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Bundeswehr chief of staff resigns over air strike

The Local · 26 Nov 2009, 19:24

Published: 26 Nov 2009 09:26 GMT+01:00
Updated: 26 Nov 2009 19:24 GMT+01:00

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Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg announced the 63-year-old general's resignation in a parliamentary debate on military policy in the region and promised there would be further investigation of the controversial bombardment which took place in early September.

Saying Schneiderhan had personally asked to be relieved of his duties, Gutttenberg stressed the "relevant positions" had taken responsibility for the incident. Peter Wichert, a high-ranking Defence Ministry official, has also resigned.

Daily newspaper Bild reported earlier on Thursday that former German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung had withheld information about the air strike ordered by Bundeswehr Col. Georg Klein.

According to NATO, the attack on two fuel trucks taken by the Taliban in the northern Afghan region near Kunduz resulted in the deaths of up to 142 insurgents and civilians. However, Jung at first contended that only Islamist insurgents had been killed in the air strike.

His ministry later admitted there had been an unspecified number of civilian victims. Klein was then accused of violating NATO's rules of engagement by calling the strike. But according to a secret Bundeswehr document attained by Bild, Jung was informed of the deaths much earlier than previously thought.

But Jung, currently German labour minister, denied on Thursday evening he too had misled parliament or the public. "During the entire episode I was focused with clearing it up in a responsible manner," he said with a quavering voice.

Bild also reported that there was a top-secret video and a lengthy secret Bundeswehr document that gave Jung’s ministry clear evidence of civilian deaths, in addition to reports from German troops in Mazar-i-Sharif that came in just hours after the September 4 bombardment.

One Bundeswehr memo reported sighting “two teenage corpses” and children wounded in the attack who were being treated at a hospital in Kunduz.

Meanwhile on September 8, Jung made statements in parliament explaining the Col. Klein had ordered the bombardment using proper protocol – though a NATO report had already informed the Defence Ministry that he had made the call based on blurry video images and statements from an unreliable informant who had not been to the site himself, Bild reported.

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"I said clearly from the beginning and also on September 6 that we could not rule out civilian victims," Jung said in Berlin to reporters.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Jung still had her support, however, she demanded he offer "total transparency" regarding the affair. "I have complete trust in him that he will do this in the same spirit," she said.

Germany has around 4,400 troops in an increasingly unpopular mission in Afghanistan facing an ever more tenacious insurgency.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

14:22 November 26, 2009 by Wabit
As so often is the case, some people (for want of a better name) at the top of the military heap are looking after their pensions and jobs which give them a comfortable lifestyle. This unpleasant and indeed nasty game is not exclusive to Germany alone for many governments are plagued and indeed blighted by this sickening play acting that involes real people with the courage of their convictions who in turn become the victims!!!

And the bottom line??? The Taliban laugh while we punish ourdelves!!!!!!!!!!!!!
14:25 November 26, 2009 by Jibzy
I'm sure The Taliban fell off his chair while laughing at the resignation of the Chief of Staff. Now they're gonna call us names. No?
16:11 November 26, 2009 by Wabit
Oh yes indeed they will call us names Jibzy. The Taliban have much experience in pointing fingers at the west. After all they do it all the time, raving and ranting about the evil infidels!!! And yet I wonder sometimes if they ever pause to consider their position regarding the rights and wrongs of this wasteful war that has destroyed the lives of so many.

For one person to say to another "I have a God" , is a statement of faith. But when that same person goes on to say "My God is better than your God", then that is a statement displaying much ignorance!!!
17:46 November 26, 2009 by Jibzy
I agree with the second part of your post but the first part is meaningless spam.

Even though i have no sympathy with them, but you should realize that it is the WEST that created them and funded them and then when they did give their ultimate sacrifice of lives and mental peace, the WEST left them all alone with nothing but guns and poverty. Whatelse do you expect out of such a society?
19:20 November 26, 2009 by wood artist
The sad fact is that it's difficult to be the "good guy." Here we have men trying to make the world better, making (perhaps preventable) mistakes along the way, and paying a high personal price for them. On the other side, we have people who would gladly accept large numbers of civilian casualties to (supposedly) further their cause.

Although I believe Schneiderhan and the others meant well, it is indeed unfortunate that the world doesn't not see the actions of both sides in a larger context. If only.......
02:19 November 27, 2009 by gtaglia
This whole series of events is insane. It is impossible to prosecute a war without accidentally killing and wounding civilians; sometimes it becomes necessary to do so, in order to protect the troops or insure sucess. The only way a military officer should be held responsible for such actions is if he were to order an intentional attack on civilians, without the justification of military necessity.
03:38 November 27, 2009 by Davey-jo
Has anyone justified NATO's involvement in what is clearly a civil war in Afghanistan? Labeling one side Taliban is really simplifying to extreme; there are umpteen clans warring against each other for control of the poppy industry.Corruption is the basis of government in Kabul and the mayor of Kabul ( Karzai?) has no power outside his American protection.

It seems like stupid politics in search of an impossible goal. Your soldiers are dying to save your politicians egos.
08:50 November 27, 2009 by Jibzy
@gtaglia: Its worse when it is accidently YOU who got killed. The worst is when your parents or siblings get killed. I'd like to hear out your arguements then.

Its surprising how you can pass such statements liviing in the comfort of a developed country. Do you even know what those civilians go through? You just wiped off the responsbility of their lives just by this tiny and weak argument saying.. meh..sometimes they die. For humanity's sake man, they're not much different from you or me or anyone here.

@Davey-jo: Correction... it seems like stupid American politics of an impossible goal. Agreed.
10:09 November 27, 2009 by Celeon
I wonder if the Taliban would had been held responsible for knowingly calling civilians into a still hot fighting zone if they had survived the strike.

Somehow i doubt that.
10:44 November 27, 2009 by Jibzy
I guess that is one of the reasons why we call them ...ah..whats that thing... TERRORISTS.
15:22 November 30, 2009 by Major B
"War is hell". Horrible things happen that know one will ever know about. Sorry for the civilian deaths but the Bundeswehr has nothing to apologize for, as was well stated above. Time to stop the German self-flagelation -- those Taliban commanders on the ground were irresponsible and themselves brought about those civilian deaths. Had one of those trucks been used to storm a military base and killed hundreds of people the firestorm would still be burning from the finger pointing. That was a silly potshot about "America politics" -- has nothing to do with this situation.
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