WASHINGTON: The commander of US forces in Afghanistan acknowledged on Sunday that an airstrike on a hospital in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz was a mistake.
In a testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington, Gen John F Campbell also said that he believed US President Barack Obama should review his plan to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by 2016.
At least 22 people were killed in the attack, which the Afghan government said was justified because the hospital had sheltered Taliban fighters. The organisation, Doctors Without Borders, which ran the hospital, has rejected the charge as incorrect.
The charity noted that Kabul’s position on the attack indicated that the hospital had been deliberately targeted.
This, it said, “amounted to an admission of a war crime.”
Gen. Campbell confirmed that Afghan forces, who were fighting Taliban fighters in Kunduz, had requested the attack. The official Afghan troops were in communication with US special operations forces during the operation, he added.
Those US forces in turn were in contact with the AC-130 gunship that fired on the hospital, he said.
“The hospital was mistakenly struck,” he said. “We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility.”
Gen. Campbell, however, took complete responsibility for the attack. “To be clear, the decision to provide aerial fires was a US decision, made within the US chain of command,” he said.
The commander also said that the US must consider boosting its military presence in Afghanistan after 2016 if it wishes to defeat Taliban extremists.
“Neo Web Desk”