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Top General in Afghanistan: U.S. Strike on Hospital a Mistake

U.S. General on Afghan Airstrikes: ‘A Hospital Was Mistakenly Struck’ 1:44

Gen. John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, revealed for the first time Tuesday that U.S Special Operations Forces "were in close vicinity" to the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan and were "talking to the aircraft" that launched airstrikes that killed 22 people.

"On Saturday morning, our forces provided close air support to Afghan forces at their request. To be clear, the decision to provide aerial flyers was a U.S. decision made within the U.S. chain of command," Campbell said. He added: "A hospital was mistakenly struck. We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility."

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Campbell also said that even though Afghan security forces asked for U.S. air support, it was up to the American forces to conduct a "rigorous review" of the conditions on the ground before launching an attack.

Citing the military investigation, Campbell said he could not offer any additional details.

Related: Pentagon: Afghan Forces Asked For Airstrike on Hospital

Campbell said the Afghan security forces, primarily police in Kunduz, were taken by surprise by the Taliban assault. Since then, Afghan military forces have retaken the city from the Taliban forces.

Campbell also suggested that the recent resurgence in Taliban attacks and the presence of additional militants, including ISIS fighters, could require a change in President Barack Obama's plan to withdraw almost all American forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.

General Promises 'Transparent' Probe Into Afghan Hospital Airstrike 1:35

"A lot has happened" since the president's decision, Campbell said. "Based on conditions on the ground, I do believe we have to provide senior leaders with options."

Campbell did not provide numbers, but before leaving his position as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey provided the White House with a plan that would leave at least 5,000 American service members in Afghanistan beyond the president's 2017 deadline.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, chairman of the committee, warned that sticking to the current drawdown plan could plunge the country into further chaos.

"It is not too late for President Obama to abandon this dangerous course and adopt a plan for U.S. troop presence based on conditions on the ground," McCain said. "But time is of the essence, and continued delays by the White House are hurting our national security interests and those of our partners in Afghanistan and beyond."

Some Democratic lawmakers also expressed concern with the plan to draw down troops.

"I strongly believe that the U.S. force posture in Afghanistan going forward should be shaped and resourced to enable you, General, to achieve your mission's objectives, based on conditions on the ground," Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island said in his opening statement.