German Chancellor Angela Merkel has rejected widespread criticism of a deadly airstrike in Afghanistan. The US air assault last Friday, called in by the German military, left several civilians dead as well as Taliban guerrillas.
She said: “Every single killing of an innocent in Afghanistan is one too many. But I guarantee you also that we will not accept pre-judgements. I will not accept them from any quarter whether in Germany or outside the country.” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the Social Democratic Party said: “We have not stumbled headlong into our involvement in Afghanistan and so we should also not get out headlong. That is not responsible.” Jürgen Trittin is deputy leader of the Green Party in Parliament. He told Merkel: “You had to be pushed by the opposition, because of this most serious incident, to make this Government statement.” Merkel’s government has come under intense pressure over the air attack. Afghan officials claim it killed scores of people, including many civilians. The incident was summed up by Afghan President Hamid Karzai as a major “error of judgement.” Some European partners and political critics in Germany have questioned the reason for calling the air strike in the first place. But Berlin’s hasty and firm denial that any civilians had been killed drew especially sharp criticism. In her Bundestag remarks Merkel repeated her call for an international conference this year to work out how to hand over security responsibilities to the Afghans. The conference would also look at ways how to re-build Afghanistan politically and economically.