President Barack Obama apologized to the head of Doctors Without Borders on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015 for the airstrike that killed at least 22 people on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015 in Kunduz, Afghanistan. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced, “This morning from the Oval Office, President Obama spoke by telephone with Doctors Without Borders International President Dr. Joanne Liu, to apologize and express his condolences for the MSF staff and patients who were killed and injured when a US military airstrike mistakenly struck an MSF field hospital,” according to ABC News.
The airstrike killed 12 doctors, seven adult patients and three children, according to Doctors Without Borders, a non-governmental organization that is recognized internationally by its French name Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF). At a news conference in New York, MSF Executive Director Jason Cone said, “Today, we say enough. Even war has rules,” according to ABC News.
The President’s personal expression of regret, which came five days after an American AC-130 gunship devastated the medical facility, appeared to do little to satisfy Doctors Without Borders. Dr. Joanne Liu repeated her demand for an independent investigation led by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to find out the specific details of what happened in Kunduz, according to The New York Times. White House officials said the President was confident that the investigative effort now underway, including an inquiry being conducted by the Department of Defense, would be transparent, thorough and objective.
The President’s personal outreach is one sign of the administration’s concern about one of the worst instances of American air power gone astray in Afghanistan in years, according to The Washington Post. On Tuesday Oct. 6, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter promised to hold those responsible accountable, if necessary, according to The Washington Post. The U.S. military rarely disciplines individual service members for “collateral damage” or other actions that occur as part of combat, according to The Washington Post. Officials are now scrambling to assemble an accurate account of what happened in Kunduz after their narrative shifted in the initial days after the attack.
Kunduz became overrun by Taliban fighters about a week ago, and Afghan forces are battling them there, according to The New York Times. Generally, U.S. forces are not supposed to be taking part in combat operations against the Taliban, as they did in the years that followed the September 11, 2001 attacks, The New York Times reported. White House officials are considering additional revisions to President Obama’s plan to bring the U.S. military footprint to 1,000 or less by the end of next year. There are now about 9,800 U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan, most of whom are tasked with supporting Afghan forces who lack key capabilities in air power, while a smaller number are dedicated to tracking down militants who threaten the U.S, according to The Washington Post.
Editor’s Note: Information from ABC News, The New York Times and The Washington Post was used in this report.