The U.S. airstrike that killed 31 civilians at a hospital in Afghanistan last month resulted from preventable errors by soldiers and airmen who violated rules of engagement and have been removed from duty while awaiting further investigation, military officials said Wednesday.
Gen. John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said the airstrike was supposed to have been directed at a nearby facility being used as a Taliban command center but the warplane fired at the wrong building.
After the plane’s targeting sensors malfunctioned, he said, the crew relied on a physical description to home in on the target. But no Americans on the ground were in position to see the hospital.
“This was a tragic but avoidable accident caused primarily by human error,” said Campbell, who described the results of parallel investigations to reporters in Afghanistan and listening in at the Pentagon in Washington. Campbell said several people had been removed from duty over the incident as they await potential criminal prosecution or administrative discipline, although he declined to say who and how many.