules of engagement in this format at this point in time.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Campbell also didn't say if the hospital was hit by mistake, or if U.S. air crews verified the target before firing.

    Doctors Without Borders has said it provided GPS coordinates of the site to coalition forces and notified them during the airstrikes, but to little avail.

    Today, the group's general director, Christopher Stokes, rejected the latest U.S. version of events.

    In a statement, he said — quote — "Their description of the attack keeps changing, from collateral damage to a tragic incident to now attempting to pass responsibility to the Afghanistan government. The need for a full, transparent, independent investigation is ever more critical."

    As to that, General Campbell said today the U.S. military, NATO and Afghanistan are already investigating.

  • GEN. JOHN CAMPBELL:

    If there's other investigations out there that need to go on, we will make sure we coordinate those as well, but I won't go into those details here.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Back in Kunduz, fighting continues on the city outskirts, with Afghan security forces trying to drive out any remaining Taliban. And senior White House officials tell The Washington Post that President Obama is now considering keeping 5,000 troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016, which had been the deadline for withdrawal.

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