An internal Defense Department investigation into one of the most notorious night raids conducted by special operations forces in Afghanistan — in which seven civilians were killed, including two pregnant women — determined that all the U.S. soldiers involved had followed the rules of engagement. As a result, the soldiers faced no disciplinary measures, according to hundreds of pages of Defense Department documents obtained by The Intercept through the Freedom of Information Act. In the aftermath of the raid, Adm. William McRaven, at the time the commander of the elite Joint Special Operations Command, took responsibility for the operation. The documents made no unredacted mention of JSOC.
Although two children were shot during the raid and multiple witnesses and Afghan investigators alleged that U.S. soldiers dug bullets out of the body of at least one of the dead pregnant women, Defense Department investigators concluded that “the amount of force utilized was necessary, proportional and applied at appropriate time.” The investigation did acknowledge that “tactical mistakes” were made.
The Defense Department’s conclusions bear a resemblance to U.S. Central Command’s findings in the aftermath of the horrifying attack on a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, last October in which 42 patients and medical workers were killed in a sustained barrage of strikes by an AC-130. The Pentagon has announced that no criminal charges will be brought against any members of the military for the Kunduz strike. CENTCOM’s Kunduz investigation concluded that “the incident resulted from a combination of unintentional human errors, process errors, and equipment failures.” CENTCOM denied the attack constituted a war crime, a claim challenged by international law experts and MSF.