KSK special forces involved in Kunduz strike

Members of the German military’s elite KSK special forces played a key role in a NATO air strike in Afghanistan that killed scores of civilians, daily Bild reported on Thursday.

KSK special forces involved in Kunduz strike
Photo: DPA

Citing Bundeswehr sources, the paper said Col. Georg Klein was in charge of the secret Task Force 47 the night he ordered the attack near the northern Afghan city of Kunduz on September 4. The special ops unit reportedly has its own command structure at the nearby German base and KSK soldiers make up about half of its ranks. Their duties include hunting Taliban and terrorists in the region.

Bild said that according to NATO’s rules of engagement, Klein only would have been able to call in the deadly air strike as the commander of TF47. A KSK officer from the unit telephoned with an Afghan informant around seven times the night of the attack on two fuel trucks hijacked by the Taliban. The informant identified four Taliban leaders at the scene.

The paper said members of Germany’s parliamentary defence committee were first informed of the existence of TF47 on November 6, the same day that Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said the air strike had been “militarily appropriate.” He has since admitted the attack was a mistake due to the high number of civilian casualties.

Following the resignations last month of the Bundeswehr’s chief of staff and his predecessor at the Defence Ministry, Franz Josef Jung, Guttenberg vowed a thorough investigation into accusations German defence officials withheld information about the air strike.

But new revelations are putting Guttenberg under increasing political pressure for his initial assessment of the incident.

Weekly magazine Stern said on Wednesday that the minister had access early on to report by the International Red Cross that deemed the bombardment contrary to international law and responsible for the deaths of at least 74 civilians.

The Red Cross also said it was “unlikely” that the fuel trucks ever could have been converted into rolling bombs to attack German troops in Afghanistan and there was no “imminent threat” for the German base near Kunduz.

Greens MP and parliamentary defence committee member Omid Nouripour told daily Berliner Zeitung on Thursday he was concerned the German government might have attempted to influence the findings of NATO’s investigation into the incident.

“Was there political influence from the German side in order to massage the report? The NATO report is still clear enough to determine the attack was not appropriate,” Nouripour told the paper. “Guttenberg should have noticed that then.”

A parliamentary inquiry looking into the matter will take up its work next week.

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