German opposition slams Berlin′s stance on Kunduz inquiry | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 03.07.2011
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Germany

German opposition slams Berlin's stance on Kunduz inquiry

A parliamentary probe has found that Germany's defense minister did nothing wrong in the aftermath of a NATO airstrike that killed dozens of civilians in Afghanistan. The opposition described the stance as "ridiculous."

An Afghan police officer guards the wreckage after the Kunduz airstrike on two tanker trucks

The airstrike on the tankers killed 91 civilians

The opposition Social Democrats have sharply criticized Germany's center-right coalition after the draft report of a parliamentary inquiry absolved former Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg of any wrongdoing in connection with a 2009 airstrike in Afghanistan that killed dozens of civilians.

The draft of the final report on the Kunduz affair, which was obtained by the German Press Agency (dpa), says the inquiry found that former State Secretary Peter Wichert and the former chief of staff of the German armed forces, Wolfgang Scheiderhan, were at fault for not providing Guttenberg with the full facts surrounding the incident as soon as they became available.

It says the subsequent dismissals of the two men were "legally and politically sound."

Political flip-flop

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg in front of reporters' microphones

Guttenberg revised his opinion about the airstrike

Guttenberg was not the minister of defense when the attack occurred on September 4, 2009, but shortly after he took office, a month later, he described the airstrike as "appropriate" in a military sense. Later he revised his stance, saying that after the full details of the attack were made available to him, he had determined that it had been "inappropriate."

At the time, Guttenberg was criticized for his change in course, and questions were raised about how transparent he was about the attack.

The opposition Social Democrats criticized the coalition of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats and their junior partners, the liberal Free Democrats, over the draft. The party's defense spokesman, Rainer Arnold, described the exoneration of Guttenberg as "particularly embarrassing."

The inquiry was launched in early 2010 to look into the events that led up to the airstrike, which, according to the German armed forces, killed 91 civilians and wounded 11 others. It was also tasked with examining how the government handled the aftermath of the attack. In addition to Gutttenberg, Wichert and Schneiderhan, Chancellor Merkel also testified.

Soft support for a military decision

The draft says the inquiry also found that Bundeswehr Colonel Georg Klein's decision to request the airstrike was justifiable, although he did make procedural errors. Colonel Klein requested the airstrike on two fuel trucks that had been hijacked by Taliban insurgents near Kunduz, fearing they could be used to attack a German base nearby.

The opposition Social Democrats are expected to present their view of the Kunduz affair in August. The Bundestag lower house of parliament is expected to debate the findings in October.

Guttenberg stepped down as defense minister on March 1, after the University of Bayreuth stripped him of his PhD for plagiarizing much of his doctoral dissertation.

Author: Chuck Penfold (dpa, AFP)
Editor: Toma Tasovac

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