Kunduz Hospital Bombing Raises Difficult Questions

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The coalition bombing of a Medicines sans Frontiers hospital in Kunduz has thrust the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan back into the international spotlight. The tragic incident follows the overrunning of the Afghan forces in the city of Kunduz by the Taliban. U.S. President Barack Obama has since apologized for the deaths of over 20 hospital staff members and patients. Many commentators, however, have focused on what the response of the Afghanistan government reveals about the new Afghani president, the nature of Taliban’s rule in the city, or the role and responsibility of regional actors for the ongoing instability in the country and more broadly in the region.

In an op-ed for the Khaleej Times, Krista Mahr and Hamid Shalizi provide a critical examination of the response of the Afghani government vis-à-vis the U.S. military forces in the country, highlighting the former’s reticence to take the United States to task over the incident: “Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s reticence since a suspected U.S. air strike hit a hospital in northern Afghanistan on Saturday speaks volumes about how much he relies on Washington after 14 years of war….Even before the hospital was hit, Ghani faced calls in parliament to step down over the failure of the army and police to hold Kunduz, the first provincial capital to fall to the Taleban since their ouster in 2001….If investigations which Nato said could be completed within days conclude a US aircraft did fire on the MSF compound, pressure will grow on Ghani to hold the coalition to account.”

Daily Outlook’s Hujjatullah Zia, however, has no doubts that it is the Taliban who should carry the responsibility for the deteriorating security environment in Kunduz and unfortunate incidents such as the hospital bombing: “The Taliban’s evil practices in Kunduz have outraged the public conscience. They have violated their own ideological claims – i.e. ‘bring in the Islamic law’ and establishing religious tenets on the surface of earth. The shaky faith of the Taliban ideologues and mercenaries easily succumb to worldly temptations. Their fundamental and impious deeds have transcended humanity and ethical codes….the scandals perpetrated by the Taliban insurgents in Kunduz were highly appalling. The rape victims were disgraced and the residents were hurt mentally, physically and emotionally. So, one will conclude that the Taliban follow no moral principle and commit human and humanitarian rights flagrantly.”

The Iranians offer a more conspiratorial take on the most recent developments, suggesting the United States and the Saudis are accomplices in what is going on in Kunduz since both are covertly propping up Islamist militants: “It is now an open secret that the Taliban were formed under a U.S. plan and with Saudi cash. The plan to occupy Afghanistan and create havoc in Pakistan is just a continuation of that initial project, with the sole purpose of making the situation ever more complex. Although it is true that the terrorist activities of Taliban pose a real threat to the region, it is also true that this is a major achievement for Washington….The chief funders of al-Qaeda in Syria and Yemen continue to sponsor the Taliban in Afghanistan, and as anticipated, this makes them U.S. partners in crime in the latest massacre in Kunduz. The regime changers are promoting extremism in the Muslim world and one way or another they will have to pay a heavy price for their thoughtless subversion and crimes against humanity.”

With the Taliban feeling emboldened, Afghanistan Times’ Afrasiab Khattak turns his attention to Pakistani government’s alleged involvement and influence with the organization: “Pakistan’s tacit support for Afghan Taliban has not only buried NAP in Pakistan but has also put the National Unity Government in Afghanistan in general and President Ashraf Ghani in particular in a very awkward position. The only way out after events in Kunduz is a drastic rethink of Pakistan’s Afghan policy and taking bold decisions. After such military ‘victories’ of Afghan Taliban in their own country Pakistan can’t afford any more their presence in Pakistan….If we don’t come clean on Taliban, Afghans will be justified in claiming that Pakistan is still following the policy of strategic depth towards Afghanistan and its ultimate aim remains to install a puppet government in Kabul.”

Despite the tragic events of the last few days, the Daily Outlook editorial team tries to identify a silver lining, expressing the hope that what has transpired in Kunduz might provide a much needed national impetus among the Afghanis for a joint response against terrorism: “Kunduz tragedy also became a reason for the change in the tone of the government. The other day, President Ghani stated that terrorist groups including Taliban, criminals and foreign terrorists, carried out Kunduz attack. It is the change from his previous statements after calling the enemies of Afghanistan terrorists….Kunduz incident has given us all an opportunity to get united against terrorism and make all out efforts, be it in the battlefield or the social setup, to reject them, kill and eliminate them so that the dreams of a peaceful and developed Afghanistan should be sought.”

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Middle East In Focus is a synopsis of commentary and news from Middle Eastern and other international media. Its purpose is to provide a succinct and balanced summary of the main developments and views that are often overlooked or not properly reflected in the U.S. media. For the most recent collection of articles on and from the Middle East, please go to: http://mepc.org/articles-commentary/articles-hub. Comments and feedback are welcome at info@mepc.org.


  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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