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The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan took his apology for a weekend airstrike that killed civilians directly to the Afghan people Tuesday, with a nationally televised video in which he pledged to work to regain their trust as NATO continues a mass offensive against the Taliban in the south.

Two U.S. Marine battalions, accompanied by Afghan troops, pushing from the north and south of the insurgent stronghold of Marjah finally linked up after more than a week, creating a direct route across the town that allows convoys to supply ammunition and reinforcements.

In the video, translated into the Afghan languages of Dari and Pashto on a NATO Web site, a stern Gen. Stanley McChrystal apologizes for the strike in central Uruzgan province that Afghan officials say killed at least 21 people. The video was broadcast nationally on Afghan television Tuesday.

Sunday’s attack by NATO jets on a convoy of cars was the deadliest attack on civilians in six months and prompted a sharp rebuke from the Afghan government. It comes as NATO is struggling to win public backing for a major military offensive against the Taliban in the south with a strategy that involves taking all precautions possible to protect civilians.

The civilian deaths occurred as 15,000 NATO, U.S. and Afghan soldiers were in their 10th day of fighting insurgents in the southern town of Marjah in Helmand province. The mission is to rout the Taliban, set up a local government and rush in aid to win public support.

A Tuesday morning explosion in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, left eight people dead and at least 16 others wounded, according to the Interior Ministry. Police chief Gen. Asadullah Sherzad said explosives in a parked motorbike were detonated by remote control in front of the traffic department.

The alliance said its planes fired on what was thought to be a group of insurgents in Uruzgan province on their way to attack NATO and Afghan forces. Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said the airstrike hit three minibuses, which were traveling on a major road near Uruzgan’s border with Day Kundi province.

“I pledge to strengthen our efforts to regain your trust to build a brighter future for all Afghans,” McChrystal said in the video. “I have instituted a thorough investigation to prevent this from happening again.”

Read the rest of the AP story at CBSnews.com.

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