German defence minister in surprise Afghanistan visit

12th December 2009, Comments 0 comments

Karl-Theodor Zu Guttenberg intended to visit German troops and gain a better understanding of conditions on the ground.

Berlin -- German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg made a surprise visit to Afghanistan Friday, a spokesman said, as anger at home grew over a September air strike that claimed scores of lives.

Zu Guttenberg, 38, intended to visit German troops and gain a better understanding of conditions on the ground in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, where most of them are based, the ministry spokesman told AFP.

The minister, a rising star in German politics and one of the most popular members of Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, has come under pressure over the bombing which has already claimed the scalp of his predecessor.

The previous defence minister, Franz Josef Jung, resigned in late November amid allegations of a cover-up over the strike in which up to 142 people died, reportedly including dozens of civilians.

The raid has provoked an anguished debate in Germany, where polls show the Afghan deployment of around 4,300 troops is deeply unpopular.

Zu Guttenberg first said the raid was justified, but later reversed his position, declaring the strike was "militarily inappropriate."

Defending himself on the ZDF television channel, the minister said he gave his initial assessment on the basis of the information he had at the time.

Said Zu Guttenberg: "When one makes a bad assessment, then one has to correct it in public."

AFP/Expatica         

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