NEWS | Oct. 6, 2015

Campbell provides updates on Kunduz investigation

By By Cheryl Pellerin, DoD News

WASHINGTON (October 5, 2015) — The commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and U.S. forces in Afghanistan corrected details about the Oct. 3 airstrike that struck a hospital staffed by Doctors Without Borders personnel in Kunduz, Afghanistan.

Army Gen. John F. Campbell briefed the press here at the Pentagon this morning, stating that Afghan forces requested air support.

“We have now learned that on Oct. 3rd, Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces,” Campbell said. “An airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat and several civilians were accidentally struck.”

“This is different from initial reports, which indicated that U.S. forces were threatened and that the airstrike was called on their behalf,” he noted.

Ongoing Investigation

Campbell said he has ordered an investigation into the tragic incident, he said, headed by senior investigator Army Brig. Gen. Richard C. Kim, and the Afghans also have begun an investigation.

“If errors were committed we'll acknowledge them. We'll hold those responsible accountable and we will take steps to ensure mistakes are not repeated,” Campbell said.

The general offered his deepest condolences to the innocent civilians who were harmed and to the families of those killed. He also affirmed Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s comments yesterday about the tremendous work that Doctors Without Borders conducts in Afghanistan and worldwide.

“They have provided invaluable medical assistance to those most in need in Afghanistan,” Campbell said.

Carter briefed reporters traveling with him en route to Madrid, Spain, noting that he had spoken with Campbell and to Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about investigations being conducted by U.S. forces, the government of Afghanistan, and NATO.

Getting the Facts

Carter said the situation there is complicated so it may take time to get the facts.

“But we will get the facts and we will be full and transparent about sharing them with the American people, but also with the people of Afghanistan and … the entire world, to include the essential … non-governmental organization community, which is so critical,” the secretary said.

During his briefing at the Pentagon, Campbell said that the U.S. military takes extraordinary steps to avoid harm to civilians.

“However, the Taliban have purposefully chosen to fight from within a heavily urbanized area, purposely placing civilians in harm’s way. We'll continue to take all necessary steps to avoid future civilian casualties,” the general added.

C-130 Crash

Campbell also offered his condolences to the crew and passengers of the U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules transport plane that crashed shortly after midnight local time Oct. 2 at Jalalabad Airfield in Afghanistan.

The C-130J’s crew of six U.S. service members and five civilian contractor passengers were killed in the crash, as were Afghan civilians on the ground, according to a statement from DoD officials.

“The six airmen who were lost in the accident will arrive at Dover today,” Campbell said. “These and all those who have fallen before them are the true heroes of our efforts in Afghanistan over the past 14 years.”