The Blog

Afghan Air Strike: Merkel Hits Back At Critics / Kunduz Governor Praises German Forces

10:40 PM, Sep 8, 2009 • By ULF GARTZKE
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Friday's deadly air strike on two Taliban-hijacked tanker trucks, which was called in by German Bundeswehr forces and carried out by USAF fighter jets, has prompted a sudden barrage of domestic and international criticism vis-à-vis Berlin's handling of this particular incident and, by implication, the Afghan mission in general. At a press conference in Berlin Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was unusually blunt in hitting back at her critics -- including key NATO allies like the United States and France -- and made it clear that she opposes making premature judgments and jumping to conclusions before all results of the on-going military investigation into potential civilian casualties, etc. are known. Just to recap, the Bundeswehr had called in the night-time air strikes after a source said that the Taliban would use the hijacked tankers in suicide attack on the nearby German military base in northern Afghanistan's Kunduz region.

In an interesting development, SPIEGEL Online just published an interview with Kunduz governor Mohammed Omar who strongly defended the Bundeswehr's actions. Governor Omar singled out the German top commander in Kunduz, Col. Georg Klein, by stating that he "made the right decision at the right time and acted in a very level-headed way" when calling in the U.S. airstrike.

Omar visited the German military base in Kunduz on Monday. He said he didn't know how many civilians were killed in the air strike. "But the Germans have the support of the population. We didn't receive any of the complaints one usually gets in cases where civilians are killed."

Eyewitnesses said there were 60 armed Taliban on the scene along with 15 to 20 other people. "But at half past two at night, no normal civilians would dare to go out in this area, which is more than four kilometers from the nearest village," said Omar.

Anyone in the vicinity of the fuel tankers must have been criminal or a supporter of the Taliban, he said. The US criticism of the attack appeared to be a gut reaction, he added.