The United States will offer “condolence payments” for those killed or injured in the U.S. airstrike that mistakenly hit a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, on October 3.
Defense Department spokesman Peter Cook said Saturday that the amount of the payments had not been determined. The payments will go to “civilian noncombatants injured and the families of civilian noncombatants killed as a result of U.S. military operations,” he said.
The medical group, known by its French acronym MSF, said the airstrike killed 10 patients and 12 MSF staff members. The charity said Thursday that nine patients and 24 staff members were still missing.
MSF ended its Kunduz operations after the aerial bombardment and demanded an independent investigation into the attack under the Geneva Conventions. The group said probes under way by the U.S., Afghanistan and NATO were insufficient, and it suggested that the attack amounted to a war crime.
The Geneva Conventions are a set of international treaties and protocols regulating the conduct of armed conflict and aim to protect people not taking part in hostilities and those who are no longer doing so.
U.S. President Barack Obama apologized Wednesday to the medical group’s president, Dr. Joanne Liu, for the attack. However, the details of U.S. involvement in the attack are murky since the U.S. has changed its account of what happened that day. The U.S. says it will not provide further details about the incident while its military conducts an investigation.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama called Liu to “apologize and express condolences.”
“In this case, there was a mistake and it’s one that the U.S. owns up to,” Earnest said. He said Obama “is very eager to get to the bottom of what exactly occurred.”
Obama also called Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to express his condolences for the loss of innocent lives in the incident, the spokesman said, and to commend Afghan forces for their bravery in the fight to control the northern Afghan city in clashes with Taliban insurgents.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials are probing whether the military exceeded its authority for use of force in Afghanistan in launching the airstrike.
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army General John Campbell, said the United States was taking the blame for carrying out the raid after Afghan forces requested it. But the question remains whether the U.S. should have agreed to the attack.
When Obama ended American ground combat operations in Afghanistan last year, he said that the residual force of 9,800 U.S. troops remaining there should focus on training and advising Afghan troops. He limited the use of force to three circumstances: the defense of U.S. and allied troops, support for missions targeting remnants of al-Qaida insurgents in Afghanistan, and assistance to Afghan troops facing mass casualties in extreme situations.
It is not clear whether the U.S. bombing of the hospital met any of those criteria, VOA reports.
Campbell told a congressional committee the hospital was “mistakenly struck” and the United States “would never intentionally target a protected medical facility.”
He said he had ordered American forces in Afghanistan to be retrained on their use of force.
Afghan forces have been trying for several days to regain full control of Kunduz after Taliban insurgents briefly seized it last week.