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Klein tells inquiry he ordered Kunduz air strike in a rush

The Local · 24 Feb 2010, 13:14

Published: 24 Feb 2010 13:14 GMT+01:00

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Klein, who commanded the controversial air strike that killed more than 140 Afghans in September 2009, has appeared before a committee to defend his actions, explaining that he didn’t know how long US fighter planes would be available to complete the mission, daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

At 1:50 am when he made the order to take out the two fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban the operational picture was “clear,” he reportedly told a closed committee session on February 10.

The colonel also reportedly told the committee he had been sure the tankers posed an acute threat to his soldiers and Afghan forces in the area. But the air support provided by the F-15 jets could have been called to another mission at any moment, and there was no alternative due to a shortage of ground troops, he said.

Klein also assumed full responsibility for the bombardment as a solider and a Christian during the hearing and said he went to the base chapel to pray after approving the attack, the paper reported.

He assured the committee that he ordered the strike believing that the trucks were surrounded by Taliban fighters, and would not have done so if he’d known there were civilians nearby.

The parliamentary inquiry is scheduled to continue hearings over the controversial incident on Thursday with a captain and staff sergeant who were present that night, the paper said.

The committee hopes to clarify how dozens of civilians could have been killed and whether Klein adhered to proper rules of engagement.

But Klein isn’t the only one under pressure by the committee. They are also investigating incidents surrounding a possible cover-up by the Defence Ministry. 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.

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Ex-Bundeswehr 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 2009, has vowed a thorough investigation into the accusations that his predecessors withheld information about the bombardment. But further revelations put Guttenberg under increasing political pressure for his initial assessment of the incident.

Media reports have 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 Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:04 February 24, 2010 by Major B
Again, may those that lost their lives rest in peace. "War is hell". The Parliament has proven it is responsible and takes "war crimes" allegtions seriously. Get this over and move on and get this out of the news. This was a nightime situation and you all keep on blowing this up. A commander's responsibility is to protect his troops. How many Germans were in the twin towers on 9/11/01, allowed to train openly in Afghanistan by The Taliban?
15:54 February 24, 2010 by michael4096
A commander's responsibility is to protect his troops.
A large number of commanders were hanged at the end of ww2 because this statement is incorrect - or, at least, incomplete.
15:59 February 24, 2010 by Frenemy
At BEST these thieving "civilians" were in the wrong place at the right time (2 in the morning!!).

However, in my (albeit limited) experience in the region, I am more inclined to believe that there were NO "civilians" on site (at least not in the Western definition of the word). In all likelihood, those alleged 74 non-combatants were in fact "weekend-civilians". During the week, if you're old enough to walk and squeeze a trigger your "going to work" with Uncle Baitullah to pop shots at passing Black Hawks or Ospreys...

Seriously, I've seen 7-10 year olds packing heat over there (AKs, Enfields, RPG7s...hell I've even seen a little girl playing with a busted Luger!).

If more young Germans actually grew a pair and opted for military service instead of civildienst, they would be shocked at how quickly their neat and tidy moral/ethical framework evaporates once they're tossed into the sandbox. Alas, they prefer to change the elderly's diapers and discuss the evil deeds of the West (in between bong rips)
16:17 February 24, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Right. Just what we need -- a resurgence of the German military. What could possibly go wrong with that?!
17:42 February 24, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Carry WHOSE weight in Afghanistan? This was Bush's enterprise, passed on to Obama, who doesn't have the balls to get out. NATO never should have been there in the first place. Come to think of it, neither should have the Americans.
19:11 February 24, 2010 by Major B
"This was Bush's enterprise". "NATO never should have been there in the first place" What the #&***? This thinking is just intellectual laziness.

The whole country, all 300,000,000 of them, was solidly behind the military action taken against The Taliban, the government who let Al Quaeda "openly", I repeat "openly", train and plan the terror attacks of 9/11/01. The U.S. Congress, both the House and Senate solidly supported this action. In fact the American government was totally united on this action.
19:45 February 24, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Hardly intellectual laziness. Just the opinion of one of those 300 million Americans, many millions of whom were opposed to this Afghan misadventure from day one. To try to conflate the approval of the Republican congress acting in lockstep with Bush, Rumsfeld & Co. with the approval of the American people is an attempt at revisionist history of which Richard Bruce Cheney would be proud. It's neocon crapola. Not all of us were salivating for instant revenge after 9-11, despite the fear-and-hate mongering dished up by the Bushies. Next you'll be trying to justify Iraq.

They don't call Afghanistan the graveyard of empires for nothing, as the American Empire is about to find out. It's probably too late for Obama to grow a pair. Too bad. The next stop is Pakistan, then Iran. The war is over. The bad guys won.
20:48 February 24, 2010 by fair1day
Pretty funny to see all the armchair quarterbacks here offering their 2 cents, like they know anything at all. Thats all its worth. 2 cents or less!!!

Pretty funny!
20:52 February 24, 2010 by Major B
Sigh. Understand your points. If you were talking about Iraq I would wholeheartedly agree with you. The comments about the BRC company are so right on( C is for Cheney) and that whole neo-con lot. Now, if you say the job is done, that Afghanistan is no longer a threat to the U.S. or NATO, and that NATO should leave, that is another thing. One reason for the U.S. to stay is , in the 1980's., after pumping up Pres. Reagan's Afghan "Freedom Fighters" to fight the Soviets, the U.S abandoned Afghanistan after the Soviets left. The subsequent and resultant disintegration of that society resulted in multiple "thug" regimes ending with the Taliban, the worst of all(and most principaled, if mostly flawed)

What is your response to country that prominently served as host to the folks that commited the 9/11/01 incidents that attacked NYC and Wash D.C. ? Go ahead and prove your American citizenship.
22:18 February 24, 2010 by kalyaja
I don't know why Germany is still dwelling on this issue. Yes, it's very unfortunate for the loss of 140 civilian lives. No matter how the military tried at best to avoid civilian, there's always gonna be casualties because Taliban hide themselves among civilians. Look at what just happened only a few days ago NATO bombed and killed scores of civilians by mistake. Are they gonna put Gen Mcchrystal on trial? Of course not. It's WAR in Afghanistan. WAR means casualties on both sides. Germany, get a grip and get on with it. You can't bring back those killed. End this debate now.
00:38 February 25, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Major B:

I don't have to "prove my American citizenship" because citizenship has nothing to do with this discussion. Facts are the arbiter here. Let's examine a few.

While Afghanistan was indeed "host" to the people who plotted the 9-11 attacks, no doubt, almost all of those "folks" came from Saudi Arabia -- America's most cherished totalitarian Islamic ally in the region. Al Qaeda was the inadvertent creation of the USA during the Soviet invasion, and the Taliban was spawned from America's betrayal and neglect of Afghanistan after the Soviets pulled out. These strategic miscalculations and their inevitable results were foreseeable to anyone not looking at the world through the neocon lens. After invading Afghanistan and failing to capture bin Ladin due to abject negligence, Bush installed Karzai as a puppet president, and the Karzai regime is now universally regarded as one of the most corrupt on the planet. Nation-building, even to the most unapologetic neocon, is impossible when there is no legitimate government in place upon which to build a nation.

Compounding the blunder, the US has sold its citizens (and apparently Europe) the fiction that the Taliban (an odious bunch of MFers) and al Qaeda are one and the same. They are not. There are probably fewer than 20 al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan today. This conflation, however, did succeed in making an enemy of Afghani citizens, who have been marginalized and demonized as Taliban supporters and thus al Qaeda sympathizers as their deaths have become routine "collateral damage." Now, thanks to this fundamental misapprehension of the Afghan culture and the nature of the real enemy, the Taliban are more allied with al Qaeda than ever before, and have expanded their ambitions throughout Pakistan, which also happens to harbor al Qaeda under the watchful eye of its sympathetic intelligence service. Where the Taliban in Afghanistan once could have possibly been co-opted in the fight against al Qaeda, a ubiquitous and anonymous network of crazies, this opportunity has now been squandered because of the routine killing of uninvolved Afghan civilians, who are now looking to the Taliban for protection.

This whole goddamned thing could have been avoided if there had been an adult in the White House immediately after 9/11. Now there is an unwinnable war being fought against an unidentifiable enemy, and in the meantime America has irrevocably compromised its constitutional principles, has abandoned the rule of law domestically, has routinely and openly violated the Geneva Conventions, and is now almost bankrupt. This was the stated ambition of bin Ladin from the beginning, and it is all coming true. The a$$holes have won. Get ready for disappointment.
08:02 February 25, 2010 by bearded1

I only know of one good BUSH!!

and it is not a person only part of a person......
13:23 February 25, 2010 by Frenemy

Very astute summarization, I'm on-board with most of that. That said, please consider the following:

1. The hijackers may have been mostly Saudis but the Kingdom did not provide accommodations and training facilities for those tossers, Afghanistan and the Taliban (a "legitimate government") did.

2. You can't say that a government is illegitimate just because it is morally or politically corrupt. And this nonsense about "nation building" needs to stop. Armies wage WAR to destroy the enemy. Militaries are NOT supposed to set up governments, act as law enforcement, build schools, spread democracy, or any of those other BS excuses used to emotionally placate the (understandably war-averse) ignorant masses...

3. In terms of a meaningful response to 9/11, Clinton-esque long range air strikes simply would not have cut it. Militarily, lobbing a few tomahawks at Afghanistan would have been an empty gesture. Politically, Americans would have been severely pissed off (turning the other cheek isn't really part of the American psyche). So let me ask you this: knowing that just about every American demanded retribution, what do you think would have been the appropriate post-9/11 course of action?

First you say: "there are probably fewer than 20 al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan today", then you say: "now, thanks to this fundamental misapprehension of the Afghan culture and the nature of the real enemy, the Taliban are more allied with al Qaeda than ever before".

Um... OK, so what are you saying? The Taliban has like 20 more guys?! Or are you saying that we should dip out of Afghanistan and go kick the sh!t out of Pakistan? I'm not just being humorous, there are beltway whispers hinting at precisely that. (If you doubt that, take a look at recent FMS data, why do you think we're arming India to the teeth right now?!)
14:08 February 25, 2010 by Prufrock2010

I'm saying that to conflate the Taliban with al Qaeda is a serious mistake, but it has been successful in the Orwellian sense. The Taliban are fundamentalist Islamic tribal warlords and drug dealers who are interested in imposing their form of government on the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al Qaeda are reactionary jihadists who are not interested in governing anything, but are consumed with their mission to destroy the West.

Was the post-9/11 invasion of Afghanistan intended to capture bin Ladin or to destroy the Taliban? George Bush was happily doing business with Taliban six months earlier, and even entertained some of them at the White House. The fact that the Taliban was temporarily dislodged from power in the early months of the Afghan invasion was seen by the Bushies as a pleasant fringe benefit of the original mission, but it was not the point of the operation. Had it been, nobody would have supported it.

When that operation got f*cked up and bin Ladin slithered away into the caves, Bush manufactured the bogus war in Iraq and completely forgot about the Afghan people who had been briefly liberated from the rule of the Taliban. He betrayed them, and installed a corrupt corksoaker named Karzai as a surrogate puppet, thus giving the Taliban new political life as shadow governors in every province beyond the city limits of Kabul. They filled the vacuum Bush created by negligence and neglect. Meanwhile, al Qaeda had other fish to fry. Their attention was turned to Iraq and other low hanging fruit, and their numbers increased outside of Afghanistan like the cancer they are. Their recruitment is not parochial; it is global, as is their influence -- unlike the Taliban.

The problem with confusing the two -- which is in my view a deliberate objective of the propaganda machine -- is that while attention is now focused on military operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, al Qaeda is somewhere else -- maybe everywhere else -- plotting more mischief, mayhem and destruction.

I agree with you about Pakistan, by the way.
14:34 February 25, 2010 by Frenemy
Ok, I hear ya. Two things tho:

1) IMHO al-Qaeda prime has been completely subjugated (only grassroots pseudo-cells/al-Qaeda "the movement" remains).

2) I could be wrong, but I really don't think the whole Taliban/al-Qaeda conflation was deliberate. I think that connection was conjured up by CONUS public stupidity, and the RBC regime just ran with it. I think you're giving R and C way too much credit if you think it was part of some well thought-out PSYOP.

Anyway, you didn't answer my question: "knowing that just about every American demanded retribution, what do you think would have been the appropriate post-9/11 course of action?"
14:48 February 25, 2010 by Prufrock2010
"Anyway, you didn't answer my question: "knowing that just about every American demanded retribution, what do you think would have been the appropriate post-9/11 course of action?"

To identify the people responsible, to find them, kill or capture them, and if captured, try them in an appropriate court of competent jurisdiction. Not to wage a war against the entire nation of Afghanistan, and not to torture those who were captured.
15:20 February 25, 2010 by Frenemy
Agreed (except for the part about trying them in court as if they were common criminals). But doing the job (search and destroy) properly would require covert op after covert op, missions which by their very definition will be hidden from everyone except the highest echelons of command and the bloody senate select committee on intelligence.

So to your average American, it would have seemed as if the US got attacked and their government didn't do a damn thing about it. The political consequences would be an exercise in "how quickly can you impeach the entire Executive Branch"!!
16:25 February 25, 2010 by Prufrock2010
The entire executive branch of the Bush administration should have been impeached anyway over the Iraq fiasco. Now they should be indicted and tried as war criminals for the torture they authorized. Obama doesn't have the political balls to let Holder do it. Too bad that these bastards get to skate.

BTW, the "covert ops" you refer to are what's going on 24/7 in Pakistan. They're just not all that covert.
16:30 February 25, 2010 by lordwilliams629
Frenemy if reference to one of your early comments, with the exception of post ww2, since when has America tried to keep any european country from building their military up, the size or makeup of any european military is only based on the policy of that country, in fact we have sold alot of military hardware to some of these countrys. Look at the U.K. and France they have always had a good military. Don't do the old blame America for eveything bit. If you disagree with the policy of germany on afghanistan thats one thing, but don't go blaming America for the size or way these countrys choose to run their militarys.
18:00 February 25, 2010 by Frenemy
@lordwilliams: I never said anything of the sort. Please quote my alleged "blame America for everything bit"....
00:37 February 26, 2010 by lordwilliams629
Well lets see frenemy, going to your comment about America's schizophrenic policy, aren't you fact saying that we want Germany and other counrtys to help in Afghanistan, yet the countrys we want to help are the countrys we fact bully into not building up their military, that's what that comment means don't it. And if that's what it in fact means, then your saying America keeps other democracy's such as Germany from building a stronger military. So yes you are blaming America.
11:02 February 26, 2010 by Frenemy
@lordwilliams: I take it you didn't do too well on English comprehension tests did you?!

What the comment means is that due to internal divisiveness in Washington, no clear cut policy regarding German re-armament has been forthcoming. So, if I'm blaming anyone here, I'm blaming wishywashy US politicians and policy-makers who are too busy scrutinizing the past to pay attention to the future...

The US can "bully" a lot of countries, but modern Germany is not one of them.
15:42 February 26, 2010 by Major B
Alright. Let's deal with much of the above, starting with:

Prufrock2010 comments on 2/25 @ 0:38. Am familiar with all you say except you've inflated much of the story. The U.S. elections in 2006 and 2008 dealt with much of that and the U.S. is serious about Afghans getting their stuff together by 2013. All major actions have to be simplified for the population -- that's the reality. Yes, those SOB's took it way too far with Iraq but enough on that already. Let's stay in the NOW. The Taliban GOVERNMENT was accurately considered terrorist in that, ONCE MORE, they ALLOWED Al Quaeda to train for, plan, organize and execute the 9/11/01 attacks from their soil. This was true in 1998 when the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were destroyed by Al Quaeda, who had its COMMAND organization in Afghanistan. American history is clear -- once you attack it, be prepared for the consequences. And the U.S. has the power and resources to back it up!

You didn't address the issue of what should have been the U.S. response to the Afghan government's actions in supporting Al Quaeda on the 9/11 attack. Reciting past mistakes does no good here. It is well known that the U.S. backed the Afghan "freedom fighters" in the 80's to counter Soviet moves there. Those stinger missiles(took down heavily relied on helicopters) and INSURGENT training by the CIA helped make Afghanistan a hell hole for the Soviets. Yes, the U.S. trained a group that later used and are still using that training against it. Still, how should any nation respond to the supporters of an attack.? You would take no action against someone on another street who allowed a relative to come and vandalize your home? Since you didn't respond to the question I take it you think the U.S. should have taken no action in Afghanistan. According to your Constituion you have a right to disagree with your government, a right the Afghans under the Taliban didn't have. As an American you can SYMPATHIZE with whoever you like, including an ass backwards, medival, xenophobic and insane group that denies women's rights(females can't learn to read or attend school?) and blows up cultural heritage monuments that are timeless and invaluable. I side with the decision to absolutely cut their heads off. The pieces of it that remain, although dangerous, can be contained with insect spray, rat traps, and the occasional smoke bomb.
16:32 February 27, 2010 by lordwilliams629
Well frenemy I don't think it's that I don't understand what your saying, it's that you have to be a little more straight foreword on what you mean, your comment is something that is without doubt open for in interpretation. But in your last comment, I would argue that your own words show that my original interpretation of your words are fairly accurate.

Your now saying that "no" America could never bully Germany into how it runs it's military, ok I'll take your word at face value on that one, but where I'm still right is the rest of your words further confirm my bigger point and that is that Germanys policy in afghanistan is due the acts of our politicians, in other words Germany can't decide it's own policys, unless it gets word from Washington as to what it want's. In other words your saying and i'll say it again Germany can't decide for itself so you blame America. Hey the U.K. made it's own decision in Iraq America had no say so in it, why can't Germany. By your own words you make it clear that Germany makes it's own decisions, so why blame America or it's politicians, for what Germany may or may not do.
17:13 February 27, 2010 by Frenemy
@lordwilliams: Once again, you are putting words in my mouth.

I never said anything about the US "allowing" or "preventing" another country from doing something. But when you are talking about something as (geo)politically sensitive as German re-armament, its pretty damn important to have your allies FULLY on-board. Failure to do is not only dangerous for Germany, but dangerous for NATO, the EU, and the credibility of any force-backed diplomatic request, demand, or threat made by the "West" in general (doubt that? See Iran).

Just let that percolate before you respond...
18:00 February 27, 2010 by lordwilliams629
Well ok you talk about American politicians, just what is it that they doing that hinders Germany in doing what it wants to do in afghanistan. Don't give an overall that you can use for reinterpretation, tell me point blank what is it, don't just say America's policys or in action's are hindering Germany, give me the skinny.

And as far as other countrys not being on board, that has always been the case threwout the history of Nato or the U.N. go back to Korea when the U.N. not just America agreed to go into Korea, who carried the biggest load, America of course, we have in alomost every joint operation carry the biggest load with biggest amount of dead soldiers. That also goes with natural disaster's, it's America that sends the main thrust of food and help IE Haiti, the asian sunami you name it, today there was an earth quake in Chile, who has their planes warming up and ready to fly down to Chile at this very momment, "America" yea old glory to the rescue. Again I b.itch slap you down frenemy and you know it.
18:48 February 27, 2010 by Frenemy
I've simplified this as much as i can for you.

Enjoy your misconceived sense of accomplishment. I'm done with this!

("Never argue with an idiot, they drag you down to their level and beat you with experience")
19:59 February 27, 2010 by lordwilliams629
Sore loser, maybe you and your 300 pound wife can go back to getting drunk. Simplify my a..ss you just jumped around with words. Then I tell you to give me a straight answer, I then get a cop out. To just follow your words shows who's full of s.hit.
18:23 March 1, 2010 by Major B
@ Freenemy on your posting Feb 26 at 11:02 and after_

The U.S. is supports the German military and you well know that. Avoid getting into it with the ignorant. The U.S. alone supported unification(reunification is inaccurate - that implies regaining lost territory) Again, check out American television when you next visit. They love WWII films and are in love with the Wehrmacht. Deep down, that was/is the psychological reaction to Bundeswehr tactics in Kunduz and beyond. Wasn't it funny when Germany had to warn the U.S. against military action in Iraq? A unified strong German, securely planted in the West was a MAJOR U.S. goal for decades and is why it (the US) wouldn't agree to a neutral unified Germany with Stalin. Germany decides what its national interests are including, freedom of navigation for its export led economy and an elimination of the terrorist threat to Europe.

@ all who say Iran and are Pakistan next. Really? Find me an American Army general who wants that? Iran? Well, it depends. Europe should continue to stay very engaged and the strong comments by Merkel and Sarkozy are encouraging.
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