An American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell, said on Monday that Afghan forces had requested the airstrike that destroyed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in the city of Kunduz, conceding that the military had incorrectly reported at first that the response was to protect American troops said to be under direct threat.
At his news conference, General Campbell said that Afghan forces had come under fire near the hospital and then called for help.
- “This is different from the initial reports which indicated that U.S. forces were threatened and that the airstrike was called on their behalf,” he said.
He suggested that American advisers in Kunduz had a role in coordinating the strike after “the Afghans asked for air support from a Special Forces team that we have on the ground.”
But when asked how close the Americans were to the scene of the fighting, General Campbell refused to answer, repeating that it would “come out in the investigation.”
Pentagon officials said that it appeared increasingly certain that the aircraft that hit the hospital was called in to carry out the strike, and that this was not a case of bad coordinates from troops on the ground or the pilots hitting the wrong building. In fact, the fire from the AC-130 appears to have been so accurate that only the hospital building itself was hit, and not residential buildings located in the same cramped Doctors Without Borders compound, said one of the officials, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a continuing investigation.
In an apparent attempt to justify the strike, Afghan officials have begun saying that there were Taliban insurgents on the south side of the hospital. But Doctors Without Borders has insisted there was no fighting around the hospital at the time of the strike, and that it had sent the American military the precise coordinates of its hospital days before the strike.