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We Need an Independent Investigation in Kunduz

The Doctors Without Borders report sheds terrifying light on last month's airstrike.
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The damaged interior of a hospital, following the airstrike. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

The damaged interior of a hospital, following the airstrike. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

A newly released report by Doctors Without Borders sheds grim light on last month's airstrike by American forces on a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, which left 30 people dead. The report is the latest chapter in what has been a confusing, eyebrow-raising follow-up to the attack; United States officials have insisted that the attack was a regrettable mistake, while Doctors Without Borders called the attack a "war crime," according to Reuters. Certainly, this latest report—full of shocking detailswill call attention once again to the bombing, and should prompt the need for a larger investigation.

Naturally, there is an investigation currently underway. Here's the thing though: It's spearheaded by NATO, over which, per the New York Times, the U.S. Department of Defense exerts no little sway. This latest report from Doctors Without Borders—which has pulled out its operations from Kunduz—arrives as a timely reminder about why we need an independent probe. But that still doesn't explain why the airstrike targeted a hospital, and not Taliban fighters. Did, as the Times asks, someone intentionally fire on the hospital because of the presence of wounded Taliban fighters?

Of course, the bombing in Kunduz wasn't even the first of its kind that day; the Washington Post reports that "U.S. warplanes zeroed in on a warehouse and a mansion in two densely populated residential areas, according to witnesses and local officials." Nobody was killed in those attacks—probably why they didn't receive much attention—but, like the Kunduz airstrike, they were also called in by Afghan commanders, who claimed they were facing attack by Taliban fighters. But Doctors Without Borders has repeatedly denied such claims. The whole thing demands an explanation; we can’t just let it drift away into the news ether.

As Jared Keller reported here earlier, the U.S. "has gone to great lengths to mask civilian deaths caused by airstrikes in order to shield the Obama administration from criticism by human rights activists and legal scholars, and to keep Obama relatively popular among American voters."

It's unacceptable and unjust for the U.S. government, or a U.S. government-backed body, to purposefully drag its feet on a rigorous investigation into the attack in Kunduz. As the Doctors Without Borders report says, "We need to know whether the rules of war still apply."