UNITED NATIONS U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday expressed shock and regret at the "inexplicable" massacre of 16 Afghan villagers by a U.S. soldier, which has prompted calls for an immediate American exit from the decade-long war in Afghanistan.
"I was shocked and saddened by the killings of innocent Afghan villagers," Clinton said. "This is not who we are and the United States is committed to seeing that those responsible are held accountable."
Clinton acknowledged that it had been a "difficult and complex few weeks" in Afghanistan for the United States.
"This terrible incident does not change our steadfast dedication to protecting the Afghan people and to doing everything we can to help build a strong and stable Afghanistan," she said at the United Nations.
"We recognize that an incident like this is inexplicable and will certainly cause many questions to be asked."
The shooting spree in the southern province of Kandahar on Sunday, which killed mostly women and children, came just weeks after copies of the Muslim holy book, the Koran, were burned at a NATO base, setting off violent reprisals by outraged Afghans.
Sunday's massacre will almost certainly complicate talks between Kabul and Washington over allowing American advisers and special forces to stay in Afghanistan after foreign combat troops pull out at the end of 2014.
(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau and Emily Flitter; Editing by Christopher Wilson)