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The United States can't evade responsibility for deadly airstrikes on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan simply because Afghan forces asked for them, the medical charity's president told NBC News on Monday.
Army Gen. John Campbell, the top commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, on Monday "corrected" initial statements by the coalition claiming that U.S. forces were under direct fire when the United States launched airstrikes on the hospital in Kunduz last week. He said it instead was Afghan forces who were under attack, not U.S. forces, and he promised a full investigation.
Twenty-two people — including 10 Doctors Without Borders physicians and three children — were killed in the attack.
Meinie Nicolai, the organization's president, called the distinction immaterial, telling NBC News: "The U.S. military remain responsible for the targets they hit, even if you're part of a coalition."
Referring to the organization as MSF, for Médecins Sans Frontières, its name in French, Nicolai declared that "this attack is not an attack on MSF alone — it is an attack, for me, on the foundations of our humanitarian action that claims that a hospital on the front line should be a safe place."
Nicolai said the United States clearly knew what it was doing, because the location of the hospital is well known and the targets were precisely chosen.
Not only that, she said, but during the attacks, MSF directly contacted the Pentagon through its U.S. office asking it to stop, but "it lasted more than 30 minutes before that ended."
"Let me repeat for your listeners: The only buildings that were hit were the ICU — the intensive care unit — the physiotherapy room and the emergency room and the recovery room," she said.
"This was a very precise attack on the main building, which was a hospital building, so we cannot be confused about what was going on," she declared. "The U.S. military should read the Geneva Conventions again."