German media roundup: Jung under fire for Afghan air strike

With German military officials admitting they withheld information about a controversial NATO air strike, the political future of former Defence Minister and current Labour Minister Franz Josef Jung hangs in the balance. Newspapers in The Local’s media roundup believe it's time for him to resign.

German media roundup: Jung under fire for Afghan air strike
Photo: DPA

Gen. Wolfgang Schneiderhan, the chief of staff of the Bundeswehr, resigned on Thursday after revelations that the military did not immediately admit a bombardment called by a German colonel in September had killed several civilians in Afghanistan.

Jung also initially asserted that only Islamist insurgents had been killed in the air strike, but according to a secret Bundeswehr document attained by the German media, the former defence minister was informed of the deaths much earlier than he previously claimed.

Following Schneiderhan’s departure, the editorials in The Local’s media roundup suggest Jung’s days as one of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet ministers could also be numbered.

The centre-left Süddeutsche Zeitung said that Jung’s “communication tactics” in the Defence Ministry had always been “cover up and conceal.”

“Jung should consider whether he is at all capable to lead a ministry. If in fact he knew nothing about the reports, he was not in control of his ministry. If he knew, then he brazenly lied,” wrote the Süddeutsche Zeitung. “Angela Merkel should suggest Jung step down. That would be not just an act of political hygiene, it would also be a visible sign to the survivors of the victims that their suffering in Germany is finally being taken seriously.”

The centrist Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel published an editorial simply titled: “Jung must resign.” The paper stated that “If Jung has the slightest bit of political intuition, he will quickly pull the emergency brake and step down. Before the chancellor turfs him out.”

Cologne’s Stadt-Anzeiger also had an editorial with a damning title: “Jung is beyond redemption.” The paper pointed out that though Jung is no longer the minister of defence, he was politically responsible for a “communication policy,” which in friendly terms could be called “stalling and evasion, and in unfriendly terms is known as trickery, disguise and perhaps even deception.”

The Essen-based Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung wrote that the scandal plummets the Bundeswehr into “the biggest crisis in decades.” The affair not only brings “disrepute” to the military’s mission in Afghanistan, it hands metaphorical ammunition to the Taliban. “With their smokescreen tactics, the Bundeswehr’s top leaders have done German soldiers a disservice.”

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German army suspends soldiers over far-right suspicions

The German army has suspended soldiers in its ceremonial guard over suspicion of sexual aggression and sympathy with the far-right, a recurring problem within the Bundeswehr.

Members of the German Armed Forces at a ceremony in Brandenburg.
Members of the German Armed Forces at a ceremony in Brandenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

The company, part of a prestigious battalion tasked with welcoming foreign heads of state, was “withdrawn” from active service in relation to incidents which occurred “in a far right context”, a spokesman for the German defence ministry said Friday.

The group is said to have participated in “perverse initiation and drinking rituals” and submitted new recruits to “sexualised violence”, according to the spokesman.

A witness told the German weekly Der Spiegel, which uncovered the affair, that within the battalion’s second company, at least six soldiers had formed a far-right group, calling themselves the “wolf pack”.

The head of the group is said to have aimed racial insults at other soldiers from minority backgrounds. A soldier at a rank equivalent to corporal is said to have worn a t-shirt with the slogan “Sonnenstudio 88”, a number which represents “Heil Hitler” in the neo-Nazi movement.

The alleged incidents “bring shame on us all”, the defence ministry spokesman said.

The German army, the Bundeswehr, will “pursue all legal means” to “remove” the culprits identified by other soldiers.

The German government has been worried for years about some soldiers, including those in the special forces, adhering to far-right groups.

The elite KSK commando force was partially dissolved in 2020 after munitions were stolen and members were seen performing a Hitler salute at a party.

In June, a platoon stationed in Lithuania was recalled after accusations of racist and anti-Semitic behaviour.

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