Sunday, October 4

Is Doctors Without Borders treating Taliban without notifying the Afghan military?

"The Associated Press reported that video footage of the burned out [MSF hospital] compound in the east of Kunduz city showed automatic weapons, including rifles and at least one machine gun, on windowsills."

From the Washington Post report by Tim Craig, filed yesterday at 9:10 PM EDT,
Doctors Without Borders [Médecins Sans Frontières - MSF] says U.S. airstrike hit hospital in Afghanistan; at least 19 dead:
It was unclear how close Taliban fighters may have been to the hospital [in Kunduz] Saturday or whether the U.S. military didn’t realize the building was a hospital.
Afghan security officials said Taliban fighters had been pouring into the facility in recent days seeking treatment for gunshot wounds and other injuries.
Mirza Laghmani, a local resident, said Afghan soldiers were battling militants near the hospital when Saturday’s airstrike took place.
“The Taliban are taking and evacuating their wounded fighters to the hospital for treatment,” said Laghmani, who said the militant group still controls most of the city. “It was the only advanced hospital” in the area.
Abdul Qahar Aram, spokesman for the Afghan army’s 209th Corps in northern Afghanistan, on Saturday said Taliban fighters are now hiding in “people’s houses, mosques and hospitals using civilians as human shields.”
Sultan Arab, a local police commander in Kunduz, said the hospital came under an airstrike “because the Taliban had shifted their command center inside the hospital.”
Reuters reported at 5:39 AM EDT today, MSF denies Taliban was firing from Afghan hospital hit by air strike: 
The U.S. military said it conducted an air strike "in the vicinity" of the hospital, as it targeted Taliban insurgents who were directly firing on U.S. military personnel.
The U.S. government promised a full investigation into the incident as the U.N. human rights chief said the bombing could amount to a war crime.
In Kabul, the Afghan Ministry of Defense said Taliban fighters had attacked the hospital and were using the building "as a human shield". But the medical aid group denied this.
But no matter which version of events is correct, the question is whether MSF has been treating wounded Taliban without turning them over the Afghan military or police. If this is the case, MSF has been very actively aiding war crimes. 
Tim Craig's report goes on to note:
Doctors Without Borders, which operates in 20 countries and was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999, prides itself on treating any patient in need of assistance.
MSF, and its donors around the world, need to understand the ethics of the situation.  If the doctors want to treat anyone in need of trauma care, that's one thing.  But they have an ethical obligation to make sure that Taliban fighters they treat are not allowed to go free; the siege of Kunduz City illustrates why:

From Tamim Hamid's report for TOLOnews, October 3, A Brutal Taliban Shows Its True Colors This Past Week:
At one stage people had hoped that the Taliban had taken a more moderate direction politically but their action this past week following the siege of Kunduz has proven otherwise.
This comes after officials condemned the Taliban's actions in the embattled northern city this week saying mass murders, gang rapes and house-to-house searches by Taliban death squads are just some of the harrowing civilian testimonies emerging from Kunduz city.
According to Amnesty International, women human rights defenders from Kunduz spoke of a "hit list" being used by the Taliban to track down activists and others, and described how fighters had raped and killed numerous civilians.
"The harrowing accounts we've received paint a picture of a reign of terror during the Taliban's brutal capture of Kunduz this week.
The multiple credible reports of killings, rapes and other horrors meted out against the city's residents must prompt the Afghan authorities to do more now to protect civilians, in particular in areas where more fighting appears imminent," said Horia Mosadiq, Afghanistan Researcher at Amnesty International.
Kunduz city fell to the Taliban on Monday and despite concerted military action to regain control of the city fighting continues.
The Taliban atrocities have been documented by other news organizations as well. From Hashim Safi's October 2 report for AFP:
Amnesty International condemned the Taliban's "reign of terror" in Kunduz, citing civilian testimonies of mass murder, gang rapes and house-to-house searches by militant death squads.
The report, which cited rights activists, claimed militants had a hit list and were using young boys to help conduct searches to track down their targets, especially women.
The report also notes:
Food was running short and there was no electricity, while some people wounded during the fighting were too afraid of Taliban snipers to leave their homes and go to hospital, [a Kunduz resident] added.
So it seems Taliban wounded received good care from MSF while the victims couldn't even make it to the hospital.  

It's possible that MSF doctors in Kunduz treat Taliban because they're afraid the Taliban will attack the trauma center if they don't. If so, they had an ethical obligation to inform their donors of this -- and Afghan authorities, although this specific situation is now mooted. To return to the Reuters report:
The medical charity that was a lifeline for thousands in the city said it was pulling most of its staff out of the area because the hospital was no longer functioning. Some staff had gone to help treat the wounded at other hospitals, it added.
Yet the point still holds, not only for MSF but for all volunteer medical organizations working in Afghanistan's very hot war zone. The Taliban attack on Kunduz was a smash and grab resupply operation that netted them lots of money (they robbed every bank in the city) and tons of equipment, including vehicles.  They're going to use the spoils to expand their attacks in the north of the country.  

From Thomas Joscelyn's October 3 report for Long War Journal, Islamic Jihad Union participated in siege of Kunduz:
In an earlier statement, published on Sept. 29, the IJU said its fighters wouldn’t stop at Kunduz. The IJU claimed the “mujahideen” are preparing to launch operations against other areas in northern Afghanistan, including Mazar-e-Sharif in the Balkh province.
In light of progress the mercenaries have made this year in the north, the statement can't be taken as an idle boast. It's time for the U.S.-led coalition force to field treatment centers for wounded civilians and Afghan security forces, so volunteer medical personnel and their patients aren't caught in the crossfire.



bdoran said...

Listened enough to the earnest smug on the Beeb [BBC] to be pretty sure they were lying.

Pundita said...

It's a good thing I published the post before I'd seen the AP report mentioning the weapons on the windowsill. I saw the report moments after I published, so I just went back and inserted the passage at the top of the page. If I'd known while I was writing the post, my tone would've been a lot less even. How MSF thought they could get away with such a whopper, I don't know.