Controversial airstrike in Afghanistan: a chronology | World | DW | 27.11.2009
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Controversial airstrike in Afghanistan: a chronology

Heads have begun to roll in Germany over a controversial NATO airstrike in Afghanistan that may have killed up to 145 people, including Afghan civilians. DW-WORLD takes a look at the chronology of events.

Afghan security officials inspect burnt oil tankers at the site of the NATO-led air strike

The NATO airstrike targeted militants after the Taliban hijacked two oil tankers

September 4, 2009
The commander of the German armed forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Georg Klein, summons US air support to destroy two fuel tankers which have been hijacked by the Taliban a few kilometers from a German base in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. There are numerous casualties but by the time German soldiers arrive at the scene, the corpses have been removed.

September 5
German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung defends the airstrike, saying the Taliban could have driven the tankers toward Kunduz city to attack the large German base there. Jung says about 50 insurgents were killed, but does not mention civilian casualties. In contrast, the supreme commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, US General Stanley McChrystal acknowledges that civilians were among the dead.

September 6
The Washington Post, whose reporters accompanied a team of NATO investigators, report that about 125 people were killed, including at least two dozen civilians. The newspaper accuses the German colonel of making serious errors in assessing the situation. International criticism of the airstrike follows, including from the foreign ministers of Sweden and France and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

September 10
In a report, the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung quotes an initial NATO review of the incident stating that Colonel Klein overstepped his authority, misjudged the situation and violated procedures.

The Public Prosecutor's Office in Dresden, where Colonel Klein's regiment is based, appoints a special investigator to review the deployment of Bundeswehr soldiers.

German Colonel Georg Klein

A NATO report said Colonel Klein broke military procedure in ordering the attack

September 11
Germany's military chief of staff, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, defends the decision to bomb the tankers saying it was "the result of a very careful assessment of the situation."

September 13
An Afghan investigation commission describes the attack as an error and reports that 30 civilians and 69 Taliban were killed in the attack.

Early October
Colonel Klein completes his mission in Afghanistan.

October 29
The "secret" NATO investigation report reaches Berlin. General Schneiderhan says he is not convinced that airstrike killed innocent people. He says there's also no reason to doubt that the German soldiers had acted reasonably. New Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, however, that personnel might face consequences as a result of the NATO report.

November 6
The public prosecutor’s office in Dresden hands over the case to federal investigators, who will determine whether the attack conformed to international criminal law.

Defense Minister Guttenberg says the airstrike was "militarily appropriate," but acknowledges a procedural error and confusing rules of engagement.

November 17
Lawyers acting on behalf of the relatives of the Afghan victims of the airstrike write to the German defense ministry seeking compensation for 78 family members.

An Afghan man on his donkey follows a convoy of German ISAF soldiers east of Kunduz

German soldiers regularly patrol the mountainous region of Feyzabad, east of Kunduz

November 26
Defense Minister Guttenberg announces General Scheiderhan's resignation in parliament. This follows revelations that the government may have withheld information about the attack that killed civilians. Guttenberg says that Schneiderhan failed to provide proper information about the incident.

Deputy Defense Minister Peter Wichert also resigns. However, former defense minister Jung, who is currently labor minister, refuses to bow to opposition calls for his resignation. He defends his actions in the aftermath of September's deadly airstrike.

November 27

Facing mounting pressure, Jung resigns.

Editor: Kyle James