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Report: German colonel who ordered airstrike that killed dozens of Afghans being promoted

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 9, 2012

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The German colonel who ordered an airstrike in northern Afghanistan in 2009 that resulted in the deaths of some 140 Afghan civilians is being promoted, according to media reports.

Col. Georg Klein ordered the airstrike on two fuel trucks in Kunduz province, reportedly after receiving warnings that the trucks would be used to attack his installation.

Klein is to be named head of a new federal office for personnel management of the nation’s federal defense force early next year, according to the German news agency DPA. Although he will receive a general’s salary, he likely will not be promoted to brigadier general until the end of next year, Der Spiegel newsmagazine reported in its online edition.

A German Defense Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying Klein is “well suited” for the job and has all the necessary skills, Der Spiegel reported.

Insurgents stole two Afghan fuel trucks several miles from a German base in Kunduz on Sept. 3, 2009, killing one of the drivers. Two 500-pound bombs were dropped in the subsequent airstrike, killing civilians and Taliban members. The bombing happened just two months after the top commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, issued a directive making it a priority to minimize “the risk to the civilian population as a result of the use of force.”

The bombing prompted six investigations, including one by the German parliament. It also led to the resignations of Germany’s minister of defense, Franz Josef Jung, his assistant minister of defense and the nation’s highest-ranking soldier amid accusations they withheld information about the civilian deaths from lawmakers.

The German news agency DPA initially reported Klein’s promotion, citing government sources.

Klein is currently deputy chief of a personnel office in charge of noncommissioned officers and enlisted that is to be combined with other personnel offices under the new department Klein is to head, Der Spiegel reported.

“The promotion would be a slap in the face of the Afghan civilian population and would be equivalent to a declaration of war,” Karim Popal, a lawyer for survivors of the victims told the German newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. The paper quoted him as saying it was a great disappointment and a “serious political mistake.”

It was not clear where the paper reached Popal.