US Commander Says Afghans Requested US Airstrike in Kunduz

  • Gen. John F. Campbell
    Gen. John F. Campbell
  • Fires burn in part of the Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in Kanduz, Afghanistan, after it was hit by an air strike on October 3, 2015 Photo: Medecins Sans Frontieres via Agence France Press
    Fires burn in part of the Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in Kanduz, Afghanistan, after it was hit by an air strike on October 3, 2015 Photo: Medecins Sans Frontieres via Agence France Press

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. airstrike that killed 22 at a medical clinic in northern Afghanistan over the weekend was requested by Afghan forces who reported being under Taliban fire, and was not sought by U.S. forces, the top commander of American and coalition forces in Afghanistan said Monday.

Gen. John F. Campbell made the statement at a hastily arranged Pentagon news conference. He said he was correcting an initial U.S. statement that said the airstrike had been in response to threats against U.S. forces.

"We have now learned that on Oct. 3, 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 the initial reports which indicated that U.S. forces were threatened and that the airstrike was called on their behalf."

His revised account does not clarify whether the clinic was targeted in error or whether other mistakes may have been made by U.S. forces.

"If errors were committed, we will acknowledge them," Campbell said.

He declined to provide more details, saying a military investigation is ongoing. He said he learned from the investigator that it was the Afghans, not the Americans, who requested the airstrike.

Campbell, whose headquarters is in Kabul, was in Washington on Monday because he is testifying before two congressional committees this week.

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Afghanistan