Tag Archives: Kunduz Afghanistan

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! November 4: Back in Kunduz

The American military was accused of slaughtering some civilians using airstrikes in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Familiar territory for us!

Related:

U.S. Bombs Hospital–UPDATE

New York Times put the civilian fatality number at either 13 or 19.

While a United States “independent” investigation found its strikes resulted in no civilian casualties and that “numerous enemy combatants were killed,” the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan found 10 civilians were killed.

Additionally, those civilians suffered their deaths while being coerced by “antigovernment elements”–members of the Taliban–to retrieve bodies from earlier fighting, according to the UN Mission’s Twitter account. This aligned with testimony an elderly villager with a head wound gave to the New York Times.

Air Force reported Afghanistan strikes nearly quadrupled to 900 in August and September of 2017, compared with “a similar period” from 2016.

Also:

The CIA is reportedly seeking authority to conduct its own drone strikes in Afghanistan, a first if approved, according to the New York Times.

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/04/us-airstrikes-kill-civilians-kunduz-afghanistan

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-casualties/u-s-investigation-finds-no-afghan-civilian-casualties-in-kunduz-strike-idUSKBN1D706V

 

U.S. Bombs Hospital–UPDATE

Afghan Government May Have Tricked U.S. Into Bombing Doctors Without Borders Because They Healed Taliban

“That hospital is in the service of the Taliban. I swear to God, if they make it a hundred times, we’ll destroy it a hundred times.”–Colonel Abdullah Gard, head of Kunduz police “quick-reaction” force at the time of the DWB shelling (allied with American Special Forces)

Matthieu Aikins at New York Times Magazine has some potentially incriminating details on the October shelling of the Kunduz DWB hospital by an American gunship, which prompted military discipline (though no criminal charges) amidst a highly-redacted review of the incident last month, a horrific miscommunication in a war long “ended” that the U.S. media seem intent on bumping for a story on Donald Trump.

“They were absolutely trying to do the right thing,” General Joseph Votel, U.S. Central Command, said of the non-combat Special Forces who inadvertently razed the hospital instead of the nearby Taliban headquarters they meant to target.

U.S. Bombs Hospital–UPDATE

When Obama announced the end of the Afghan war in 2014, American forces remaining in the country were supposedly restricted to two “non-combat” missions: the NATO training initiative, Resolute Support, which advised the struggling Afghan forces in their continued battle with the Taliban; and Freedom’s Sentinel, a counter-terrorism effort that would exclusively target al Qaeda and ISIS. Both operations were headed by U.S. General John Campbell.

Josh Earnest, White House spinman, told reporters at the time: “The U.S. military will not be engaged in specific operations targeting members of the Taliban just because they’re members of the Taliban.”

87 Americans have been killed or wounded in the past 18 months of these nebulously-designated initiatives, many under the command of Major Michael Hutchinson, Ground Forces Commander.

Kunduz was captured by the Taliban on September 28, five days before the DWB hospital destruction. NYT reports this was the Taliban’s first regional capital acquisition in 14 years. On the 29th, Hutchinson commanded Special Forces including Green Berets to assist Afghan forces in repelling Taliban from the Kunduz airport: the same airport, apparently, that brought in supplies for the ill-fated DWB (M.S.F) hospital established there in 2011.

The lines between Resolute Support and Freedom’s Sentinel appear to have muddied as many Afghan soldiers reportedly fled Kunduz and those who remained were completely dependent on the American reinforcements. The Americans were supposed to leave after the first 24 hours of combat, but instead of a 500-strong Afghan relief force, they met up with “a few Afghan police and army personnel,” who were adamant they would leave if the U.S. troops headed out.

“I really thought that the Afghans would see that it wasn’t that big of a deal and they would all come back in. We all agreed it had to happen fast, and the only people who were willing to go in, unfortunately, were people who did not know the city of Kunduz.”–Hutchinson’s report

American forces appear to have therefore sustained assault for days without adequate classification of their mission as it pertained to Resolute Support (support Afghans against Taliban) or Freedom’s Sentinel (self-defense against al-Qaeda). Hutchinson had submitted a battle plan for the days of siege, “Kunduz Clearing Patrol,” using Resolute Support rules of engagement; it was approved as a Freedom’s Sentinel mission.

NYT: [I]n the first four days of fighting in Kunduz, 13 airstrikes were conducted under Resolute Support and nine under Freedom’s Sentinel. Before conducting strikes, aircrews would sometimes radio to ask under which mission they were about to shoot.

How was essentially invading a Taliban-occupied city permissible under the two operations which restrained the American Special Forces at the time? New York Times points out that because the Americans were so surrounded in Kunduz, the air strikes they called in were conducted in “self-defense.” The Afghan troops were marked Persons with Designated Special Status, which “allows American forces to consider temporarily defending certain partnered Afghan troops as part of their own self-­defense — essentially, self-­defense of someone else.” (NYT)

The investigation of the Kunduz incident determined Hutchinson exceeded the authority of the self-defense rules when he launched “offensive pre-assault fires.”

What does this murky mission have to do with the DWB hospital? The (shaky) “self-defense” justification for the arguably offensive warfare the Americans were conducting meant an airstrike on a building could be approved on the ground, rather than run up the chain of command to General Campbell in Kabul.

The Afghan National Directorate of Security building, believed to be occupied by the Taliban (a faction even the most liberal use of the Special Forces’ objectives did not permit them to engage) is the target the AC-130 gunship believed it fired on when it actually annihilated the hospital, as we reported previously. Hutchinson radioed the gunship–circling in poor visibility, with at least one communication channel knocked out hours before in takeoff–to perform a “defensive scan,” which was justified if, as reported, the Afghan commandos (who the U.S. were supporting) were indeed about to storm the NDS building.

Hutchinson repeated for investigators the building description the Afghans gave him to relay to the gunship: “a long T-­shaped building with a small offshoot. I can’t remember the word I would have used for it. It’s a walled-­in compound with multiple outbuildings, and there was a gate facing to the north with an arch.”

NYT notes this description matches not the NDS building, but the now-leveled hospital.

Major General William Hickman, the head investigator of the Kunduz incident, maintained in the military report that Hutchinson’s intel from the the Afghans was “an ambiguous physical description” that “appeared to match the M.S.F. trauma center.” NYT contends the description is, rather, exactly that of the hospital.

NDS is “a trapezoidal compound with a south-­facing gate and two main rectangular buildings facing each other across a cramped courtyard,” per the NYT.

Military investigators concluded: [Gen. Hutchinson’s] “version of events surrounding his decision to authorize the strike is internally inconsistent, implausible and contradicted by other available sources of credible information.”

Hutchinson received a reprimand and relief of Afghan command. NYT reports his new assignment is executive officer of his battalion. General Campbell has retired.

A DWB/MSF employee reported Taliban boss Janat Gul and deputy Abdul Salam (“shadow governor” of Taliban in Kunduz) visited the hospital September 29; DWB confirmed the latter was onsite, denying he entered the health care facility.

On July 1, 2015, a similar circumstance with a Taliban operative occurred at this hospital. Afghan forces wounded Abu Huzaifa, and believed he was taken to the DWB facility, which helped everyone regardless of affiliation until America wiped it off the map. The pursuing Afghan commandos–trained by U.S. forces through the NATO operation–entered the hospital violently, assaulting staff and firing their weapons. The hospital had to close off new admissions for five days to get back under control.

Huzaifa had disappeared. Although an American drone would destroy him seven weeks later (must have been on Obama’s “kill list”), the Afghan forces in Kunduz were irate. As Col. Gard, the NYT source, put it: “They hid him. The people who work [at the hospital] are traitors, all of them.”

Thanks to our source: 

U.S. Bombs Hospital–UPDATE

Pentagon Releases Autopsy of Accidental War Crime in Kunduz Last October

Image courtesy of New York Times.

The New York Times reported Saturday on the latest details of the military response to its unintentional slaughter of 42 patients and Doctors Without Borders volunteers last year. A 3,000 page report on the incident was “heavily redacted.”

Related:

War Crimes

Kunduz had fallen to the Taliban 5 days before the destruction on September 28. American Special Forces were in the Kunduz airfield reinforcing the situation, out of food and relaying intel that Afghan allies were about to assault a Taliban base at the National Directorate of Security (Afghanistan’s CIA equivalent)–1600 feet from the DWB hospital.

The AC-130 crew took off to support the Kunduz ground forces over an hour ahead of schedule due to another emergency situation, which the New York Times reports abbreviated the mission brief. Just after takeoff, the satellite radio failed, preventing further data upload, including designation of the hospital building as a protected site.

Enemy surface-to-air missiles threatened the American ship, and it had to alter its 2-mile loop necessary to aim the weaponry, including a “105-millimeter howitzer,” to take cover before lending support.

NYT notes the diversion disrupted the targeting accuracy of the batteries. The gunship proceeded to their designate coordinates, and–seeing the “target” was an empty field–the crew used only their vision to decide what the actual bombardment site was.

They were given a description of the compound: there was “an outer perimeter wall with multiple buildings inside of it,” the aircrew was told in a radio transmission. “Also, on the main gate, I don’t know if you will be able to pick this up, but it’s also an arch-shaped gate.” (NYT, from the Pentagon report)

This came from an American Special Forces radio transmission. Due to the failed satellite radio, how the AC-130 picked up the transmission is unclear.

The report shows murky communication and indecision among the aircraft crew:

At one point, the crew was told it would need to hit a second target after the strike it was about to commence, and “we will also be doing the same thing of softening the target for partner forces,” that is, Afghans.

“So he wants us to shoot?” one crew member asked the others aboard the AC-130.

“Yeah, I’m not positive what softening means,” the navigator replied.

“Ask him,” the pilot added.

The crew did, and was told the “intent is to destroy targets of all opportunity.”

The crew members had some disagreement on what the order actually meant:

“I feel like let’s get on the same page for what target of opportunity means,” the navigator suggested.

“When I’m hearing targets of opportunity like that, I’m thinking you’re going out, you find bad things and you shoot them,” a crew member responded.

The aircraft’s “TV operator” noted the actual alleged Taliban compound and alerted the commander of its similarity to the hospital everyone had decided was the target:

But after “several attempts” to clarify which building should be struck, the aircraft was directed to the hospital.

At 2:08 AM local time–again, using the tried and true navigation technology of eyesight, clearance to commence slaughter was given.

The DWB call log shows the latest outgoing call (along with desperate staff text messages) at 2:56 AM, pleading for the American ship to cease the bombardment.

A surviving staff member received a text message from American headquarters in Kabul: “I’m sorry to hear that, I still do not know what happened” This was at 2:52 AM.

But the American Special Forces report maintains the strike was called off at 2:38 AM.

After the hospital sent out distress radio transmissions, pleading with the American gunship to cease the shelling, the American forces were delayed in confirming the hospital was “actually free of Taliban.” NYT:

“Immediately calling for a cease-fire for a situation we have no SA” — situational awareness, that is — “could put the ground force at risk,” an American commander whose name and rank were redacted was quoted as saying in the report.

The reluctance to cease a full-blown assault appears to be due to nine men walking between the buildings of the hospital and representing a threat to American ground forces (who were not espied in the dark). The gunship assumed they were hostiles.

 

Thanks to our source:

War Crimes

Military Times: Internal Discipline, No Criminal Charges for U.S. Personnel Responsible for Bombing Doctors Without Borders Hospital Last Year

AFGHANISTAN-UNREST-US-MSF

Photo by AFP via Getty Images on Military Times page. The DWB hospital on 10/13/15, ten days after the American shelling that killed 42.

Consequences have been handed down for the destruction of a Doctors Without Borders hospital and the volunteers and patients within by the United States military in Kunduz, Afghanistan last October, a tragedy a top U.S. general blamed on “human errors, process errors and equipment failures,” the Military Times reported Friday.

U.S. Central Command head General Joseph Votel told MT that while the hospital was on a “no strike” list, the gunship that butchered 42 innocents below “didn’t have access to the list.”

Sixteen American military members were disciplined for the attack, including a two-star general yet to be named publicly. No one faced court-martial, and no criminal charges will be filed. However, as MT notes, such internal reprimands or “letters” in one’s file can “effectively end a military career.”

Associated Press reported last month about a dozen punishments were handed down, and they were “largely administrative.”

Afghan officials claim the blackened shell of the hospital has been claimed by the Taliban, in the aftermath of those DWB volunteers who were not killed in the American bombardment withdrawing from Kunduz.

However, as MT notes, no evidence of Taliban occupation has been presented. This is ironic, because there was no evidence of enemy activity in or around the hospital when the American AC-130 gunship fired 211 shells in 29 minutes at that structure instead of the Taliban command center thought to be 450 yards away.

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are not expected to weigh in on what seems a slap on the wrist for the crew of an operation that ended 42 innocent lives.

As of December 9, as the conservative news outlet Daily Caller notes, not a single country had yet supported DWB’s pleas for an independent investigation of the massacre.

At that time, over half a million petitions were signed for the White House to investigate the attack. The White House Office of Public Engagement (read: descending to talk to the little people), under direction of Valerie Jarrett, refused to schedule an audience with DWB, according to the latter group’s U.S. Executive Director Jason Cone. When the White House would not acknowledge the petitions for investigation, DWB staged a public protest in Lafayette Square, across the street from the presidential mansion.

President Obama did make a personal phone call to Dr. Joanne Liu, president of MSF International, the better-known acronym for Doctors Without Borders.

Per the Daily Caller:

President Obama agreed to financially compensate the families, and the Pentagon has pledged to help rebuild the 140-bed hospital in the provincial capital of Kunduz. Cone described the payments as “reparations.”

IN OTHER HOSPITAL BOMBINGS

Despite the lack of public chagrin to the Kunduz disaster, Secretary of International Shaming Kerry found a bony finger to wag for the shelling of a pediatric hospital in Syria by a yet-unidentified fighter jet Wednesday: “We are outraged by yesterday’s airstrikes in Aleppo on the al Quds hospital supported by both Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which killed dozens of people, including children, patients and medical personnel. It appears to have been a deliberate strike on a known medical facility and follows the Assad regime’s appalling record of striking such facilities and first responders. These strikes have killed hundreds of innocent Syrians.”

Kerry did not mention whether this bombardment counted as Assad crossing the “red line” Obama proclaimed years ago, before Assad resumed using chemical weapons against civilians.

At least 50 people were killed, including one of the last known pediatricians in Aleppo, Syria, according to Cone. 148 Syrians have died in hostilities since Saturday. This has led international spectators to worry the “cease-fire” of the Syrian civil war is crumbling.

Al Quds Hospital was also associated with MSF/Doctors Without Borders. CNN reports that MSF’s despair as they offer their humanitarian efforts continues to grow:

MSF’s head of mission for Syria, Muskilda Zancada, said the organization condemned the “outrageous targeting of yet another medical facility” in the country.
“This devastating attack has destroyed a vital hospital in Aleppo, and the main referral center for pediatric care in the area. Where is the outrage among those with the power and obligation to stop this carnage?” she said in a statement.

Marianne Gasser, head of the Syrian mission for International Committee of the Red Cross, was more blunt about the apathy of more privileged nations: “The recent attack on the ICRC-supported Quds hospital is unacceptable and sadly this is not the first time the lifesaving medical services have been hit.”

SANA, the Syrian state-run news network, denied responsibility for the attack. However, a MSF official told CNN that the hospital was besieged by barrel bombs, and “is the Syrian government that has been usually using these barrel bombs in the past.”

CNN had an unofficial statement from the U.S. military:

A U.S. military official told CNN that U.S. forces were not operating in the area of the hospital, and their closest strike had been 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) to the north.

According to the United Nations, over 250,000 have died so far in the 5-year Syrian civil war.

See our original post on the story here

See Washington Post’s original post on the atrocity here

Thanks to Military Times and CNN for today’s update.

The original Daily Caller piece can be found here