While ignoring repeated calls for an independent inquiry, the U.S. Department of Defense announced it will make "condolence payments" to the families of victims of a U.S. airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan earlier this month, which killed 22 people.
The Pentagon made its announcement Saturday after two weeks of scrambling to solidify its narrative on the bombing. MSF has labeled the attack a war crime and consistently stated that the airstrike deliberately targeted the hospital, even after the medical charity circulated its coordinates to fighters on both sides.
As the New York Times explained in an article published Sunday, condolence payments are "a way for the United States, without admitting any wrongdoing, to compensate civilians who have been injured, lost a loved one or suffered property damage at the hands of the military."
Though the Pentagon refuses to make available a catalog or record of how often it makes such payments, the Times used public records and media reports to provide a few examples from recent years.
"The Department of Defense believes it is important to address the consequences of the tragic incident at the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan," said Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook. He added that the department would also pay to fix the hospital, although MSF staff withdrew from Kunduz following the bombing.
MSF has not directly responded to the Pentagon's announcement. However, on Monday, the medical charity released a "photo story" of its hospital under attack, which included a series of images from MSF staff around the world holding up messages calling for an independent investigation into the bombing.
Currently, three probes are under way by the U.S. military, Afghan officials, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
However, following the attack, Doctors Without Borders international president Dr. Joanne Liu said that "given the inconsistencies in the U.S. and Afghan accounts.... We cannot rely on only internal military investigations by the U.S., NATO and Afghan forces."
President Barack Obama called MSF officials last week to apologize personally for the airstrike, a rare move by a commander in chief. But MSF rebuffed his statement and called again for the U.S. to consent to an investigation led by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC).