Doctors Without Borders won’t take Pentagon’s money
Doctors Without Borders is saying no thanks to a Pentagon offer to pay for rebuilding its trauma center destroyed by a U.S. AC-130 gunship on Oct. 3, killing 30 patients and staff.
A group spokeswoman told The Washington Times on Sunday that the nonprofit, also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), has made it a practice not to accept government money in Afghanistan and will continue that policy.
Doctors Without Borders’ general director, Christopher Stokes, last week all but accused the U.S. of deliberately targeting the hospital, based on the fact that it repeatedly made the Pentagon, the NATO command in Kabul and the Afghan government aware that it was operating a hospital in Kunduz’s mean streets. The American commander in Kabul has called the strike a “mistake.”
“All the information that we provided so far shows that a mistake is quite hard to understand and believe at this stage,” Mr. Stokes said.
The U.S. military continues to investigate the assault, which happened amid a fierce battle for control of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. Much of the posttragedy debate has centered on the number of Taliban patients inside the hospital and whether any of them used it as a base of operations.
Doctors Without Borders released its own findings last week categorically denying that any combatant, the Taliban or the government’s, was armed inside the compound.
On at least two occasions, Pentagon representatives have reached out to Doctors Without Borders with a promise to pay for rebuilding.
Last month, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said that, under a flexible cash account known as the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan “has the authority to make condolence payments and payments toward repair of the hospital. USFOR-A will work with those affected to determine appropriate payments.”
He said the Pentagon also can ask Congress to authorize funding.
After receiving the Doctors Without Borders report last week, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, director of Pentagon press operations, said: “We continue to work closely with MSF in identifying the victims, both those killed and wounded, so that we can conclude our investigations and proceed with follow-on actions to include condolence payments. We are also committed to working with MSF to determine the full extent of the damage to the hospital, so that it can be repaired in full.”
But Doctors Without Borders representatives said that to accept Pentagon money would jeopardize the humanitarian group’s independence and neutrality.
Asked about the funding offer, Tim Shenk, a Doctors Without Borders spokesman, said: “Regarding the Department of Defense statement on funding, our stated policy is to not accept money from belligerents in conflict settings, which include the U.S. in Afghanistan.”
Sandra Murillo, a Doctors Without Borders spokeswoman in New York, said: “MSF’s long-standing policy is to not accept funding from any governments for its work in Afghanistan and other conflicts around the world. This policy allows us to work independently without taking sides and provide medical care to anyone who needs it. This will not change.”
Asked whether Doctors Without Borders will rebuild at the Kunduz site, Ms. Murillo said, “Until we understand what happened and we have some assurances that this unacceptable attack cannot happen again, we cannot reopen our Kunduz Trauma Center and put our staff in danger.”
The group’s motto is “Medical aid where it is needed most. Independent. Neutral. Impartial.”
American soldiers examine the charred remains of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, that was hit by a U.S. AC-130 gunship last month.