US Blames Afghanistan Hospital Massacre On ‘Malfunctioning Sensors,’ ‘Human Error’

by | Nov 26, 2015


Early last month, Green Berets battling to beat back a Taliban advance in Kunduz, Afghanistan, apparently decided that in order to rid an MSF hospital of some “insurgents” who were apparently hanging out inside, they needed to call in an AC-130 gunship. The aircraft made five passes on the way to engaging the building for an hour, eventually killing dozens as tends to happen when advanced air assault technology squares off against unarmed people lying on gurneys.

Subsequent reports would reveal that the US fired on fleeing doctors and others who were running away from the building. Here is a short video which should give you an idea of what kind of hell patients and staff must have gone through on October 3:

There were competing accounts as to what led to the incident, but at least initially, the military claimed US SpecOps were taking fire from the hospital.

On Wednesday, the US walked back that story. Speaking at a news conference, U.S. Army Gen. John Campbell said the crew of the AC-130 mistook the hospital for a government compound that the Taliban was allegedly using as a prison. “This tragedy was the direct result of avoidable human error,” Campbell said.

But it wasn’t just “human error,” Washington is also blaming – get this – “malfunctioning sensors.”

AP, who’ve been all over this story pretty much from the beginning, has obtained a summary of one of several investigations into the incident. “Witnesses differed in their versions of how and why the strike was authorized,” the report says. It also indicates that the SpecOps commander who called in the strike “had been given the coordinates of the hospital two days before but said he didn’t recall seeing them.”

AP continues: “Investigators found that the aircrew continued the attack despite observing no hostile activity from the hospital, operated by the international group Doctors Without Borders. It found no evidence that armed Taliban were operating from there.”

According to Campbell, the AC-130 crew’s “targeting sensors malfunctioned” and so, they did what anyone would do in that situation, they decided to eyeball it. Back to AP:

Gen. John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said the airstrike was supposed to have been directed at a nearby facility being used as a Taliban command center but the warplane fired at the wrong building.

After the plane’s targeting sensors malfunctioned, he said, the crew relied on a physical description to home in on the target.

As absurd as that most certainly is, it’s made even more ridiculous when you consider that “no Americans on the ground were in position to see the hospital.” Of course even if they were, this isn’t some modern metropolis we’re talking about here where the buildings are easily distinguishable by their unique architecture. As you can see from the folllowing images and Google map of Kunduz, it would be easy to make a mistake if one were going by “a physical description of the building”:


AP goes on to detail the report’s account of the incident: “The AC-130 was sent on short notice after a report of ‘troops in contact’ [and] as a result, the aircrew did not get a pre-flight briefing and was not given a list of protected facilities on a ‘no strike’ list that should have included the hospital.”

The story then goes full-computer-glitch-retard:

During the flight, Campbell said, the aircraft’s electronic systems malfunctioned, preventing it from transmitting video or sending or receiving email. That meant the Air Force controller on the ground was hampered in aiding the targeting.

The AC-130 crew was given the coordinates for an Afghan intelligence building about 450 yards from the hospital, where Afghan forces were said to be in danger. But because the plane had moved to avoid a missile, its targeting sensors were off, and they pointed the crew to an open field.

The crew then relied on a physical description relayed by the commander to find what it thought was the right target.

So, let’s see if we can sort that out. The AC-130 was called in but was unable to get good on-the-ground intelligence because their e-mail was down (so we suppose that means that under normal circumstances, soldiers e-mail planes with instructions). Next, the plane dodged a “missile”, which threw its targeting sensors off and so according to The Pentagon, this AC-130 was flying blind with faulty targeting sensors into a warzone. Next, the crew did its best to remember what the ground forces (and now the US says it was actually Afghan troops that called in the strike) said about the building’s physical appearance on the way to finding “what they thought was the right target.”

But it gets worse:

When its computer eventually found the correct coordinates, Campbell said, the crew ignored them because it was “fixated on the physical description of the facility.”

So basically: “to hell with what the computer says, that nondescript building is a terrorist hideout if we’ve ever seen one.”

Immediately before firing, the aircrew relayed the coordinates of the hospital, to its headquarters, where officers knew it to be on the no-strike list, Campbell said. But nobody realized the mistake in time.

Does that mean the logistics team didn’t even bother to check the coordinates against the no-strike list? It certainly appears so. And finally:

The plane fired 211 shells over 29 minutes before commanders understood the mistake, according to the military report. Doctors Without Borders contacted coalition military personnel during the attack to say its facility was “being ‘bombed’ from the air.”

It took 17 minutes for special forces commanders to order a halt. By then the attack was over.

All in all, just another day in America’s highly successful war on Islamic extremists and dangerous militants. It’s worth noting that if Russia had “accidentally” done this in Syria, the Western media would have made it a front page spectacle and the outcry from the US and its allies would have been loud and long.

One can only hope that going forward, US aircrews will think twice before relying solely on “physical descriptions” of targets before vaporizing nearly three dozen people. We close with a quote from Doctor’s Without Borders:

“The frightening catalog of errors outlined today illustrates gross negligence on the part of U.S. forces and violations of the rules of war.”

Reprinted with permission from Zero Hedge.