German Military Chief Resigns Over NATO Afghan Airstrike

November 26, 2009 Updated: October 1, 2015

Inspector general of the German Military, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, at a military exercise in Stetten am Kalten Markt, Germany on May 28, 2008. (Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images)
Inspector general of the German Military, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, at a military exercise in Stetten am Kalten Markt, Germany on May 28, 2008. (Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images)
HAMBURG, Germany—The German military’s chief of staff resigned yesterday after it emerged that the Ministry of Defense had withheld information about civilians killed in a NATO air strike in Afghanistan in September.

German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg announced the top army officer’s resignation during a parliamentary debate on Nov. 26. General Wolfgang Schneiderhan “has been relieved of his duties at his own request,” the minister said, according to AFP.

According to NATO, 142 insurgents and civilians were killed when German armed forces called in U.S. bombers to attack two oil tankers which had been seized by the Taliban in the Northern Afghan province of Kunduz in September. Between 30 and 40 civilians were killed in the strike, according to German weekly Star magazine.

Reports which contained information on civilian casualties were provided to the Ministry of Defense, but former Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said he had not seen them, instead forwarding them to NATO without reading them himself. Nor were they disclosed to Parliament.

Oppositional party leaders demanded Jung’s resignation, and an investigation.