Image: German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg
Gero Breloer  /  AP
German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg listens during the debate to prolong the German mandate in Afghanistan in the German Federal Parliament in Berlin, on Thursday.
updated 12/3/2009 3:49:33 PM ET 2009-12-03T20:49:33

Germany's defense minister told parliament on Thursday that he has reassessed a German commander's decision to call an NATO airstrike in Afghanistan that killed scores of civilians and Taliban fighters and decided it was "militarily inappropriate."

Also Thursday, Germany's parliament voted to keep up to 4,500 troops in Afghanistan through December 2010.

Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said that he was correcting his position on Col. Georg Klein's decision to call in the Sept. 4 strike, based on information that has emerged in the past week. Guttenberg had previously defended the decision as "appropriate in military terms."

"In retrospect and with regret, I would like to correct my assessment (of the situation) in light of all documents and from an objective perspective today as not militarily appropriate," Guttenberg told lawmakers.

Guttenberg nevertheless defended Klein, saying the colonel was acting in the interest of his soldiers.

Last week, Guttenberg's predecessor, Labor Minister Franz Josef Jung, resigned after a military report concerning the strike surfaced in the media. The head of Germany's armed forces, Gen. Wolfgang Schneiderhan, and deputy Defense Minister Peter Wichert also stepped down.

An Afghan commission has said 30 civilians were killed along with 69 armed Taliban fighters in the NATO airstrike, which Klein called amid fears the Taliban might use two tanker trucks they had seized to attack troops.

Guttenberg's comments came as parliament was debating whether to keep its troops in the NATO-led force in Afghanistan for another year. The extension was approved by a vote of 445 in favor, 105 against and 43 abstentions.

More than 4,400 German troops are currently based in Afghanistan's relatively stable north.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Berlin will not discuss increasing its troop commitment to the force until after an international conference on Afghanistan's future to be held in London next month.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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