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U.S. in Afghanistan: airstrike hits hospital in Kunduz – mistake or intention?

Kunduz hospital after a US airstrike. Photo: nbcnews.com

As Russia’s Aerospace Forces launch a military operation against the “Islamic State” in Syria, the airstrikes of the last days against the local terrorist groups spark a bitter political and propaganda warfare, writes expert Dmitry Verkhoturov on Afghanistan.ru.

U.S., the UK, and their allies demand that Russia stops the airstrikes at the positions of the militants opposing Bashar Al-Assad’s government. They even claim that the Russian Air Force allegedly targets civilians.  On October 3 2015, UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon made such statement despite the operative data on the airstrikes and their results provided by the Russian Defense Ministry.

The allegations against Russia did not last long, as U.S. Air Force hit the hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières in Kunduz, Afghanistan.  The militants of Taliban attacked that city in the north of the country on September 28 – October 1. On October 3, Médecins Sans Frontières said 9 staff members were killed, with 37 people, of which 19 staff members, being wounded.

As assault aviation in Afghanistan is used only by the United States, the Americans did not deny the fact of hitting the hospital, though they tried to mitigate the burden. “The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility. This incident is under investigation,” said Colonel Brian Tribus, spokesman for international forces in Afghanistan.

The first question is about expediency of the airstrike. As of October 3, the military actions in Kunduz were almost over. The attack of the Taliban was rebuffed and the Afghan security forces were mopping up the city. Reportedly, the military actions have shifted to the districts of the Kunduz province. The airstrike at the densely populated and built-up city is more than strange when even the use of high-precision munition cannot guarantee the security of civilians.

This is not the first time when airstrikes hit civilians and Afghan troops, the author writes. U.S. Air Force bombarded houses, markets, weddings, and even the Afghan anti-drug police forces in the opium-rich province of Helmand’s Sangin district. NATO denied its complicity in that airstrike despite all proofs, which sparked public discontent in Afghanistan. U.S. was even slammed for impeding anti-drug operation in Afghanistan.

The big number of such airstrikes, and the one that hit the hospital in Kunduz, ‘speak against’ the option “mistake.”  One can be mistaken once or twice, but not for dozens of times.

Russia’s Aerospace Force in Syria does not make mistakes despite the high intensity of airstrikes. The reason is the practice of the military operations the country developed yet during the Great Patriotic War. Then, a reconnaissance plane photographed the target with an aerial reconnaissance camera and only afterwards the combat aircraft attacked it. The commander of the attacking aircraft was required to observe the results of the hit target.  Afterwards, the reconnaissance plane photographed the hit target.  

The present method has been improved, but the essence is the same:   accurate targeting and multi-level control over fulfillment of the military task.  Satellites, reconnaissance aircrafts photograph the targets. In addition, the Russian defense ministry reports the purpose of the hit facilities, which means that they use ground reconnaissance too. During the fulfillment of the flight task, the actions of the pilot and the work of the airplane systems are recorded by special devices for further analysis at the base.  It is objective control and the Russian defense department always refers to these data in its reports. The pilot cannot say that he hit the wrong target by a mistake, as the analysis of the records will show if he targeted the right object.  In addition, the strike results are recorded by a drone and the records are demonstrated by the Russian defense ministry.

Of course, one cannot say that the U.S. Air Force lacks such system of reconnaissance and control. However, the airstrikes at civilian facilities, like the hospital in Kunduz, means that U.S. either do not use that system or intentionally targets civilians, the expert writes for conclusion.

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