German army chief, Minister, resign over Afghanistan air strike

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Germany’s top army officer has resigned over the disclosure that the defence ministry had withheld information about civilian casualties caused by a Nato air strike in Afghanistan.

The resignation of Wolfgang Schneiderhan, the Bundeswehr’s chief of staff, along with that of ministry state secretary Peter Wichert, was announced by Germany’s new defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg during a parliamentary debate on the future of Germany in Afghanistan.

Schneiderhan’s resignation amounts to an admission by the defence ministry that it suppressed information about civilian casualties which was ordered by the Bundeswehr – even though it had numerous sources of information, including from its own military police.

According to Nato information, 142 insurgents and civilians were killed in the attack on 4 September on two oil tankers, which had been seized by the Taliban in the northern region near Kunduz.

The then defence minister, Franz Josef Jung, initially dismissed reports that civilians had been among the victims. The ministry later backtracked, saying some civilians had been killed.

Now, Former German Defense Minister and current Labor Minister Franz Josef Jung has resigned over the fatal Afghan airstrike…

The German newspaper, Bild, said it had access to confidential documents and it posted a video of the airstrike on its Web site. It said German Col. Georg Klein was not able to rule out the possibility of civilian victims before he ordered the strike.

The newspaper said a report dated Sept. 6 — two days after the strike — made clear that it was impossible for Klein to verify information his informant had provided before he called in the airstrike.

Jung said Friday he was taking responsibility for miscommunication following the incident.

Bild reported that for days after the incident, Jung — who was then defense minister — repeated that there had been no civilian victims. That was despite Jung having videos and documents that proved the defense ministry knew about civilian victims and also had insufficient information before the strike was ordered.

The Fog of War claims victims at the top as well as on the battlefield. Though, of course, those at the top don’t get bloodied except in the metaphor.

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