German officials become casualties of Afghan air-strike investigation

In recent days several high ranking German officials have resigned, following an investigation into a NATO air strike in Afghanistan on the 4th of September which left several civilians dead

In recent days several high ranking German officials have resigned. The resignations follow an investigation into a NATO air strike in Afghanistan on the 4th of September which left several civilians dead.

The German Chief of Staff, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, resigned on Thursday along with senior Defence official Peter Wichert. Franz Josef Jung, currently Labour Minister, and Defence Minister at the time of the air-strike, resigned on Friday. The incident occurred when two oil tankers which had been hijacked by the Taliban were destroyed by United States Air Force (USAF) planes. The order to engage was given by a German Commander. The consequent bombing raid killed scores of people who were in the proximity. The US emphasized that although the attacks were carried out by its personnel, the orders had come from Col Georg Klein.

For several days following the strike, Jung claimed there was no evidence that civilians were among the dead. He justified the attack, as having been necessary in the light of intelligence, predicting a possible assault on German troops. The recent resignations have been seen as an acceptance of responsibility for the events. It has been revealed that knowledge of civilian deaths was known earlier than previously thought. Many of the dead were in fact civilians, helping themselves to free oil rather than insurgents.

The apparently strategic and prolonged move to deny that any kind of mistake had been made, coupled with the resignations of three high-ranking officials, may serve as an indicator of the fragile state of public support for the German presence in Afghanistan. The attack was one of the most deadly that German forces have been involved in since the Second World War. Consequently providing tough decisions for Angela Merkel as Barack Obama nears an announcement about the future shape of US policy in the region.

Obama will perhaps face difficulties in trying to secure an increased commitment from his European allies in the coming days.

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