An apology from the President of the United States is not enough for Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) (MSF). The organization wants to pursue an international investigation into the alleged “war crime” committed by U.S. forces when American fighter jets bombed an MSF facility that was operating in Taliban-contested territory, killing 22 people, including 12 members of MSF’s staff.
U.S. President Barack Obama phoned MSF International President Joanne Liu this week to apologize for U.S. forces mistakenly hitting the target, Reuters reports. “He merely offered his heartfelt apology,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said of the President’s phone call with Liu.
Earnest said that a U.S.-led inquiry will “provide a transparent thorough and objective accounting of the facts and circumstances of the incident. And that, if necessary, the president would implement changes to make tragedies like this one less likely to occur in the future.”
But to be clear, there is “no evidence” that “I’ve seen or that anybody else has presented that indicate that this was anything other than a terrible, tragic accident,” Earnest added.
“If we let this go, as if it was a non-event, we are basically giving a blank cheque to any countries who are at war,” the MSF leader said during a news conference. “If we don’t safeguard that medical space for us to do our activities, then it is impossible to work in other contexts like Syria, South Sudan, like Yemen.”
Jason Cone, the executive director of MSF, has called on President Obama to accede to the demands of the NGO.
“Doing so will send a powerful signal of the U.S. government’s commitment to and respect for international humanitarian law under rules of war,” Cone said.
A U.S. AC-130 gunship was operating in the area at the time of the attack, but has not yet been confirmed that the American plane hit the hospital.
The hospital, which is located in the Afghan city of Kunduz, is in an area that has seen the Taliban continue to rapidly gain territory. The Islamic terrorist group now controls the vast majority of Kunduz, according to reports.
Kunduz officials and residents echoed a similar message to the New York Times in interviews published on Wednesday. Many shared fears that the Taliban–which has its eyes set on reinstalling the Islamic Emirate that existed before September 11, 2001–has become more emboldened than ever.
“The Taliban never confronted the front lines of the army,” a local activist told the Times. “But where I was in the city they attacked the police stations, they were already inside.”