Service members involved in the bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, probably won't serve jail time, military legal experts predict, though career-ending administrative punishment is possible.
The airstrike, involving a U.S. AC-130 gunship, killed 22 medical staff and patients, including three children. U.S. forces conducted the attack to protect Afghan personnel under enemy fire, despite the fact that the medical aid group said it had provided the GPS coordinates of the hospital to U.S. and Afghan military personnel.
While the U.S. has already publicly accepted responsibility and apologized for the bombing, an official report to confirm civilian casualties and assign blame to the U.S. is expected this week. A more detailed report, which will look at who specifically should be held accountable, is expected in a couple weeks, Capt. Jeff Davis, Pentagon spokesman, said Monday.
That longer report will include recommendations on possible punishments for those involved, though any final decision on nonjudicial punishment or bringing formal charges is made by a convening authority, said Gary Solis, an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law School and a retired Marine Corps judge.
Daniel Conway, a New Hampshire-based military lawyer and former Marine, said the bombing was likely a result of "a horrible mistake, probably a negligent mistake" that could have troops facing administrative actions ranging from nonjudicial punishment to paying fines to having to defend why they still belong in the military at a "show cause" board. Usually, leaders are also relieved of command in incidents like this, he said.