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20 October 2015


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FB Ali

My take on this tragic incident is:

- There is no doubt that the hospital was deliberately targetted by the AC-130. The attack went on for about an hour, probably because the plane was circling the target and using its 105 mm cannon on each pass. This wasn't "collateral damage"; the intention was to completely destroy the facility.

- Most likely, the strike was called by Afghan SF on the scene, through the US SF group supporting them.

- The hospital was certainly on the US 'excluded targets' list; it is not clear if the AC-130 crew had this list. The various procedures with respect to such targets are just formal ones on paper, and are not followed in the field. Hence the lethal "errors" that sometimes come to light; there must be many more that don't.

- The hospital was targetted by Afghan SF because they believed (as Stanekzai claims) that it was used by the Taliban and the Pakistani ISI as a command and control centre (not as a fire base). This may or may not be a fact. As Willy B says, even if this was happening, it does not justify the attack in international law (though it may do so in Afghan and US eyes). A secondary motive may have been the one PB suggests: to destroy the only hospital in that (Taliban dominated) area, and force MSF out of the country.


The other day I heard on the radio that an AC-130 crew called the command center questioning the attack, "Isn't this illegal?" He was told to proceed with the attack. Could be BS, I don't know. But do know it's the crew members who will get nailed, if anybody.

different clue


I was listening to the Diane Rehm show recently about Afghanistan subjects and a sensible-sounding expert on there said the same thing about some Afghan forces entering the hospital sometime in the past to forcibly take out some wounded Taliban. (This expert said the Afghan forces shot some people inside the hospital though.)

So anyway, this expert suggested that it was highly plausible that a high-enough level Afghan called in an air strike on the hospital falsely reporting it to be a fortified Taliban position. The motive was suggested to be pure vengeance and spite on the plausible Afghan air strike caller-inner's part.



"According to an individual familiar with the aircraft’s operations that night, the sensor operators identified fighters moving into and firing from one of the hospital’s front porticos. The crew, piloting an aircraft that rarely targets buildings, asked the JOC twice if they wanted the aircraft to engage, the individual said. How close active Taliban forces may have been to the hospital — a point where the accounts of the charity’s personnel and Afghan security officials diverge — is now a central question for investigators. Even if Taliban militants were firing from the compound, U.S. rules of engagement would not have allowed an airstrike if the crew knew it was a protected civilian facility."\

Can't seem to link to the WaPo article from 10/10/15.



Or this. Units unfamiliar with the area. The "fog of war"



Please check the following link for direct info and pics from MSF: http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2015/10/open-thread-4-october-2015.html#comment-6a00d8341c72e153ef01b7c7d8a226970b


The argument that the locals caused this tragedy is counterintuitive: all would have benefited from the hospital: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Army_ethnolinguistic_map_of_Afghanistan_--_circa_2001-09.jpg It is located in a Pashtun area, surrounded by Uzbeks and Tajiks. The former forms the bulk of Taliban while the latter is government related.
Please see my post from 4th of Oct: http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2015/10/open-thread-4-october-2015.html#comment-6a00d8341c72e153ef01b7c7d8a226970b
If, by locals, you mean government/ISAF affiliated forces, there might be a possibility there as they will probably not feel connected to the geographic location.

Patrick Bahzad

When I say locals, I don't mean local populations, or local Taleban, I mean local allies of the US.

This kind of "local", who carved out local fiefdoms for themselves and their cronies, will have absolutely no second feelings about destroying a hospital if it serves their interests.


"When a previous airstrike in the same area killed 140 civilians based on some German Colonel not respecting the ROE, there wasn't such an outcry."

In Germany there was. You have only to read the comments on the blog "Augen geradeaus".

Johnny Reims

Thanks, Willy. Look forward to reading more.

I note that you mention that the Afghan acting DM, Masoom Stanekzi, apparently defended the attack. This would seem to increase the probability (I have no idea to what degree) of Afghan involvement in making the operational decision, thus supporting the possible motivations given by General Ali and PB.

But I keep coming back to the claim by Vice News that a US military lawyer signed off on the Kuduz attack. As for myself, if the claim is true, then I sure would like to review any document he/she "signed off" on and then ask a few questions. Good chance that either the lawyer or the document "lied", one would think. If nothing else, a good place to start investigating, imo.

Good luck with all of this, and I appreciate your taking the time to investigate the cause of the attack and bringing various aspects to light. Most definitively a relevant inquiry.


BB, my mind too seems to be attracted to the wider field around this specific scenario, which I am assuming is well enough rendered, minus the numbers 4 or 5, one every 15 minutes?:

"Doctors without Borders officials say the U.S. airplane made five separate strafing runs over an hour, directing heavy fire on the main hospital building, which contained the emergency room and intensive care unit. Surrounding buildings were not struck, they said."

Basically I assume that the Horowitz type of "elitist" take on matters is not unique, maybe even exists within Afghanistan's political/military elites and subordinates. ... But I would have been slightly disappointed if no ISI agent surfaced in context, narrativewise. ;)


So what is going on with Konduz province? I thought this was the home of the National Alliance. Remember the Konduz airlift of 2001 when the Pakistanis with their Al-Qaeda and Taliban "assets" got out of town. Between the Uzbeks and Tajiks, Konduz province is over 50% non Phustun (22%). And it's a well watered place unlike much of Afghanistan.

Maybe I"m making a bad assumption estimating that most Talibans are Pushtun.


Ryan, not least since his "Freedom Center" initially was the "Center for the Study of Popular Culture" I would not really want to deny him some type of strategic outlook.

Why study the public mind or the hoi palloi/οἱ πολλοί out there, if you don't also want to give answers into how to change it for the benefit of your sponsors?


Is it me or is anyone else surprised by the relative lack of lethality given the weapons used and the duration of the attack? How is it that 30-40 minutes into this attack there are people on the scene making calls. And after the hour-long attack there are quite a few survivors around to describe the attack. And apparently, a lot of deaths were immobile patients who died in their beds from the accompanying fire. So much for the AC-130's moniker "world's deadliest aircraft".


esq, is this a basic statement or do you distrust whatever MSF lets us know?

Babak Makkinejad

You have a point.

Saudi Arabia, Sudan, UAE, Qatar are attacking a defenseless country - and nary a peep comes out of anyone regarding this clear violation of international law. Nor is there any widespread condemnation from US, EU, Canada, Australia, China, Russia.

Nay, the belligerent Arabs are also rewarded with UNSC legal cover for their campaign of murder against civilians.

I think it is clear that the idea of restoration of the institutions of Peace of Yalta - espoused by both Putin and Obama during their speeches at UN General Assembly - was just boiler-plate.

Israelis are going to b tarred by their treatment of the Palestinians as long as they continue the occupation. That is one price that they are paying for their own misdeeds.


" a period of 30 - 60 minutes despite repeated communications from MSF means that US commanders knew exactly what they were doing."

Michael, that's pretty easy to understand from MSF's point of view. I would assume in this context minutes extend to felt hours, and I do not want to deny their experience at all. But what exact number did they call, and what would have been the military routine from there on? ...



"Intelligence" in this sense simply means information. My point was that people specifically in the business of producing usable information as a trade were unlikely to have been involved unless someone in the operational chain of command thought to ask them when the request for a strike on the hospital arrived at the commander's decision point. pl



"... it was on a protected list and someone asked for an exceptional strike against it nonetheless?" Yes, that is what I think must have been the case. pl


Basic statement. There is evidence in both directions re: whether armed Taliban were present. Hopefully the facts will get cleared up.


BB, interesting comment. Can you get back to us with a little research on what communicative means MFS used and further providing us with evidence that hits on what appears to be the main unit, would have stopped all communication. My experience from NGO's is that concerning communications they are prepared for worst case scenarios, wouldn't they be in Kundus, Afghanistan?

But then, i know close to nothing about the take over of the city.

Bryn P

Would we be enjoying the benefit of your experience and expertise here today, Colonel, if the US jets which attacked you had continued to do so for another 30 or so minutes after being informed of their mistake? It is the very duration of the attack on the hospital which frankly makes me question whether it was a simple error of judgment.


Bryn P

A flight of two F-4s making one pass with 20 MM Gatling guns is nothing like what happened to the hospital. Once the air crew was ordered to attack the building it would have done so more or less continuously until they thought the target was wrecked. Your sarcasm is not amusing. "... another 30 or so minutes after being informed of their mistake?" You are saying that the air crew continued to attack after being informed of their mistake? I have not seen that anywhere. Citation? pl





In these two articles you probably have the essence of what happened in this goatf**k. firstly the SF team from 1st SFGA was unfamiliar with this part of Afghanistan. This makes a big difference at night and in the midst of a serious ground action. Secondly, this automated information sharing system was not working. I have always been opposed to such systems because they enable operational commanders to act as their own intelligence officers. I have seen many men die because operational commanders and their staffs refused to consult professional intelligence people. The operators harbor a deep seated belief that they don't need the informed judgment of intelligence people. Systems like this one are designed to reinforce that belief. pl

Willy B

All this lends new meaning to the term "fog of war," doesn't it.

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