US air strikes in Afghanistan kill at least 9 Doctors Without Borders staff members

Air strikes on what were thought to be Taliban positions in Kunduz, Afghanistan turned deadly for staff members of the international aid organization Doctors Without Borders.  At least 9 members of the group were confirmed dead, with up to 30 more missing.

Kunduz was captured by the Taliban earlier in the week, and the Afghan army has been trying to retake it.  The U.S. was flying air support missions to assist the Afghan army in their efforts.

What makes this such a tragedy is that the aid group informed the U.S. military of their location both prior to the bombing and during the attack.

CNN:

At least 37 people were injured in the aerial bombings early Saturday, including 24 of the medical aid organization's staff, said the group known internationally as Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Thirty people are unaccounted for, MSF said, and it expects the number of people killed or injured to go up.

When the aerial attack occurred, 105 patients and their caretakers were in the hospital. More than 80 MSF international and national staff were present.

The aid group said it warned U.S. and Afghan authorities of the hospital's location ahead of time.

Bombing continued for more than 30 minutes after the aid group notified military officials it was under attack, it said.

"MSF also wishes to clarify that all parties to the conflict, including in Kabul and Washington, were clearly informed of the precise location (GPS coordinates) of the MSF facilities," the aid group said in a statement.

It said the location was communicated as recently as Thursday.

U.S. forces confirmed carrying out a nearby strike early Saturday "against individuals threatening the force," Army spokesman Col. Brian Tribus said.

The strike "may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility," he said in a statement. The military is investigating.

The U.S. embassy apologized for the mistake:

"The U.S. Embassy mourns for the individuals and families affected by the tragic incident at the Doctors without Borders hospital, and for all those suffering from the violence in Kunduz," it read. The embassy praised the group's work as "heroic."

The tragedy points out the difficulties in fighting the Taliban going forward.  As they make their big push to capture territory before serious negotiations begin to bring them into the government, more and more of the fighting will be in large urban areas, where picking targets will always involve the chance of civilian casualties.  Knowing this, the Taliban will hide behind civilians as much as possible to maximize casualties and turn ordinary Afghans against the U.S. and the government.

It's a winning strategy unless the Afghanistan armed forces can step up and keep the Taliban out of major urban areas.  They couldn't do it in Kunduz, nor is it likely they can do it anywhere else.

Air strikes on what were thought to be Taliban positions in Kunduz, Afghanistan turned deadly for staff members of the international aid organization Doctors Without Borders.  At least 9 members of the group were confirmed dead, with up to 30 more missing.

Kunduz was captured by the Taliban earlier in the week, and the Afghan army has been trying to retake it.  The U.S. was flying air support missions to assist the Afghan army in their efforts.

What makes this such a tragedy is that the aid group informed the U.S. military of their location both prior to the bombing and during the attack.

CNN:

At least 37 people were injured in the aerial bombings early Saturday, including 24 of the medical aid organization's staff, said the group known internationally as Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Thirty people are unaccounted for, MSF said, and it expects the number of people killed or injured to go up.

When the aerial attack occurred, 105 patients and their caretakers were in the hospital. More than 80 MSF international and national staff were present.

The aid group said it warned U.S. and Afghan authorities of the hospital's location ahead of time.

Bombing continued for more than 30 minutes after the aid group notified military officials it was under attack, it said.

"MSF also wishes to clarify that all parties to the conflict, including in Kabul and Washington, were clearly informed of the precise location (GPS coordinates) of the MSF facilities," the aid group said in a statement.

It said the location was communicated as recently as Thursday.

U.S. forces confirmed carrying out a nearby strike early Saturday "against individuals threatening the force," Army spokesman Col. Brian Tribus said.

The strike "may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility," he said in a statement. The military is investigating.

The U.S. embassy apologized for the mistake:

"The U.S. Embassy mourns for the individuals and families affected by the tragic incident at the Doctors without Borders hospital, and for all those suffering from the violence in Kunduz," it read. The embassy praised the group's work as "heroic."

The tragedy points out the difficulties in fighting the Taliban going forward.  As they make their big push to capture territory before serious negotiations begin to bring them into the government, more and more of the fighting will be in large urban areas, where picking targets will always involve the chance of civilian casualties.  Knowing this, the Taliban will hide behind civilians as much as possible to maximize casualties and turn ordinary Afghans against the U.S. and the government.

It's a winning strategy unless the Afghanistan armed forces can step up and keep the Taliban out of major urban areas.  They couldn't do it in Kunduz, nor is it likely they can do it anywhere else.