Parliamentary probe into Kunduz affair begins
Germany's parliamentary defence committee on Thursday began its investigation into a deadly air strike called by a Bundeswehr officer in Afghanistan and the subsequent cover-up that forced top officials to resign.
The committee hopes to clarify how up to 142 people – dozens of whom were civilians – could have been killed in the September 4 bombardment of two fuel trucks hijacked by the Taliban in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz.
"Many people will be questioned and there’s a good chance we’ll find out the truth by comparing statements," Green party committee member Omid Nouripour told The Local last month. "And it’s a criminal offence if they lie."
The Defence Ministry has been accused of suppressing reports of civilian casualties following the air strike, also suggesting that German Col. Georg Klein, who ordered the attack, did not adhere to proper rules of engagement.
Former Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung, who was in office when the controversial air strike occurred, resigned from his new position as labour minister over the allegations that he hid evidence that civilians had been killed ahead of federal elections. Armed forces Chief-of-Staff General Wolfgang Schneiderhan and another senior defence ministry official also stepped down over the affair.
Meanwhile new Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who took his post in late October, has vowed a thorough investigation into the accusations that his predecessors withheld information about the bombardment. But new revelations have put Guttenberg under increasing political pressure for his initial assessment of the incident.
Media reports revealed that while the Guttenberg has said he did not have access to information seen by his predecessor Jung when he declared the bombardment “militarily appropriate,” he in fact had a report by the International Red Cross that deemed the air strike to be against international law and responsible for the deaths of at least 74 civilians.
The investigative committee initially planned a hearing with Guttenberg as early as March, but this will no longer happen, the committee said on Thursday.
According to defence policy spokesperson for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, Ernst-Reinhard Beck, the delay is trivial because the committee first plans to review reports of the bombardment protocols before moving on to government handling of the event.
The Left party parliamentarian and committee member Paul Schäfer encouraged speedy work from the group so that “political responsibility” could be addressed as soon as possible.