Charity says U.S. troops stormed Afghan hospital
The U.S. military faced more criticism Monday in Afghanistan as a charity accused American soldiers of storming through a provincial hospital, breaking down doors and tying up staff and visitors in a hunt for insurgents.
Critics say such heavy-handed tactics, if true, violate international principles and undermine support for the war against the Taliban.
The American military said it was investigating the allegation, which came on the heels of a furor over reports that dozens of civilians were killed in a NATO airstrike in the country’s north last week.
Civilian deaths and intrusive searches have bred resentment among the Afghan population nearly eight years after the United States-led coalition invaded to oust the Taliban’s hard-line Islamist regime, which was sheltering Al Qaeda leaders.
On Monday, the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan said soldiers with the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division looking for insurgents forced their way into the charity’s hospital in Wardak province, about 40 miles southwest of Kabul.
“This is a clear violation of internationally recognized rules and principles,” said Anders Fange, the charity’s country director. No one was harmed in the raid, but Fange said it violated an agreement between NATO forces and aid groups working in the area.
U.S. military spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker confirmed that the hospital was searched last week but had no other details.
Fange said U.S. troops kicked in doors, tied up four hospital guards and two people visiting relatives, and forced patients out of beds during their search late Wednesday.
When they left two hours later, the American soldiers ordered hospital staff to inform coalition forces if any wounded insurgents were admitted, and the military would decide if they could be treated, Fange said.
The hospital staff refused. Fange said informing on patients would be an ethical breach, put the staff at risk and make the hospital a target. He demanded guarantees the U.S. military would not enter hospitals without permission in the future.
Though the search operation may have sparked outrage and goes against common practice, it’s not clear whether it broke any international rules of war. International humanitarian law requires that civilian hospitals be respected and also protects medical personal and the sick and wounded from combat operations. However, it does not specifically address search operations.
Meanwhile, early today, a car bomb exploded near the entrance to the military airport in Kabul, rattling windows more than a mile away, police said.
The attack appeared to target an international convoy, officials said, adding that it was not clear whether there were any casualties.