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US-German Tensions over Airstrike in Afghanistan

Berlin and Washington might be switching positions in the blame game over civilian casualties. “An airstrike by U.S. fighter jets that appears to have killed Afghan civilians could turn into a major dispute between NATO allies Germany and the United States, as tensions began rising Sunday over Germany's role in ordering the attack,” reports the Washington Post.

Another Post article published on MSNBC argues:

The decision to bomb the tankers based largely on a single human intelligence source appears to violate the spirit of a tactical directive aimed at reducing civilian casualties that was recently issued by U.S. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the new commander of the NATO mission in Afghanistan. (…)

A NATO fact-finding team estimated Saturday that about 125 people were killed in the bombing, at least two dozen of whom — but perhaps many more — were not insurgents. To the team, which is trying to sort out this complicated incident, mindful that the fallout could further sap public support in Afghanistan for NATO's security mission here, the target appeared to be far less clear-cut than it had to the Germans. One survivor, convalescing from abdominal wounds at a hospital in the nearby city of Kunduz, said he went to the site because he thought he could get free fuel. Another patient, a 10-year-old boy with shrapnel in his left leg, said he went to gawk, against his father's advice.

But: The article also points out that local officials are more concerned about Taliban activity than the airstrike casualties:

“I don't agree with the rumor that there were a lot of civilian casualties,” said one key local official, who said he did not want to be named because he fears Taliban retribution. "Who goes out at 2 in the morning for fuel? These were bad people, and this was a good operation."

A few hours later, McChrystal arrived at the reconstruction team's base in Kunduz. A group of leaders from the area, including the chairman of the provincial council and the police chief, were there to meet him. So, too, were members of an investigative team dispatched by President Hamid Karzai.

McChrystal began expressing sympathy "for anyone who has been hurt or killed."  The council chairman, Ahmadullah Wardak, cut him off. He wanted to talk about the deteriorating security situation in Kunduz, where Taliban activity has increased significantly in recent months. NATO forces in the area, he told the fact-finding team before McChrystal arrived, need to be acting "more strongly" in the area.

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Marie Claude on :

RT @iammilitary Germany Is ISAF?s Weakest Link http://bit.ly/k5Uis where is the spirit of Wehrmacht ; zero motivation

Zyme on :

Oh dear, if only my former school comrades could read this - written by a frenchwoman. You know, I know quite a number of people who hold the "spirit of Wehrmacht" in high esteem. What I wonder is whether you as a french citizen would really approve it. Do what you can to support the EU. Otherwise the spirit might return.

Marie Claude on :

Zyme it's a quote from a american military fellow that I read on twitter

Marie Claude on :

"Do what you can to support the EU. Otherwise the spirit might return." are you afraid of your people ? Yes, I sometimes think that when Mitterand and Reagan authorised that the 2 Germany could reunify again, the old deamons would re-birth ! I also remember some german people having the talks that you're referring to, but they were some kind of "losers" in their life, and a born eastern german friend of my son, having discourses alike too. Though, even if you don't want to hear these talks, they are latent, and I think that it doesn't help for a good future that your army men are mocked, one day a person may would want to "revenge" their honnor.

Pat Patterson on :

Reagan was out of office and Mitterand had spoken about and warned Bonn several times about pushing for reunification. "Mitterand’s initial attitude to German reunification was determined by “the Gaullist balance of power and the need to preserve France’s rank as the pre-eminent political power in Europe”.[40] This was now threatened. Mitterand attempted to block and then slow down reunification but once he realised its inevitability he embraced it.[41] It is not surprising that soon after Germany’s reunification that there were calls for even greater political union in Europe." http://www.geocities.com/intstu2003/org/gerioessay.html This embrace of reunification came about after the GDR had collapsed so I'm not to sure where this idea of okaying the reunifcation by Mitterand and Reagan comes from. Also to be honest there is very little in the US press about this bombing other than acceptance that ultimately the US will be blamed. I haven't seen too much in the way of reproach directed at Germany other than in some of the military sites where the CW seems to be that Germany has a ways to go to integrate itself successfully into the ISAF other than wearing the patch.

Marie Claude on :

http://www.diploweb.com/forum/hillard07022.htm#_ednref15 read that paragraph : II) La communauté euro-atlantique économique et politique and http://tinyurl.com/pgj3kk now your artical is a typical american and british interpretation of the french policies, they alsways imagine that France wants to rule the world, that's their paranoid anti-french sentiment ! De Gaulle was very doubtful of the EU envisionned by technocrats and preferred far more an union of autonome nations. the very pro-germano-franco alliance were Giscard d'Estaing and Helmuth Schmidt and François Mitterand and Helmuth Kohl, that were very close friends. The deal for Mitterand to "let" the reunification of the 2 Germany, was that Helmuth Kohl would have to abandon the Mark for the EUro Both were very pro-European, and certainly not pro-french European lead by France, but that was how the Brits understand the duo Germany + France entente cordiale.

Pat Patterson on :

I assume that the French recognize a different time frame as well as an interpretation of the events. Reagan never actually thought about reunification and GHW Bush was dead set against it until Kohl convinced him to recognize it as a fait accompli. As to British or Americans thinking that France will always simply look out for France that just might be well founded when a French leader is quoted as saying, "Never separate the grandeur of France from the building of Europe." Francois Mitterand

Marie Claude on :

sources, cuz we can't find such sentences pronounced by Mitterand over here, he was rather "discret" about everything, I guess an old habit as a former infiltated agent

Pat Patterson on :

It's in the original link as the first footnote.

Marie Claude on :

alright, then, it's not a surprise LMAO

Marie Claude on :

funny, Ms Thatcher too : http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/0c713ea2-9d7e-11de-9f4a-00144feabdc0.html?nclick_check=1

Marie Claude on :

who is really leading and shaping EU into the transatlantic alliance ? http://germany.usembassy.de/eu_presidency/milestones.htm

Zyme on :

Well don't know what you understand by spirit of Wehrmacht, but I primarily associate doing politics with an efficient army with that. I can assure you that my school comrades are no "losers in their life" as far as I know today. Quite oddly, most of these joined the state in one way or another, becoming part of the border patrol or even the army itself, while others joined the development departments of armament companies. So in a way, they still are in their element :)

Zyme on :

Years of "targeted" bombings do not make the sudden American astonishment we can witness now any more credible.. How did they get the idea of taking a journalist to the military meetings? The Bundeswehrverband rightly called American accusations to be "anchorless and brazen". And what made our European neighbours judge so quickly remains to be found out as well. In the meantime all sides could get back to daily routine, right now it is as if the diplomatic world was going down in Afghanistan over the incident..

Marie Claude on :

RT @Michael_Yon Germans are losing their battlespace: http://bit.ly/1a2c4t I didn't see any comment from your European neighbours, but only by Americans

Zyme on :

and how about your very own foreign minister? http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/germany-rejects-afghan-criticism-over-airstrike-14482918.html

Marie Claude on :

well, you know Kouchner, he has always been on the US lines, even for the Irak war I apologiez for having such a fool as foreign minister

Don S on :

Well the hijack was by Taliban. 'Bad People' as the local authority. But there are other awkward facts staring us in the face. First, had this been an all-American operation there is a strong perception that Germans would be among the first to point the finger & accuse the US airmen of 'war crimes' in the most strident possible manner. Germans have gained a strong reputation for such behavior. Not the German military as much as politicians, journalists, and 'activists'. Germans also have a reputation for scapegoating Americans for circumstances beyond their control or things not their fault. Without this publicity it was possible, even likely that the German part of this would have gone unpublicized and all the outrage directed at the US. That is also a common pattern. The American point is that you need eyeballs on things like this as soon as possible. Ideally before the airstrike to ensure that you are not about to smear a bunch of kids or a wedding party. Might not be possible, in which case you need to be there as soon afterward as possible to get the facts and defend yourself & allies in the free fire zone of public opinion. The Germans here did not 'cover' their American allies. This is a first for Germans, to be in the star chamber and made to answer for 'war crimes' which in fact were honest mistakes or even fully justifiable military ops against legitimate hostile forces. Twisted to appear as something else. Germans have been among the most notorious twisters, or (at best) the most willing and credulous consumers of the twisted propaganda. Perhaps good will come out of this. Perhaps many Germans will learn a certain skepticism about such twisting of the facts, such war propaganda. Perhaps not.

John in Michigan, US on :

The fact that a German commander ordered this airstrike shows that there has been a long-awaited reduction in national caveats. As to the justification for the air strike, we should absolutely defer to the German commander on the ground. Also, there's a lesson here for counter-insurgency: if a bomb is dropped, there must be a mission to examine the site and document the results, to lessen the chance of the enemy turning it into a propaganda victory. '"Why didn't RC-North come here quicker?" McChrystal asked Col. Georg Klein, the commander of the German base in Kunduz. "I can honestly say it was a mistake," Klein answered, in a discussion witnessed by a reporter.' I admire Col. Klein's frankness. I hope that the press coverage will cause everyone in NATO to take notice. I also hope that the mistake was a simple mistake and not due to some lingering reluctance caused by national caveats. In other words, caveats are now being interpreted so that dropping a bomb to reduce a potential threat to ISAF soldiers is not considered an offensive action. But, perhaps there remains some lingering uncertainty over ground patrols into contested areas. Perhaps this uncertainty caused the commander to be less aggressive than he should have been? To be clear, "aggressive" in this context simply means sending a patrol to secure the site of the bomb drop.

Zyme on :

Further details I read the last few days: Instead of sending an investigation team to the bombing site on sunrise, the German commander ordered an unarmed drone to fly to the point at that time. Which is the biggest possible way of keeping your distance to what happened ;) The recordings of the drone have not been published, maybe they came under instant nondisclosure (which is common among our troops with regard to potentially harmful informations). And maybe that is also why the Commander did send a team not before noon, at a point of time when the locals would have buried most of the results already. Also reports indicate that the Commander decided against sending troops instead of airplanes to attack the tankers (although the site was merely a few kilometers from the German Base) because he had not had enough combat troops at his disposal. Currently some 900 troops are stationed in Kunduz, around 400 of them being combat troops. These are supposed to cover an area the size of Hessia, which clearly is an almost impossible thing to do once things start to heat up (as they did recently).

Don S on :

"admire Col. Klein's frankness. I hope that the press coverage will cause everyone in NATO to take notice." You of course are correct. This is an encouraging step, and the proper response is not to crucify the Germans. Tempting though it may be (I succumbed to the temptation myself). It's a first, and one cannot expect perfection right off. Or indeed after that. Do it better next time, if you can....

Pat Patterson on :

Unfortunately this incident has created a certain amount of hesitation among US or other NATO air controllers. It's not a matter of mistrust but making sure before vectoring in air assets that the person making the request is operating with the same ROE as the other. Col. Klein's admission of a mistake made will help clear the air and compatible integration of assets will occur. But currently the USAF is telling its controllers and forward observers to ask more questions rather than automatically send the request.

Kevin Sampson on :

http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/World/Story/STIStory_427802.html

Pat Patterson on :

And as Kevin's link points out the result can also be a layer of command level officers that are so afraid of a blot on their fitness reports that they will hide in any ambiguity of the current ROE.

Kevin Sampson on :

I don't know that it's a case of anyone trying to 'hide in any ambiguity of the current ROE.' McChrystal's new ROE is inteded to reduce 'civilian' casualties by reducing the use of airstrikes and artillery. That this will also increase our own casualties is hardly rocket science. It seems to me that if anyone is to be responsible for this, it should be McChrystal himself.

Zyme on :

I know off-topic, but I suspect you of having provided the latest link in the list - following this news and a few of its comments, I came to the following recorded in france: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfK7Yal64S0 Who knows what tune these people are whistling? :)

Marie Claude on :

Zyme, what game do you want to play ? but you're a bit late, cuz most of the american pro-Israel blogs didn't resist to post the video for your info, it as in a carrefour in a famous surburb, St Denis, the young lefties were supporting Palestinian cause, and you wouldn't believe it, young lefty Jews were among them But if you like this game, I can find back some videos about Germany anti-Israel manifestations too, especially one where the flag of Israel was removed by policemen from a student window... also some neo-nazi manifestations too

Pat Patterson on :

This is veering off topic but it should be noted that the link goes to an anecdotal opinion of who was demonstrating. Also that before the Germans even asked the French had passed laws revoking the papers of all immigrant Jews in France. France was better than most but Italy, Bulgaria and Romania managed to protect a higher percentage of their Jewish population than the French did. Some 30% of the Jews in France before the German offensive died in camps.

Marie Claude on :

crap, cuz 30% is the maximal percentage that went to the camps, it is uselly said that 75% were spared. as far as I taly is concerned, until she was occupied , Mussolini managed to keep them safe, though they were Subjected to discrimination too. But when Germans invaded Italy, in 1943 until being freed by the Alliees in 1944, you could say that deportation became of the same averages of France Mais Mr Patterson will try any argument to undermine France et après on dit qu'on vous "hait", just that when we are busy to retablish some objective truths doesn't mean that we hate the US, but watch for our backs

Pat Patterson on :

I think you misread what I said. That 30%(26% in the link) or 90,000 of the Jews living in France at the time of the German invasion were stripped of their status and sent to concentration camps. Only about 3,000 returned. http://www.holocaustchronicle.org/holocaustappendices.html

Zyme on :

There is no game I wanted to play, sorry if that was the impression you got. I was just interested in the tune they whistled - otherwise I considered the video a good breakfest entertainment :D @ John: I do not know the name of the song - which is why I asked about it in the first place!

Marie Claude on :

alright you wanted to have some goo time, now, I'll tell you hou you can know what theses persons whistled If you have an Iphone , with a certain program , (don't remember the title, but my hubby does, just that I have to catch him in the right moment) you approach your Iphone proxy to your PC when the video is on, the Iphone will give you the referrence of the aria bon, on n'est pas des sous-devlopés en France, merci to my american Fellows that beleave that we are still cultivating with horses

Pat Patterson on :

If you are referring to Spotify and Shazam then neither was developed in France. The former was from Sweden and the latter from England.

Marie Claude on :

qui sene frego ! on s'en fout ! we don't care ! es ist uns egal

Marie Claude on :

http://www.shazam.com/music/web/pages/iphone.html

Marie Claude on :

here are some of referred sites, and my clear explanation that had the honnor to satisfy a true Israelian israelmatzav, Carl http://bokedou-an-hanv.blogspot.com/2009/05/how-rumors-go.html

John in Michigan, US on :

Zyme, If you have any respect at all for the topic, please, please tell us the name of the song!

Pat Patterson on :

Max Boot, the military affairs writer, has a short column in Commentary Online concerning the bombing where he points out that this incident and others are always used as a club to advance some alternative political response in the West or another Taliban PR victory. He outlines some solutions and the opportunities that the West is slowly realizing. http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/boot/91302

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