On Wednesday, an international panel announced it will pursue an investigation into the United States’ bombing of a Médecins sans Frontière (MSF, or Doctors Without Borders) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan.
The U.S. bombing in Kunduz killed 22 people and is being called a war crime. As described by MSF international president, Joanne Liu, “Our patients burned in their beds; MSF doctors, nurses, and other staff were killed as they worked. Our colleagues had to operate on each other.”
The International Humanitarian Fact Finding Committee (IHFFC) is the international panel pursuing the investigation, and according to its website, aims to “[ensure] the respect for, and faithful implementation of, international humanitarian law.”
The IHFFC was formed in 1990 but has never actually been activated, meaning if the MSF investigation moves forward, it will be the first of its kind.
IHFFC requires just one thing before it begins the investigation: compliance from the United States and Afghan governments.
“It is for the concerned Governments to decide whether they wish to rely on the IHFFC. The IHFFC can only act based on the consent of the concerned State or States. The IHFFC cannot give any further information at this stage,” the IHFFC said Wednesday in a statement.
The situation places the United States and its Afghan allies in a quagmire.
They can either consent to the investigation and presumably be torn apart for their actions, or they can decline, likely citing a “matter of national security” when the public accuses them of covering up their crimes. Either way, it appears both nations will continue to be eviscerated by the independent media and the public as new discoveries about the sordid strike come to light. It seems unlikely that the U.S. would allow itself to be put in that vulnerable situation, but it faces a lose/lose situation, nonetheless.
The president of MSF said, “We have received apologies and condolences, but this is not enough.” “We are still in the dark about why a well-known hospital full of patients and medical staff was repeatedly bombarded for more than an hour. We need to understand what happened and why,” she continued in a statement on Wednesday.
Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that “American special operations analysts were gathering intelligence on an Afghan hospital days before it was destroyed by a U.S. military attack because they believed it was being used by a Pakistani operative to coordinate Taliban activity,”
This revelation suggests the U.S. had knowledge of the hospital’s location. It also offers insight, if it is confirmed that the hospital was purposely bombed, into the United States’ lackluster process that decides on targets for airstrikes.
On Thursday, a U.S. tank rudely rolled into the destroyed hospital “with investigators inside” the tank, a gesture of disrespect that destroyed evidence. “Their unannounced and forced entry damaged property, destroyed potential evidence and caused stress and fear,” said MSF.
The U.S. has ignored the idea of an independent inquiry, claiming that its own internal investigation will suffice. As White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “The administration has confidence that the investigation that is currently underway by the Department of Defense will provide the full accounting of the situation that the president has asked for.”
The United States’ problems in Afghanistan are far from over in the wake of a resurgent Taliban and under-prepared Afghan security forces. President Obama announced yesterday that 5,500 troops will remain in the country until 2017 and likely many years into the future.
The following is a video released by MSF after the devastating bombing and shows the hospital before and after.
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