Monday, September 7, 2009

Germany and the Kunduz bombing

The September 4 bombing by US aircraft in Kunduz province, north of Kabul, is bound to have long-lasting repercussions both in Afghanistan and Europe.

According to the Washington Post, a NATO fact-finding team estimated 125 people were killed in the bombing, at least two dozen of whom were civilians, "perhaps many more," the report adds. Other reports put the figure as high as 40.

Now it seems that the German colonel who ordered bombing was in breach of procedure and overstepped his authority, according to a leaked NATO report. More from the Independent:

Colonel Georg Klein, the officer who ordered the attack, had "overstepped" his authority and "poorly evaluated" the situation. An unnamed but high-ranking German Nato officer was quoted as saying that it was "completely clear" that Col Klein had been in breach of military procedures.About 100 people, many of them civilians, were killed in the air strike, which Col Klein ordered because he allegedly feared that they would be used as truck bombs against Nato forces. However the report was said to have established that at the time of the strike the captured fuel tankers were bogged down in sand, posed no imminent threat to Nato forces and were being closely monitored.

The unnamed German officer said Col Klein should have consulted the headquarters of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force before ordering the attack... (link)
The bombing has of course had huge repercussions in Germany, where upcoming elections promise to be something of a referendum on the war. Reporting from Berlin, Kate Connelly writes in the L.A. Times:
Most parties, including Merkel's Christian Democrats, the Greens, the Social Democratic Party and Free Liberals, had been avoiding the sensitive topic [of the war] ...

One of [Merkel's] major obstacles in dodging the subject had been the Left Party, whose leader, Oskar Lafontaine, has repeatedly referred to the mission as a war that breaches international law. His is the only party in the lower house of parliament to have called for the immediate withdrawal of German troops. The Left Party is campaigning under the slogan "Get out of Afghanistan," knowing that on this topic at least, the majority of Germans -- an estimated two-thirds, according to polls -- are on its side.

Now the other parties probably will be forced to address a topic that has pushed angst over the economic crisis off the top of the agenda.

"We shouldn't try to keep the theme Afghanistan out of the election campaign," warned Eckart von Klaeden, the Christian Democrats' foreign policy expert. "Rather we need to make it much clearer why we're involved." ...

The umbrella group Network for the German Peace Movement has also been more outspoken. On Saturday, it charged that Germany was "responsible for a massacre" for last week's airstrike and warned that it would take legal steps against the commander who gave the orders... (link)
One can only wish that Canada's NDP would take the cue of the Left Party and oppose a war which a majority of Canadians do not want.

Note the attempted evasion of the Christian Democrats' expert. While two-thirds of Germans oppose a war which many say is in fact illegal, von Klaeden says the ruling party ought to simply explain better why their military is in Afghanistan. In this he echoes our own Conservatives, who say practically the same thing with regularity.

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