Wednesday, September 9, 2009

German had no right to call in Afghan strike-paper: NATO

German officer who called in an air strike in Afghanistan that authorities say killed dozens of people did not have the right to give the order, according to preliminary NATO findings, a newspaper said on Wednesday.

German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung said a report from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had found that Colonel Georg Klein had overstepped his command in ordering the attack in Kunduz last week.

The paper quoted a senior NATO officer as saying it was "crystal clear" that Klein had not kept to the prescribed chain of command, and that he should not have made the decision without checking back with ISAF headquarters.

A spokesman for Germany's Defence Ministry, which has been heavily criticised over the incident, said the officer's remarks were based on initial ISAF findings amounting to "a kind of inspection report" that contained unsubstantiated speculation.

Before investigations into the matter had been concluded, the ministry would not comment on such reports, he added.

The strike on two fuel trucks was the most deadly operation involving German troops since World War Two, and has catapulted the country's operations in Afghanistan into the campaign for the federal election Germany holds on Sept. 27.

Germany has said it believes 56 people were killed in the strike carried out by a U.S. fighter jet, but Afghan authorities have said close to double that number may have perished.

A majority of Germans want Germany's 4,200 troops operating in Afghanistan as part of a six-year old NATO mission to come home and with violence there on the rise, support for the deployment is also waning in other Western nations.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said in parliament on Tuesday that she regretted any loss of innocent lives and promised a full report about Friday's air strike, which sparked criticism from some NATO allies and domestic lawmakers.

Despite public disapproval of the Afghanistan mission, both Merkel's conservatives and her coalition partners and election rivals, the Social Democrats (SPD), back it. Hence neither are likely to score points on this topic with voters, analysts say.


It is always much easier to look back and critique than having to make a split-second decision with the limited amount of information in hand.

Civilian casualty during conflict is unfortunate but at times, unavoidable. The window of opportunity to act sometimes cannot wait for a second or third direct confirmation. The matter of intend is incredibly difficult to justify.

We should focus on the disaster such preemptive strike might have averted. The hype is almost entirely cooked up by western media. (Same thing goes with UK's recent "potential" airline bomber arrest.) For one thing, local population isn't vehemently bitter about the strike. The casualty was very unfortunate but almost certainly unavoidable. Just saying.

We should give more credit to those fighting on the front line.

If the decision loop isn't entirely out of wrack (that positive ID has been made and that pro and con have been weighted), i think we should at least provide our troop some protection from the public/media fury.

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