Defense Department ‘deeply regrets’ Afghanistan hospital airstrike

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Photo: Aftermath of the bombing that left 3 staff dead and many people wounded

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan— Defense Secretary Ash Carter says the Defense Department “deeply regrets the loss of innocent lives” from a U.S. military airstrike on a hospital in Afghanistan.

Responding to what officials said was an Afghan request, a U.S. gunship on Saturday fired on a medical clinic run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz. Afghans are battling to recapture the city from the Taliban. More than 20 people have died from the airstrike and dozens were wounded.

Carter issued a statement from Rome, saying the U.S. military “takes the greatest care” to prevent civilian casualties “and when we make mistakes we own up to them. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now.”

Earlier Tuesday, the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Campbell, told Congress the airstrike was a mistake that took place despite “rigorous” procedures designed to keep that from happening.

During his presentation, Campbell also called on the president and Congress to reevaluate a plan that calls for cutting the number of Americans in Afghanistan from 9,800 to about 1,000 security personnel based at the embassy by the end of the year.

Gen. John Campbell told the Senate Armed Services Committee today that he’s given his superiors several alternative options, because conditions in Afghanistan have changed significantly since Obama approved the troop-cut plan in 2014.

He said the ability to train Afghan forces and conduct counterterrorism operations would be restricted if the number of U.S. troops were to drop to 1,000 by the end of next year.