John McCain Blames Hospital Bombing Partly On U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan

He suggested the tragedy could have been avoided with more U.S. involvement.

10/04/2015 12:19 pm ET | Updated Oct 04, 2015

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Sunday that a hospital in Afghanistan run by Doctors Without Borders might not have been bombed if the United States had maintained a greater military presence in the country.

Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," McCain mainly attributed the bombing of the medical facility in the city of Kunduz to an error made in the "fog of war." He called it a "tragedy." 

"It's one of the reasons why we hate wars," the former Navy pilot said.

But he added that the airstrike, believed to have been carried out by U.S.-led coalition forces, was "also a result of our withdrawal" from Afghanistan.

"If we had had an air controller, it very most likely would not have happened," McCain said. 

The surprising victory of the Taliban in Kunduz earlier in the week, he said, had prompted a counterattack by the Afghan government and the coalition airstrikes. (Though the government announced that it had retaken the city on Thursday, control of Kunduz remains contested.) The senator noted the Taliban have not traditionally been strong in the northern region of Afghanistan, where Kunduz is located. 

The airstrike on Saturday destroyed the Doctors Without Borders-run hospital and killed 19 people, including 12 members of the group's staff. The nonprofit humanitarian organization, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières, said on Sunday that it had withdrawn from Kunduz for safety reasons.

President Barack Obama offered his condolences in a statement on Saturday and said that the U.S. Department of Defense would be conducting a "full investigation" of the incident.

Doctors Without Borders is calling for an independent inquiry. Christopher Stokes, the organization's general director, said in a statement that the bombing "constitutes a grave violation of international humanitarian law."

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