The Pentagon issued a statement over the weekend that the U.S. will issue “condolence payments” to the families of victims killed in the Kunduz hospital bombing, which killed 22 and injured 37 others.
Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF) Jason Cone has called the attack deliberate, denying claims that insurgents were using the facility as cover while firing on Afghan forces. MSF has demanded an independent investigation, specifically calling on the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, IHFFC, based in Switzerland. This commission was created after the Gulf War in 1991 and has never been deployed. MSF is awaiting the mobilization decision from the IHFFC, but needs the support of both the U.S. and Afghanistan, as well as at least one of 76 countries that signed the protocol addition to the Geneva Convention. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest spoke to the media, saying the official Pentagon investigation will provide “the full accounting that everyone seeks.” By this statement, it looks as though the U.S. will not consent, which is needed for the IHFFC to deploy.
According to General John F. Campbell, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the airstrike was requested by Afghan forces on the ground who were engaged with the enemy. Witnesses and survivors state that the bombing continued for about an hour, destroying the main building of the hospital. Mr. Earnest stated to the media that, “The Department of Defense, as a matter of course, takes as many precautions as anybody else does, as any other military organization in the world does, to prevent the innocent loss of life.” He went on to say that there has not been any evidence presented that proves this was anything more than “a terrible mistake.”
If this hospital was intentionally targeted, it does indeed meet the criteria for a war crime. That being said, war crimes are not charged against countries, but individuals, which, in this case, would include the official who commanded it and those who carried out the orders.