More than a dozen military personnel will be disciplined for a their part in carrying out an airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan that killed 42 people. Although none of them will face criminal charges, U.S. defense officials told the Associated Press on Wednesday that a range of punishments will be meted out for the October bombing.
“I can tell you that those individuals most closely associated with the incident have been suspended from their duties and were referred for administrative action,” said Colonel Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command.
While the disciplinary action has not yet been announced publicly, the Associated Press learned details of the from officials who spoke on condition of anonymity that the punishments are largely administrative. They range from simply being told not to do something again to letters of reprimand which could effectively block military members from getting promotions. Both officers and enlisted personnel — although no generals — were among those who will see disciplinary action.
Sandra Murillo, a spokesperson for the international medical relief organization, said that Doctors Without Borders would not comment until defense officials made a public announcement about its decision. The Pentagon is expected to do so in the coming weeks.
Military officials declined a Freedom of Information Act request from the Associated Press which asked for the 5,000 page report on the military’s investigation into the hospital bombing.
According to a report that the news agency did obtain, an AC-130 aircraft fired 211 shells at the hospital compound for more than 29 minutes before commanders realized their mistake and called on them to halt.
As ThinkProgress reported in October, General John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan told reporters that Afghan troops on the ground called for the operation in Kunduz, a city which had been besieged by Taliban fighters for more than a week.
“Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. air forces,” he said. “An airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat and several civilians were accidentally struck.”
Rights groups, including Physicians for Human Rights and the United Nations have called for criminal charges against those involved in this attack, which it seems will not longer be pursued internally by the U.S. military.
“This event is utterly tragic, inexcusable, and possibly even criminal,” U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement. “[I]f established as deliberate in a court of law an airstrike on a hospital may amount to a war crime.”
Officials with Doctors Without Borders said that the attack was “abhorrent and a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law.”
The organization, which said it made the hospital’s coordinates clear to all parties involved in the conflict, has called for an impartial, international investigation into the incident.