By Maxime Tamsett

International News Chair

The U.S have decided to use airstrikes, both from drones and manned airplanes alike, to combat terrorist organizations throughout the Middle-East. This approach has allowed the U.S to damage enemy installments while not having to commit boots on the ground. However, collateral damage is, arguably, the most significant drawback to such strikes, and has recently brought up questions about government responsibility of such strikes, and how NGO’s interact with governments.

One of the newest developments of such collateral damage comes from a recent U.S strike on a Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan at the beginning of October, with 22 people dead and 37 injured.

Doctors without Borders, know as well as Medecins Sans Frontiers, is a French based NGO that that helps civilians that require medical assistance throughout the world, especially in poverty and war stricken countries. Having such a global presence, MSF shares its hospital locations or temporary installments to government officials in the host country.

Such a hospital was installed in Kunduz, a city found in northern Afghanistan. As of Monday, September 28th 2015, the Taliban attacked the city, one of the main attacks by the terrorist group throughout country that day. The Taliban claimed they had control of the city, and had been fighting the Iraqi military to hold the location. After a week passed, both sides were claiming control of the city, but fighting was still apparent. The hospital acted as a place of refuge and healing for the wounded. Then, on October 3rd, 2015, the U.S bombarded the MSF hospital.

As of recent, Obama has apologized for what happened, saying it was a “tragic accident”, and that they would conduct an object probe into the incident to find the truth of why such an accident occurred. U.S intelligence has claimed that they believed Taliban fighters were in the building, and bombarded it with fire from an AC-130 gunship. The barrage lasted for 30 minutes until the site remained in ruins. In response, the MSF have demanded an independent investigation into what they call “a war crime against humanity.”

I believe, perhaps naively, that this investigation will develop and we will find out what happened in the near future. However, the main reason I bring up this particular story is because of the questions it raises about both the relations between governments and NGOs, as well as the consequences of the bombardment/drone strike as an approach to counter-terrorism. In recent times, we’ve realized nongovernmental, as well as multinational corporations of all kinds, have tried to fill in the gaps where governments fall short. Yet in the case of Kunduz, we see what happens when an NGO is caught in crossfire. We have also become aware of the collateral damage of said strikes. Therefore, here are some questions I wish to bring to the table:

  • Consequences of Bombardment: Are bombardment and drone strikes the most efficient way of counter-terrorism? Will big governments have to answer to the their mistakes, even when it is not attacking another country? Who will mediate such investigations or make the verdict, let alone the punishment of states that try to feign responsibility?
  • NGO influence in the future: To what extent will NGOs take on where governments can’t? Will their extent of participation differ between more and less economically developed countries? Finally, how much will governments rely on NGOs, and will governments see NGOs as a threat to sovereignty?

Although I may not have the answers to these questions, I hope these questions make you consider the growing importance of NGOs and their interactions with governments. I also believe it should be considered how the U.S, and much of the western world, implements counter terrorism and the extent of the human cost of such endeavors. These events may be happening halfway across the globe, but it’s important to realize their significance, as well as their far-reaching effects.


Some information from this article was drawn from the following articles:

“The night the hospital in Kunduz became a U.S. military target” by Shashank Bengali and Ali M. Latifi


“Obama apologizes to MSF and Afghans for Kunduz strike”