Ministry withheld Kunduz reports from Merkel
Chancellor Angela Merkel's office complained early on that it was not sufficiently informed by the Defence Ministry in the controversial September bombardment that killed up to 142 people in Afghanistan, daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Wednesday.
According to the paper, the Chancellery still did not have access to the first International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) report or that of Col. Georg Klein – the commander who ordered the air strike – four days after the incident on September 8 when Merkel had to issue a statement.
On that day she said: “It will not be possible to clarify the details this morning.”
The reports were apparently delivered to the Defence Ministry on September 6, but not delivered to Merkel until the 10th, the paper said. The first ISAF “Initial Action Report” refers to “a large degree of certainty that some civilians were also killed or injured.” Meanwhile the Defence Ministry declined to acknowledge civilian deaths.
Merkel’s office complained of the lack of information and asked for the reports, the paper said. One email reportedly said that Defence Ministry official Peter Wichert – who has since resigned from his post over the scandal – was withholding the documents.
Germany’s top military's top general, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, was also forced to step down as the scandal unravelled. Franz Josef Jung, who had been defence minister at the time of the attack, also stepped down from his new post of labour minister following intense political pressure.
Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg this week also ruled out resigning amidst accusations that he lied about what information was available to him following the deadly air strike.
But Schneiderhan told weekly Die Zeit on Wednesday Guttenberg was being openly deceitful when saying defence officials had purposely misled him about the air strike by withholding information.
“Regarding the afternoon of the 25th, he’s not telling the truth,” Schneiderhan said, referring to the day in November when he was relieved from his duties. “Withheld to me has the air of intent and there was no intent,” he said. “I find it at this point slanderous.”
The former general then accused Guttenberg of being known for hastily formulating his opinions. “But this here is huge escalation. It’s not simply unpleasant, it’s untrue,” he said.
According to this week’s edition of Stern magazine, Klein actively hindered the investigation of the air strike. Citing secret Bundeswehr documents, the magazine reported that the colonel told German investigators from the regional command at Mazari Sharif that they were “not wanted at the scene” the day after the air strike.
By the time they arrived, all human remains had been removed by the victims’ relatives, making it difficult to determine if there had been civilian casualties.
Stern also reported that Klein supposedly told his subordinates at the base in Kunduz not to cooperate with the investigation into the incident and that information should be given “only upon approval” by the colonel.
Meanwhile news agency DPA reported on Wednesday that Klein was under the impression from the BND intelligence service and the KSK special forces that the fuel trucks he ordered destroyed would be used in an attack on a German base. The German government was allegedly aware that the two entities had reportedly been researching the Taliban plans for several weeks.
A parliamentary committee has been created to shed light on the incident after the new year begins.