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Report: General believes rules weren't followed in airstrike that hit hospital

Report: General believes rules weren't followed in airstrike that hit hospital

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan believes U.S. troops didn’t follow their own rules when carrying out an airstrike that killed 22 civilians, according to The New York Times.

Citing anonymous sources, The Times reported that Gen. John CampbellJohn Bayard Taylor CampbellBritish authorities rule fatal stabbings an act of terror Trump courts new controversy with travel ban expansion High stakes in Nigeria's elections for impoverished citizenry — and US interests MORE has said in private conversations that he believes the airstrike that hit a hospital did not meet any of the criteria U.S. troops are supposed to follow before deciding to launch an attack.

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The report contrasts with Campbell’s public statements in which he has declined to elaborate on the bombing pending the outcome of three investigations.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian aid organization that ran the hospital, Doctors Without Borders, again called for an independent investigation, this time saying a little-known commission set up by the Geneva Conventions should conduct the inquiry.

Under U.S. rules of engagement, airstrikes in Afghanistan are authorized to kill terrorists, protect American troops or help Afghans who request support in battles that can change the military landscape. The rules were set up after the United States officially ended its combat mission to give troops discretion while keeping them out of day-to-day fighting.

Afghan forces that were under fire from the Taliban requested Saturday's airstrike.

But Campbell has said in private, The Times reported, that he doesn't believe the airstrike met any of the three criteria.

The Times also reported that U.S. Special Operations Forces apparently could not positively identify the area the strike was hitting.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday, Campbell declined repeatedly to get into details of the incident, but did say, “A hospital was mistakenly struck.”

He also emphasized that while Afghan forces requested the strike, the United States is ultimately responsible because U.S. officials signed off on it.

At a press conference in Geneva on Wednesday, Joanne Liu, international president of Doctors Without Borders, said the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission should investigate the incident. The 15-person commission was established in 1991 to investigate breaches of international humanitarian law.

The investigation would not determine criminal liability, she said. Instead, it would clarify the laws of war.

Doctors Without Borders continues to describe the incident as a war crime.

“It is unacceptable that the bombing of a hospital and the killing of staff and patients can be dismissed as collateral damage or brushed aside as a mistake,” Liu said at a news conference in Geneva. “This was not just an attack on our hospital. It was an attack on the Geneva Conventions. This cannot be tolerated.”