Leadership Failures at Many Levels

The ground troops and the crew of the AC-130U that struck a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan on Oct. 3 “did not know they were striking a medical facility” at any point during the engagement, Army Gen. Joseph Votel told reporters Friday at the Pentagon release of a US Central Command investigation into the incident. The aircrew fired 211 rounds over the course of 30 minutes, after misidentifying and observing the hospital for 68 minutes, according to the investigation, which called the incident “the result of leadership failures at many levels.” Forty-two people were killed in the strike, which also destroyed the hospital. According to the report, “it was unreasonable” for the ground force commander or the air force commander to think that either the intended target or the hospital “was a lawful military objective.” Votel, the head of US Central Command, said the thing that jumped out at him from the investigation was the lack of communication between the ground and the air. “There was not complete situational awareness on the ground with what the aircraft was seeing, there was not complete situational awareness from the aircraft with what was happening with the ground force,” he said, later adding that no Americans had eyes on the intended target. (Read the full report.) (Votel transcript.)