ISLAMABAD - The new commander of the U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan has apologized to residents of Kunduz for a U.S. airstrike on a hospital that killed 42 people.
U.S. Army General John Nicholson met in Kunduz with representatives of the medical charity Doctors Without Borders and family members of the victims to express his condolences over what he called a “horrible tragedy.”
The deadly airstrike occurred on October 3 in which a U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunship attacked the hospital, killing doctors and patients among others.
“I grieve with you for your loss and suffering; and humbly and respectfully ask for your forgiveness,” said General Nicholson.
“As commander, I wanted to come to Kunduz personally and stand before the families, and people of Kunduz, to deeply apologize for the events which destroyed the hospital and caused the deaths of the hospital staff, patients and family members," Nicholson said.
The U.S. military has disciplined more than a dozen personnel for mistakes that led to the sustained bombing of the only medical facility in the city that was briefly overrun by the Taliban.
Afghan officials insisted the insurgents were using the hospital as a base for attacks on Afghan security forces but offered no evidence to support the claims.
Afghan Defense Minister Masoom Stanekzai, and Interior Minister Taj Mohammad Jahid accompanied Nicholson to Kunduz.
General Nicolson also discussed with provincial officials his Resolute Support mission’s commitment to the Afghan security forces as they prepare for the upcoming “spring offensive”, a coalition statement said, referring to the traditional fighting season during warmer months in Afghanistan.
“You may have heard that the Taliban want to take Kunduz again, they will not,” stated Nicholson, adding the coalition remained committed to the safety and security of the people of Afghanistan.