NATO Investigation of Kunduz Airstrikes Finds 'Credible' Reports of Civilian Casualties

The NATO investigation found there was "credible" evidence of civilian deaths.

October 24, 2015, 11:26 AM
PHOTO: The Doctors Without Borders hospital is seen in flames in Kunduz, Afghanistan,  Oct. 3, 2015.
The Doctors Without Borders hospital is seen in flames in Kunduz, Afghanistan, Oct. 3, 2015.
MSF / AP Photo

— -- An initial NATO casualty investigation has found it to be "credible" that there were civilian casualties in the mistaken bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz on Oct. 3 that killed 23 staffers and patients.

On Friday, Doctors Without Borders said it had confirmed the death of another of its staffers at the hospital raising the confirmed death toll to 23 with three others presumed dead. The number of injured staff is now 27, but it said that determining how many patients were injured in the attack is proving is proving "extremely difficult" and "a definite number of wounded may be impossible to determine."

“The Combined Civilian Casualty Assessment Team determined that the reports of civilian casualties were credible, and we continue to work with the government of Afghanistan to fully identify the victims,” said Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, Resolute Support spokesman in a statement released Saturday. Shoffner said the team is continuing with its casualty investigation.

Meanwhile General John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has upgraded the more comprehensive investigation the incident by naming a two-star general and two one-star generals, from outside his command, to take over the investigation.

The statement said Campbell had made the change "to ensure the U.S. national investigation is conducted in an independent and unbiased manner."

U.S. Army Major General William Hickman and two Brigadier Generals from outside the U.S. training mission in Afghanistan will take over the investigation that had been headed by one of Campbell's senior officers, by Brigadier General Richard Kim.

“My intent is to disclose the findings of the investigation once it is complete,” said Gen. Campbell. “We will be forthright and transparent and we will hold ourselves accountable for any mistakes made. While we desire the investigation to be timely, what’s most important is that it be done thoroughly and correctly.

He added, "We appreciate your patience and we understand the desire for answers to this tragic incident. We desire the same, and we are committed to providing all information we can once the investigation is complete. We express our deepest condolences to the families of those affected by this incident.”

Pentagon officials have said the scope of the initial NATO casualty investigation was limited to whether the coalition had caused civilian casualties. President Obama apologized to the head of Doctors Without Borders in the days after the attack even though the investigations were still ongoing.

“Both inquiries continue to look at a series of potential human errors, failures of process and technical malfunctions that may have contributed to the mistaken strike on the hospital,” said Shoffner.

At a Pentagon news conference on Friday Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he had spoken with General Campbell about the ongoing investigations.

“We want to get this done, and I want him to get it done," said Carter. "But we wanted to get it done absolutely right.“

“I want the answers to the questions in those investigations,” said Carter. “ Accountability is part of our obligation to those who died in Kunduz, and it must inform everything we do here at the Department of Defense.”