After a six month investigation, the Pentagon has taken disciplinary action against 16 service members for making errors that led to a deadly attack on a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan.
The attack, which took place on October 3rd 2015, occurred when US forces mistook a hospital run by international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders for a Taliban compound. By the time the assault was over 42 medical workers, patients and other Afghans were dead and dozens of others were wounded. Doctors Without Borders representatives have insisted that it made the hospital’s location clear to the US forces prior to the assault and that the facility was clearly marked as being humanitarian in nature.
“This was a tragic, but avoidable accident caused primarily by human error,” said General John Campbell shortly after the attack.
“The U.S. forces directly involved in this incident did not know the targeted compound was the (Doctors Without Borders) trauma center,” Campbell said.
According to the Los Angeles Times, an officer was suspended from command and ordered out of Afghanistan. Of the remaining members found culpable for the attack, six were sent to counseling, seven were issued letters of reprimand, and two were ordered to retraining courses. Receiving a letter of reprimand dramatically reduces a service member’s chances of ever obtaining a promotion.
However, there are those who argue the disciplinary measures are not severe enough. They have been called largely administrative in nature. No criminal charges will be filed, although Campbell has indicated that criminal prosecution is still on the table. He traveled to the Kunduz region last month to make a “personal apology.”
“As commander, I wanted to come to Kunduz personally and stand before the families and people of Kunduz to deeply apologize for the events which destroyed the hospital and caused the deaths of the hospital staff, patients and family members,” he said. “I grieve with you for your loss and suffering, and humbly and respectfully ask for your forgiveness.”