U.S. and Afghan troops did in fact break through a locked gate outside of a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) clinic last week in Kunduz, Afghanistan, where 22 patients and staff were killed in a U.S. military bombing days earlier, a Department of Defense official admitted Monday.
Pentagon spokesperson Jeff Davis said the soldiers who forced open the gate did not believe the charity hospital was still occupied and that they plan to "make it right and make sure that that gate is repaired."
But MSF's response to the gate crash showed the medical charity had different concerns—including the troops' intentions on the site.
"Their unannounced and forced entry damaged property, destroyed potential evidence and caused stress and fear for the MSF team," a spokesperson for the group told Agence France-Presse last week. Moreover, the break-in occurred "despite an agreement made between MSF and the joint investigation team that MSF would be given notice before each step of the procedure," she said.
Although the Pentagon admitted fault in the gate-crashing incident, it maintained its most recent position that the October 3 bombing was targeting Taliban militants using the charity hospital as a hideout. MSF has consistently denied those claims and called for an independent investigation into the attack, which it says occurred even though fighters on both sides were aware of the clinic's exact GPS coordinates. The medical charity recently launched a petition calling on President Barack Obama to consent to an inquiry by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC), "the only permanent body set up specifically to investigate violations of international humanitarian law."
"Respect for the laws of war is what protects our staff and patients in conflict zones throughout the world," Jason Cone, executive director of MSF-USA, said last week. "There must be an independent and impartial investigation to establish the facts of this horrific attack on our hospital."