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Max Forte's List: Afghanistan: Occupation and Resistance

    • In Iraq, we haven't learned the lessons of the last war Add to ... 


       The Globe and Mail



    • Is history repeating itself in Syria and Iraq? Has Canada learned the lessons of Afghanistan and applied them to its new military mission? Or are we about to repeat the same cycle of caution, bravado, overconfidence, distraction, failure, delusion, doubling down, deception, redefinition, amnesia and retreat?

       <!-- This is a catch-all ASF view; only displays when an unsupported article type is put in an ASF drop zone --> 

      It’s hard to tell, for the tough lessons of our four consecutive Afghanistan missions are still not really acknowledged by Canada or its military. Other countries are more transparent about this: The U.S. Army has an entire Center for Army Lessons Learned, headquartered at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., that openly publishes harsh assessments of every battlefield misstep and epiphany.

    • Canada is, to put it mildly, more circumspect. Despite expending a decade, 158 lives and more than $20-billion on a war whose outcomes and results were a matter of constant deception, Ottawa does not want to examine the experience publicly. As the fourth mission was ending in 2011, the Harper government’s Privy Council Office organized a “formal lessons learned exercise to determine what went right and wrong,” according to Carleton University political scientist Stephen Saideman.

      Countless officials at every level of military and political office were interviewed, a formal report was drafted – and then it was promptly “buried in a cabinet drawer” and kept secret, not only from citizens and media, but from any military and political officials who might benefit from reading and applying those lessons. It appears to be permanently buried: Mr. Saideman’s recent request to obtain the report under the Access to Information Act was refused.

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    • Press Statement
      Office of the Press Secretary
      Washington, DC
      February 27, 2003
    • Joint Statement Between the United States of America and Afghanistan

      Released by the White House 

      President Bush and President Karzai reaffirm their common vision for an Afghanistan that is prosperous, democratic, at peace, contributing to regional stability, market friendly, and respectful of human rights. They affirm their ironclad and lasting partnership in pursuit of this vision, and will work together to ensure that Afghanistan is never again a haven for terrorists and that no resurgence of terrorism threatens Afghanistan  

      The United States has demonstrated its commitment to Afghanistan, providing U.S. forces to combat terror and secure stability, and granting over $900 million in assistance since 2001. Working together, Afghans, Americans, and our international partners have made great progress in ridding Afghanistan of Al Qaida and Taliban elements. We averted famine for some 7 million Afghans last year, and have begun the essential and challenging work of rebuilding after decades of dictatorship, war, and extremism. As a sign of confidence in the future, some 2 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan over the past year. But much remains to be done. This year will mark a shift toward long-term reconstruction projects and the rebuilding of Afghan institutions. The United States will be a full partner in this transition, helping to secure stability and supporting reconstruction throughout the country, including roads, schools, clinics, and agriculture. We will continue our work together, with other partners, to gather the resources that will hasten the day when all Afghans lead prosperous and secure lives.

    • President Karzai has declared 2003 to be a year of national institution building for Afghanistan, a year when the economic and social benefits of peace are extended throughout the country.  

      Afghans are enjoying newfound freedoms and hope for a brighter tomorrow. The United States will work with Afghanistan to extend the accomplishments of the Bonn Accord of December 2001 and the Emergency Loya Jirga of June 2002 so that Afghans can build a democratic, constitutional government within the context of Afghanistan's unique culture and history.

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    • America's utter failure in Afghanistan, in one depressing statistic

    • A new government report on Afghanistan reconstruction includes a startling fact: The US has spent more money — a lot more money — trying to rebuild Afghanistan than we did rebuilding Europe after World War II.


      The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) submitted a statement to Congress on Wednesday in a hearing to review the fiscal year 2017 budget request and funding justification for the US Department of State. It included this line:

    • Since FY 2002, Congress has appropriated approximately $113.1 billion to rebuild Afghanistan. That is at least $10 billion more, adjusted for inflation, than the amount the United States committed in civilian assistance to help rebuild Western Europe after World War II.


      This obviously depends on how you do the calculation. The method SIGAR says it used gave them an adjusted total of $103.4 billion in 2014 dollars for the Marshall Plan. When I ran a simple comparison of 1952 spending versus 2016 spending, adjusting for inflation, I found that US spending on the Marshall Plan actually translates into $118 billion in today's dollars, so a bit more than we spent in Afghanistan.

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      Bernie and the Jets

    • As Clintons are wont to do, Hillary laid a political trap and Bernie Sanders, in his Schlemiel-like way, stumbled right into it. In the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s smashing victory as the new leader of Britain’s Labour Party, Hillary’s super-PAC, Correct the Record, tarred Sanders as a Corbyn-lite renegade who has cozied up to untouchable figures like Hugo Chavez.
    • About a decade ago, Sanders was part of a delegation that negotiated a sensible deal to bring low-cost heating oil from Venezuela to poor families in the northeastern United States. But instead of defending his honorable role in this ex parte negotiation, Sanders wilted. In a fundraising email to his legions of Sandernistas, Bernie fumed at being “linked to a dead Communist dictator.”


      Of course, Hugo Chavez represented everything that Bernie Sanders claims to be but isn’t. Namely, an independent socialist, whose immense popularity in his own country led to his Bolivaran Party winning 18 straight hotly-contested elections since 1996, not to mention surviving several coup attempts backed by the CIA and the editorial board of the New York Times, plots that elicited not a squeak of dissent from Bernie the Red.

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    • Hillary Clinton and the Syrian Bloodbath

    • Jeffrey Sachs Director, Earth Institute at Columbia University
    • In the Milwaukee debate, Hillary Clinton took pride in her role in a recent UN Security Council resolution on a Syrian ceasefire:



      But I would add this. You know, the Security Council finally got around to adopting a resolution. At the core of that resolution is an agreement I negotiated in June of 2012 in Geneva, which set forth a cease-fire and moving toward a political resolution, trying to bring the parties at stake in Syria together.



      This is the kind of compulsive misrepresentation that makes Clinton unfit to be President. Clinton's role in Syria has been to help instigate and prolong the Syrian bloodbath, not to bring it to a close.

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    • Western warmongers have all the answers, and they're all wrong

      Nafeez Ahmed's picture
      Friday 29 January 2016
    • The wars in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan failed not because of noble errors, but because short-sighted Western interests trumped the needs of the people. And this is why the creeping return to war will fail again
    • Despite an almost total lack of public debate, Western military escalation in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya is on the rise.

      Renewed military interventionism has been largely justified as a response to the meteoric rise of Islamic State networks, spreading across parts of the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

      Missing from government pronouncements, though, is any acknowledgement that the proliferation of Islamist terrorism is a direct consequence of the knee-jerk response of military escalation.

      Discarded to the memory hole is the fact that before each of the major interventions in these three countries, our political leaders promised they would bring security, freedom and prosperity.

      Instead, they have done precisely the opposite.

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    •   Sat Feb 13, 2016 1:17pm EST   
        Related:     World,   Afghanistan   

      Afghan Taliban use captured Humvees in suicide attack

    • Taliban insurgents in captured military Humvee vehicles launched suicide attacks in the southern Afghan province of Helmand on Saturday, killing several members of the security forces in the district center of Sangin, a senior official said.

      The incident came amid bitter fighting in Helmand, a traditional Taliban heartland where insurgents have overrun many areas, leaving government forces in some district centers including Sangin and Marjah barely clinging on.

      Provincial police chief Abdul Rahman Sarjang said that after heavy fighting on Friday during which the Taliban lost around 40 fighters, suicide bombers in two captured Afghan army Humvees targeted the police and governor's headquarters.

    • "The first Humvee was ordered by the police to stop but when he ignored warnings, the police fired a rocket-propelled grenade," Sarjang said.

      The second bomber detonated his vehicle near a checkpoint guarding the two headquarters. Four policemen were killed and seven wounded, he said, while an army spokesman said one soldier was killed and another was wounded.


      In Kabul, the outgoing commander of international troops in Afghanistan Gen. John Campbell confirmed the incident but said no American troops were involved.

      "I think right now the Afghan forces have a plan to go after that," he said.

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    • Sat Feb 13, 2016 12:49pm EST   
        Related:     World,   Afghanistan   

      Outgoing U.S. commander says mission in Afghanistan not changing

    • U.S. troops in Afghanistan will not return to an active role fighting the Taliban despite the likelihood of another difficult year of combat, the outgoing commander of international forces, Gen. John Campbell, said on Saturday.

          U.S. special forces units assisting Afghan forces have been involved in firefights in the volatile southern province of Helmand, where a Green Beret was killed last month and where the Taliban have put government forces under pressure.

          Another 500 U.S. soldiers have been sent down to the province to bolster local forces that have been hard-pressed to hold on to key district centers such as Sangin and Marjah, but their role will remain to advise and assist.

    •  "The mission hasn't changed," Campbell told reporters in Kabul in what is likely to be his final news conference before handing over to Lt. Gen. John Nicholson in March. But he said they would be able to defend themselves and call in air support if necessary.

          "They're not actively going out to fight but if they get attacked, they have to be able to provide force protection to themselves," he said. “That's where you see Apache helicopters, bombs, drones, those kind of things.”


          Afghan forces, which took over combat operations when NATO's fighting mission ended in 2014, have struggled and are expected to need international assistance for years to come.

          Around 9,800 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan. Under current plans that number is due to fall to 5,500 by the end of 2016.

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    • Obama forced again to rethink troop numbers in Afghanistan
    • By:   Deb Riechmann And Robert Burns The Associated Press    Published on Sat Jan 30 2016    

      WASHINGTON — Fifteen years into the war that few Americans talk about any more, conditions in Afghanistan are getting worse, preventing the clean ending that President Barack Obama hoped to impose before leaving office.


      Violence is on the rise, the Taliban are staging new offensives, the Islamic State group is angling for a foothold and peace prospects are dim.


      Afghanistan remains a danger zone. It's hobbled by a weak economy that's sapping public confidence in the new government. Afghan police and soldiers are struggling to hold together the country 13 months after the U.S.-led military coalition culled its numbers by 90     per cent  .

    • The bottom line: For a second time, Obama is rethinking his plan to drop U.S. troop levels from 9,800 to 5,500 before he leaves office in January 2017.


      "I don't see any drawdowns" in the near future, said James Dobbins, Obama's former special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He predicted Obama would leave the decision to the next president.


      "They are just hoping that things hold together and they won't have to face a decision on whether to actually implement the force reduction they're talking about until late summer, early fall, by which time the administration will be on its last legs," Dobbins said.


      Top military officials, as well as Republicans and Democrats in Congress, think that trimming the force any more during Obama's presidency is a bad idea. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Thursday that Afghanistan was in a "crisis situation."

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    • ISIS prompts call for 'enduring' presence in Afghanistan, new action in Libya

    • Washington (CNN)Lt. Gen. John Nicholson, President Barack Obama's nominee for commander of U.S. operations in Afghanistan, said Thursday that "we do need to think about an enduring commitment to the Afghans."

      Speaking at his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing, Nicholson said that the plan for an long-term U.S. military commitment was part of the President's policy shift that allowed for the retention of 5,500 troops beyond his presidency.

    • While Obama had originally sought to withdraw all U.S. troops save for a small embassy presence, in October the President revised the draw-down plan to keep thousands of troops in Afghanistan into 2017.

      Nicholson was responding to a question as to whether he envisioned a U.S. commitment to Afghanistan resembling the decades-long deployment of U.S. military forces in Germany and South Korea.

      Currently, the 9,800 U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan are split between the NATO-led training and assist mission, Operation Resolute Support, and a separate mission tasked with performing counterterrorism operations.

      Read More

      Nicholson said it was clear that "trans-national terrorist organizations," including ISIS and al Qaeda, were attempting to "establish sanctuary inside Afghanistan."

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    • Mon Jan 18, 2016 2:55pm EST   
        Related:     World,   Afghanistan   

      Desertions deplete Afghan forces, adding to security worries

        KANDAHAR, Afghanistan/KABUL  |  
    • Afghan Lieutenant Amanullah said he was ready to fight to the death to stop the Taliban making gains across the south of the country, where insurgents have already overrun a series of districts in their traditional heartland.

      In November, 15 months after joining up, he deserted, one of thousands of tired and frustrated soldiers who have shed their uniforms, seriously blunting the Afghan army's power to repel a growing militant threat.

      For Amanullah, everything changed late last year when, fighting on an empty stomach and without being paid for months, militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns attacked his base from all directions in a three-day battle.

      The final straw came when requests for reinforcements at the remote outpost went unanswered and colleagues bled to death around him because of a lack of medical care.When the ambush ended, he joined three friends shedding their uniforms and walking away from the base near Kandahar, an area that has long been a Taliban stronghold. "I joined the army so that I could support my family and serve my country, but this is a suicide mission," said Amanullah, 28, who, like many Afghans, uses one name.

    • The attrition rate hits at the heart of the U.S. exit strategy in Afghanistan, which is to build a force capable of taking on the Taliban when it fully withdraws.

      NATO ended its combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, and a smaller force remains mainly training and advising Afghans. Alarmed by Taliban gains, the United States decided last year to slow the pace of withdrawing troops still there.

      In 2015, the Afghan army had to replace about a third of its roughly 170,000 soldiers because of desertions, casualties and low re-enlistment rates, according to figures released by the U.S. military last month. That means a third of the army consists of first-year recruits fresh off a three-month training course.

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    • Non-human Democracy: our political vocabulary has no room for animals   

    • Sandra Eterovic
    • This is part one of a three-part essay that proposes a way of thinking about democracy that’s seldom, if ever, used. Despite the popularity in other disciplines of inter-species thinking, it’s ignored in democracy research. Why is that? Why can we not conceive of democracy as anything other than uniquely human? “Non-human Democracy” seeks to answer these questions.

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    • Rockets fall on Kabul as Taliban intensifies onslaught across Afghanistan     

    • Three explosions shook the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, near key ministries, embassies and residences. The attack comes hours after six NATO soldiers were killed near Bagram air base amidst a surge in Taliban violence.  

      Local police told Reuters that one of the missiles hit Massoud Square, adjacent to the well-fortified US embassy, and another landed in Shirpur Square, close to the sprawling presidential complex. A third rocket detonated further away from the heart of the city.

    • Authorities have not revealed where the missiles were fired from, or who was behind the attack. The Taliban took responsibility for the December 12 terrorist incursion in which a fighter blew himself up, before three gunmen infiltrated the Spanish embassy compound. Four police officers died fighting the militants.

      Earlier on Monday, a Taliban suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated a bomb, killing six US troops and wounding six more at Bagram Airfield, north of the Afghan capital.

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    • Taliban attacks: 3 NATO troops killed in Afghanistan, part of Helmand province seized     

    • The militant group Taliban has launched a major offensive in the Afghan Helmand province and claimed responsibility for a bombing attack, in which three NATO troops were killed.
    • The attacks targeting foreign troops happened in a village near the Bagram airbase. A suicide bomber on a motorbike approached a joint US-Afghan patrol and set off the explosive device. Five soldiers were killed and six injured, Bagram Governor Abdul Shukur Qudusi said. 

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      U.S. strike on Afghan hospital likely not a mistake, says Doctors Without Borders


      United States has said the hospital was hit by accident


          Thomson Reuters    Posted: Nov 05, 2015

    • Medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said on Thursday it was hard to believe a U.S. airstrike on an Afghan hospital last month was a mistake, as it had reports of fleeing people being shot from an aircraft.
      At least 30 people were killed when the hospital in Kunduz was hit by the strike on Oct. 3 while Afghan government forces were battling to regain control of the northern city from Taliban forces who had seized it days earlier.
      The United States has said the hospital was hit by accident and two separate investigations by the U.S. and NATO are underway but the circumstances of the incident, one of the worst of its kind during the 14-year conflict, are still unclear.
    • Doctors Without Borders general director Christopher Stokes told reporters the organization was still awaiting an explanation from the U.S. military.
      "All the information that we've provided so far shows that a mistake is quite hard to understand and believe at this stage," he said while presenting an internal report on the incident.
      The report said many staff described "seeing people being shot, most likely from the plane" as they tried to flee the main hospital building.
      "From what we are seeing now, this action is illegal in the laws of war," Stokes said. "There are still many unanswered 
      questions, including who took the final decision, who gave the targeting instructions for the hospital."
      Several Afghan officials have suggested Taliban fighters were using the hospital as a base, a claim that Doctors Without Borders firmly rejects. It says the facility was under its control at all times and there were no armed fighters present either before or during the attack.
      The hospital was treating wounded combatants from both sides as well as civilians, but the group says it always maintained a strict policy of neutrality between the two sides.
      "Treating wounded combatants is not a crime," Stokes said.

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    • Tue Oct 20, 2015 12:29pm EDT   
        Related:     World,   Afghanistan   

      Taliban threatens southern Afghan city, civilians flee

        LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan  |  
    • Taliban forces advanced on the capital of the volatile southern Afghan province of Helmand on Tuesday amid fierce fighting with government forces that threatened to cut off a major highway and prompted many families to flee.

      The fighting near the town of Lashkar Gah comes three weeks after the Taliban won its biggest victory in the 14-year war, capturing the northern town of Kunduz and holding the city center for three days before government forces regained control.

    • "Helmand's capital appears to be under serious military pressure," a Western official said. "We're hearing reports about civilians fleeing in large numbers."

      Helmand province is one of the world's biggest centers of opium cultivation, with a complex mix of warring tribal groups and Taliban insurgents creating a chronic problem for the Western-backed government.

      Provincial Governor Mirza Khan Rahimi said heavy fighting had been going on for two days in the district of Gereshk to the north of the city. The fighting has threatened Highway One, the main transport artery linking the major southern city of Kandahar with Herat.

      Farhad Dawary, head of the local Civil Societies Union, which represents non-government social organizations, said that after days of fighting, families were both fleeing to Lashkar Gah from outlying areas and trying to escape from the city.

      "There is fear among the people in Lashkar Gah, there are lots of rumors the city might fall," he said.

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    •   Thu Oct 15, 2015 6:27pm EDT   
        Related:     World,   Politics,   Afghanistan   

      Military families on edge as U.S. delays Afghanistan troop withdrawal

    • Lauren Alaquinez will soon say goodbye to her husband for the fifth time in three years, when he deploys once again to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army Special Forces.

      As a military family, Alaquinez and her four children know what they've signed up for. But that made it no easier to hear the news that President Obama would delay the withdrawal of 9,800 U.S. troops stationed in the war-torn Central Asian country.

      "Of course, it naturally makes me so angry," said the 30-year-old Florida resident. "He spends more of his time in that country than he does at home."

    • But Alaquinez said she also understands the troops are necessary to ensure a stable Afghanistan.

      "They need to go and fight this war," she said. "We are too far invested in this."

      Across the country, military families echoed that stoicism with a mixture of frustration, acceptance and resignation at the news that the 14-year conflict would be prolonged.

      Libby Jamison, a 34-year-old Rhode Island attorney whose husband is a Navy helicopter pilot, said the news was unsurprising but difficult to hear. She expects her husband will eventually return to Afghanistan.

      "The sooner we can say (the war) is over, the better, in my mind," she said.


      The Obama administration said it would leave it to commanders to determine which units might redeploy to Afghanistan. But it did not rule out the possibility that some forces already there may see their tours extended.

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    • Obama reverses pledge to bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan Add to ... 


       WASHINGTON — The Globe and Mail



    • Reversing his promise to bring all but a handful of U.S. troops home from Afghanistan this year, President Barack Obama said Thursday that thousands will remain when his successor is sworn in as commander-in-chief in early 2017.

      And he hinted that the next president – the third to cope with ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – may need to further extend those commitments.

    • “I suspect that we will continue to evaluate this going forward, as will the next president,” Mr. Obama said in a short speech from the White House.

      The President’s detractors claim he has been too timid, too willing to lead from behind and partially responsible for the rise of Islamic State because he insisted on pulling all U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2011 to fulfill a campaign promise. The critics offered only tepid endorsement of Mr. Obama’s change of policy in Afghanistan.

      “It would have been far better to halt all further troop withdrawals and allow President Obama’s successor to determine what is warranted based on conditions on the ground,” said Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican defeated by Mr. Obama in 2008.

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    • APNewsBreak: US analysts knew Afghan site was hospital

        Oct. 15, 2015
    • WASHINGTON (AP) — American special operations analysts were gathering intelligence on an Afghan hospital days before it was destroyed by a U.S. military attack because they believed it was being used by a Pakistani operative to coordinate Taliban activity, The Associated Press has learned.


      It's unclear whether commanders who unleashed the AC-130 gunship on the hospital — killing at least 22 patients and hospital staff — were aware that the site was a hospital or knew about the allegations of possible enemy activity. The Pentagon initially said the attack was to protect U.S. troops engaged in a firefight and has since said it was a mistake.

    • The special operations analysts had assembled a dossier that included maps with the hospital circled, along with indications that intelligence agencies were tracking the location of the Pakistani operative and activity reports based on overhead surveillance, according to a former intelligence official who is familiar with some of the documents describing the site. The intelligence suggested the hospital was being used as a Taliban command and control center and may have housed heavy weapons.


      After the attack — which came amidst a battle to retake the northern Afghan city of Kunduz from the Taliban — some U.S. analysts assessed that the strike had been justified, the former officer says. They concluded that the Pakistani, believed to have been working for his country's Inter-Service Intelligence directorate, had been killed.

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    • US forces in Afghanistan knew Kunduz site was hospital - report     

    • New information suggests the US deliberately targeted the Kunduz hospital, killing 22 patients and staff, despite knowing it was a protected medical site.  

      US special operations analysts investigated the hospital for days prior to the deadly October 3 attack, describing the hospital as a base of operations for a Pakistani agent coordinating Taliban activities, AP has learned from a former intelligence official familiar with the documents.

      The site, operated by Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, MSF), was attacked five times in the span of an hour by a C-130 gunship, despite repeated pleas by the MSF to US forces. MSF officials described repeated strafing runs against the main hospital building, which housed the emergency room and the intensive care unit. No surrounding buildings were hit, they say.

      The new details suggest "that the hospital was intentionally targeted,” Meinie Nicolai of MSF told the AP by email. “This would amount to a premeditated massacre,” she added.

      According to AP's source, intelligence reports suggested the hospital was being used as a Taliban command and control center and a repository for heavy weapons. MSF insists that no weapons were allowed in the hospital. While the US military has claimed that US and Afghan forces came under fire from the hospital, Afghan hospital employees told AP that no one had fired from the building

    • MSF staff "reported a calm night and that there were no armed combatants, nor active fighting in or from the compound prior to the airstrikes," Nicolai told AP.

      The US military initially reported the air strike was conducted “in the vicinity” of the MSF medical facility, targeting the Taliban who were fighting US and Afghan forces, and that the strike “may have resulted in collateral damage “ to the hospital.

      Two days later, General John F. Campbell, commander of the US forces in Afghanistan, said the Afghan forces had requested air support because “they were taking fire from enemy positions” and said that “several civilians were accidentally struck” in the air strike.

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