Target Germany: A Second Front in Afghanistan?

Target Germany: A Second Front in Afghanistan?

By JASON MOTLAGH – 1 hr 21 mins ago
The details of a deadly coalition airstrike near the city of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan are yet vague. However, the attack has potentially deep military consequences as well as political ramifications far away - in Germany. NATO said in a statement that Friday's airstrike targeted militants who had stolen two fuel tankers the day before. It said that most of those killed were Taliban. But Afghan authorities are saying that civilians who had flocked to collect free fuel at the behest of insurgents died among them - with an overall death toll estimated as high as 70. If true, it would be one of the deadliest attacks on civilians since Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, issued strict new counterinsurgency rules to minimize civilian deaths.
Civilian losses had fueled anti-American sentiment in many parts of the country. The question of whether or not the attack contradicted McChrystal's guidelines is paramount. But this time, the airstrike attack was called not by U.S. forces but by the Germans overseeing a coalition supply line from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan that has grown more vital in light of threats to the normal route from Pakistan. Indeed, given that the tankers were just three miles from the German heaquarters when attacked, officials believe militants might have been readying to bomb the base. The circumstances of the attack thus highlight a Taliban offensive in the region that is brazenly challenging the resolve of German forces in charge of security - and a debate about the lack of consistency among the multinational coalition forces. (Read about the dramatic Sept. 2 assassination that was the Taliban's Big Get.)

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