A German magazine reported a NATO investigation into an airstrike in Afghanistan that killed dozens of civilians showed the German commander who ordered it broke military procedure.
German authorities have put pressure on NATO not to issue an outright condemnation of Colonel Georg Klein because it could lead to legal problems, the news weekly Der Spiegel said in an early release of its print edition.
The September 4 strike on two fuel trucks was the most deadly operation involving German troops since World War Two, killing 69 Taliban fighters and 30 civilians, the Afghan government has said.
Last week the general inspector of the German army told reporters that the NATO investigation, whose findings are confidential, had showed German soldiers had acted appropriately in a difficult situation.
“The investigation is still under review and no other comment can be made at the moment,” a Defense Ministry spokesperson said when asked about the Spiegel report.
The attack, carried out by a US F-15 fighter jet, was condemned by several European foreign ministers. Germany has said it was necessary to protect its troops from a possible suicide attack by Taliban fighters who had hijacked the trucks.
The Spiegel report said Colonel Klein broke standard operating procedure by ordering air support on the grounds that his troops were in enemy contact, even though international forces were nowhere near the tankers.
He refused to allow the aircraft to conduct a low-altitude sweep of the area before launching its payload, the magazine said, adding that overcast skies also raised doubts the strike should have relied on a single human information source and video alone.
The magazine cited a source familiar with the NATO report as saying it also addressed positive sides of Klein’s leadership and that it could be used to either condemn him or excuse him.
Germans remain highly sceptical of military operations more than 60 years after the defeat of the Nazis. It was only a decade ago that German troops participated in their first foreign combat mission since the war.
A majority of Germans want Germany’s 4200 troops operating in Afghanistan as part of a six-year old NATO mission to come home.
Pic: German troops