Perhaps you’re aware the Taliban launched an assault that took the northern Afghanistan city of Kunduz. We addressed the issue in a website post yesterday.
One of the sad incidents that occurred in defeating the Taliban jihadists was the unfortunate bombing of a local hospital. There can be no doubt this was purposefully planned, as this is the TTP (tactic, technique, and procedure) used by Islamic jihadists such as Hamas. This is about winning the propaganda war, evidencing local civilian casualties — when in reality the message should be the use of human shields by these supposedly “brave” Islamic warriors.
As reported by Fox News:
U.S. officials have launched an investigation after 12 local staff members of Doctors Without Borders and at least seven patients, three of them children, were killed after an explosion near their hospital in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz that may have been caused by a nearby airstrike.
In a statement, the international charity said the “sustained bombing” took place Saturday at 2:10 a.m local time. Afghan forces backed by U.S. airstrikes have been fighting to dislodge Taliban insurgents who overran Kunduz on Monday.
At least 37 other people were seriously injured–19 staff members and 18 patients and caretakers, the organization said. Dozens were missing, raising concerns the death toll could rise.
A senior defense official told Fox News on Saturday that the Taliban have been in control of the area around the hospital since Monday, guarding the building and drawing U.S. special operations forces into a firefight in the area. U.S. forces called in the airstrike because they were under fire and needed cover, the official said.
Taliban fighters were among those being treated at the hospital, a defense official told Fox News. U.S. forces in Afghanistan said they conducted an airstrike on Kunduz at 2:15 a.m. Saturday.
The spokesman, U.S. Army Col. Brian Tribus, said the strike “may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility” and that the incident was under investigation. Tribus said it was the 12th U.S. airstrike “in the Kunduz vicinity” since Tuesday.
We now know it was Afghan forces who called in the airstrike on the hospital and not US Special Operations Forces. US Military Commander in Afghanistan General Campble stated such in a briefing at the Pentagon. The Afghan forces were engaged with the Taliban, not ours. As the Los Angeles Times reports:
The U.S. military on Monday changed its account of a devastating bombing in northern Afghanistan, saying that Afghan forces, not U.S. advisors, initiated a request for an American airstrike that killed 22 people at a Doctors Without Borders hospital.
It was the first time the U.S. military acknowledged that its airstrike hit the hospital, but the disclosure only deepened the questions surrounding what has become one of the most controversial civilian casualty incidents in nearly 14 years of American combat in Afghanistan.
It remained unclear what role, if any, was played by U.S. special forces on the ground, whether Taliban fighters were in or near the hospital, what kind of training the Afghan forces had undergone to learn the rules of engagement, and why the United States would carry out an attack on a medical facility, which ordinarily would be clearly marked.
Incidentally, Doctors Without Borders is accusing the US of committing a war crime with this bombing. But hey, didn’t President Obama end the “war” last year when he simply declared combat operations over?
This incident underscores two very important questions for our Commander in Chief. Why would we have Afghans calling in close air support of our assets? And how do we define close air support — and what type of assets do we have to conduct the mission?
Close air support is the implementation of air assets in conjunction with ground troops in contact with the enemy. It involves the use of ground tactical air controllers (GTACs) or, at a minimum, someone who’s been trained in directing close air support. As a young artillery officer at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, we all had to qualify on calling in a close air strike coordinating artillery smoke to direct/vector in aircraft. And our Special Operations forces are all trained in the employment of close air support. We know the enemy was occupying a hospital and directing fires against our forces — including Afghan forces. We now know it was Afghan forces calling in the airstrike, rather than our Special Operations forces with the proper training in this. Why would we have Afghans calling in close air support of US assets?
But an equally important question to ask is, what type of aircraft was used in the close air support role? This is why we “ground pounders” love the A-10 Warthog platform. It comes in low and slow — basically an aerial tank. And there’s no sweeter sound than the seven barrel 30mm Gatlin gun housed in the nose of the aircraft. Other great close air support weapons platforms are the AH-64 Apache, AH-1 Cobra and the AH-6 Little Bird — especially in tight urban spaces where clear identification of the enemy is critical and pinpoint accuracy is imperative. For these Spec Ops types there’s another preferred system, especially in night operations: the AC-130 gunship.
My point, as a former Army Fire Support officer, is we must do better in providing the right asset for the mission. But when we have an administration that’s stated, unilaterally, “combat operations have ended” and all “combat troops” have been withdrawn — then who did we have calling in and fulfilling the air strike against the Taliban force in Kunduz?
My recommendation is President Obama realizes combat continues as long as the enemy is still on the battlefield shooting at you. And if the enemy is there shooting at you, then combat operations have not ended. And if combat operations have not ended, then you need combat troops on the ground to return fire. And if you have combat troops on the ground returning fire, then they need the full complement of assets to kick the enemy’s ASSet.
My concern is we’ve so horribly hamstrung the few men and women remaining in Afghanistan, which clearly is still a combat theater of operations. They need the full panoply of tools to bring about the destruction of the enemy when engaged. What happened in Kunduz and the loss of life for those doctors and hospital patients needed not have happened, if we still regarded Afghanistan as a combat theater. Think about it this way: you do not drop a bomb on or near a hospital. You match the right attack asset to minimize the collateral effects — unless the bomb is all you have. It appears to me, the investigation on this incident should not focus on the men who were in a firefight.
The investigation should focus on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to ascertain what chucklehead does not understand what close air support is — as well as who was the imbecile who decided that combat operations in Afghanistan had ended.