US Army IT system `down` during Afghan hospital strike
October 21, 2015, 4:36 pm

A US Army intelligence network was not operational during the recent mistaken attack on a hospital in Afghanistan, according to a member of Congress.

Representative Duncan Hunter, a frequent critic of the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS), has written to Defence Secretary Ash Carter about the incident.

DCGS is a communications network for military and intelligence units.

Twenty-two people died at the Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital on 3 October.

There is no clear indication yet that any disruption of the DCGS network had a direct impact on the decision to attack the hospital.

However, it has not yet been explained why military commanders made that decision, given that the Pentagon has commented the strike was not "intentional".

Mr Hunter says that his sources for information on DCGS include military personnel acting as whistleblowers who are afraid to speak out publicly.

`Evidence of failures`

"Senior army leaders have gone to extraordinary lengths in recent years to deny evidence of the failures of the DCGS program, and I am asking for your help to prevent them from doing so following this tragic incident," wrote Mr Hunter.

Parts of the system that Mr Hunter highlighted in his letter as not working during the attack included a server that allows communications between different divisions of the army and a cloud service that is intended to provide communication to personnel in the field.

Aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has been deeply critical of the strike and says that Mr Hunter`s comments "reinforce" the need for an independent investigation.

Various inquiries, by the US Department of Justice, the Pentagon, Nato and an American-Afghan team have been requested.

MSF has also applied for an investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC), which was created in 1991 under the Geneva Conventions.

Hospital was `visible`

"It was one of the only buildings in all of Kunduz that had full electricity from generator power that night - from the air, the hospital must`ve been as visible as a full moon in the night sky," an MSF spokeswoman told the BBC.

"The attack lasted for more than an hour and the bombing didn`t stop, despite our calls to US officials in Kabul and Washington to make it stop. "

In a statement, a US Department of Defense spokesman said: ""We have confidence the ongoing investigations into this tragic incident will uncover what happened and why this hospital was mistakenly struck.

"As appropriate, the Department of Defense will apply any lessons learned from the investigations to try and ensure incidents like this do not happen again."


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