BERLIN -- The German public and many left-leaning members of parliament have expressed shock and anger over Germany's role in an airstrike in Afghanistan last week that killed an as-yet-undetermined number of Afghan civilians. The airstrike on two hijacked gas tankers was called in by a German commander in Afghanistan's Kunduz province, reportedly based on grainy video footage and the assurance of just one on-the-ground informant that those surrounding the trucks were all Taliban insurgents.
The German people, deeply pacifist since the end of World War II, are largely opposed to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, as well as Germany's participation in it. But until now, the war had remained largely absent from the campaign for upcoming general elections.
The German military has been limited since the mission began to support roles in Afghanistan, with strict rules of engagement designed to avoid as much as possible direct combat with the Taliban. By and large, the German public believed those constraints on the Bundeswehr were still operative. However, little-noted reports in the German media show that German troops have been involved in direct fighting against Taliban forces for months. These fights have been among the most intense combat German troops have seen since the Red Army invaded Berlin in 1945.