On Tuesday Angela Merkel defended Germany's military mission in Afghanistan. She also expressed regret for innocent victims in last week's German-ordered air strike on two hijacked fuel tankers.
Merkel made the remarks during a speech to parliament in response to an acknowledgement by the NATO-led force in Kabul that the Sept. 4 air strike called in by German commanders and carried out by a U.S. warplane may have killed civilians.
Merkel rejected opposition calls for a troop pullout after the strike, which prompted criticism at home and abroad because of the possibility that civilians were killed in the attack.
"The mission in Afghanistan is our reaction to terror, the consequences of not acting will affect us just as much as the consequences of acting," Merkel said.
Local media reported that last week that the air strike targeted two tanker trucks seized by Taliban militants near the northern Afghan town of Kunduz, Xinhua reports.
It was also reported, the airstrike ordered by Col. Georg Klein in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killed civilians as well as Taliban, according to a NATO report Tuesday. The deadliest use of German military force since World War II has injected an intense, emotional debate about the war in Afghanistan into a German election that had been devoid of the subject until now.
Germany and other European nations are unlikely to abruptly change their Afghan missions in the short term, despite high levels of public dissatisfaction. But German, French, and British leaders this week began to signal that their commitment is not indefinite.
“I can’t imagine any scenario where European forces are precipitously withdrawn… I don’t believe public opinion will drive this,” says Thomas Klau of the European Council of Foreign Relations in Paris. “But neither would I bank on a strong European presence a year from now”, The Christian Science Monitor reports.
In the meantime, Merkel asserted in a nearly simultaneous speech to Germany's parliament that reports about civilian victims were still contradictory.
"It will not be possible for us to clear that up precisely here this morning," she said. "We will not accept premature judgments."
Merkel said she had given the same message to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
"I say this very clearly after what I have experienced in the last few days: I will not tolerate that from whoever it may be, at home as well as abroad," she told parliament.
She did not address any details of the airstrike or the events that led to it, The Associated Press reports.