As a parliamentary inquiry is launched into the deadly air strike near Kunduz, the top general fired over the scandal has called Defense Minister Guttenberg a liar. With Germany braced for requests for more troops in Afghanistan, Chancellor Merkel’s government is coming under increased pressure over its handling of the attack.
The German government is struggling to contain a scandal over its handling of a deadly air strike called in by a German officer in Afghanistan in September. In particular, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Defense Minister Karl-Theoder zu Guttenberg are coming under fire for the way they handled information about the strike.
Both are to be called as witnesses to face a parliamentary inquiry into the air strike in January just as they prepare for an Afghanistan conference in London later that month, where Berlin is likely to face pressure to commit more troops to the NATO mission. The country’s involvement in the conflict is highly unpopular at home. Continue reading
It hasn’t taken long for German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg to make a mark in his new job. From referring to the Afghanistan mission as a “war” to announcing a slight increase in troop numbers, he has gained the support of the military. Back home, though, challenges await.
When Germany’s new Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg visited troops at the military base of Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan on Thursday evening he was feted more as a pop star than a visiting politician. Well into the night the young Bavarian aristocrat signed autographs and posed for group photos as soldiers responded with enthusiasm to Guttenberg’s very different approach.
The 37-year-old Guttenberg has been barely out of the headlines since he became Germany’s youngest ever defense minister just over two weeks ago. The country’s most popular politician, he has dramatically raised the profile of Germany’s mission in Afghanistan, breaking taboos about how the deployment is described, pledging solidarity with the troops and then embarking on the surprise visit to the country on Thursday.
His straight-talking manner, confidence and poise are in stark contrast to the lackluster and often bungling impression made by his predecessor Franz Josef Jung. When it comes to the optics then Chancellor Angela Merkel’s choice of Guttenberg to take over the defense portofolio seems to be a remarkably shrewd move. However, it remains to be seen if this will be a change of style or substance when it comes to Germany’s increasingly difficult mission in Afghanistan. Continue reading