The Pentagon said on Saturday it would issue “condolence payments” to families of victims in the U.S. airstrike that destroyed a hospital and killed at least 22 people in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz last week.
The compensation will be handled through the already existing Commanders’ Emergency Response Program in Afghanistan, and if necessary additional authority will be sought from Congress, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.
"The Department of Defense believes it is important to address the consequences of the tragic incident," Cook said. "One step the department can take is to make condolence payments to civilian noncombatants injured and the families of civilian noncombatants killed as a result of U.S. military operations."
The U.S. has regularly made payments to Afghans for property damage, injuries and deaths throughout its military presence in the country, according to the Los Angeles Times. The attack on the Doctors Without Borders hospital killed 22 people and injured 37 others.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has appointed a team of investigators to look into the circumstances leading to the Taliban’s brief capture of Kunduz as well as the airstrike.
The five-man “fact-finding team” will deliver a “comprehensive report so that we know what happened in Kunduz, what kind of reforms should be brought and what are the lessons learned for the future,” the president was quoted as saying early Saturday.
Ten days after government troops entered Kunduz, they are still fighting to clear out pockets of Taliban insurgents, officials and residents said.
Sarwar Hussaini, spokesman for the provincial police chief, said three areas of the city had been retaken overnight, though a gas station in Seh Darak was hit by a rocket and destroyed. Hussaini said he did not know which side was responsible.
Kunduz resident Abdullah said that people were still leaving the city for safety. He said he had seen grocers emptying their shops of food to take home, fearing scarcities. He would only give his first name because of security concerns.
The World Food Program said it was feeding thousands who had left Kunduz and were now living in camps in other cities in the north, and that “additional wheat is being milled in anticipation of increased needs in the coming days.
Doctors Without Borders has called for an independent probe of the incident by the Swiss-based International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission — which is made up of diplomats, legal experts, doctors and some former military officials from nine European countries, including Britain and Russia. It was created after the Gulf War in 1991, and has never deployed a fact-finding mission.
Doctors Without Borders — a Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization that provides medical aid in conflict zones — is awaiting responses to letters sent Tuesday to 76 countries that signed the additional protocol to the Geneva Conventions, asking to mobilize the 15-member commission.
For the IHFFC to be mobilized, a single country would have to call for the fact-finding mission, and the U.S. and Afghanistan — which are not signatories — must also give their consent.
The airstrike was requested by Afghan ground forces, according to the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell, but mistakenly hit the hospital.
The bombing continued for about an hour and destroyed the hospital's main building. President Barack Obama apologized and the U.S. military is investigating. The hospital has been abandoned.
Doctors Without Borders said that 12 staff members and 10 patients, all of them Afghans, were killed. Many more are still missing, though all foreign staff have been accounted for.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.