(Reuters) - The head of Germany’s armed forces and a deputy defense minister have stepped down following accusations the military withheld information about a September 4 air strike in Afghanistan believed to have killed dozens of civilians.
The strike, ordered by a German commander and carried out by a U.S. F-15 fighter, was the most deadly operation involving German troops since World War Two, killing 69 Taliban fighters and 30 civilians, according to the Afghan government.
Here are some facts about Germany’s mission in Afghanistan:
* Germany has 4,245 troops in Afghanistan, the third largest contingent in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). They have been there since the start of 2002.
* The United States has 65,000 and Britain’s 9,000 troops are the second largest national contingent.
* Germany may consider boosting the number of soldiers it sends after U.S. President Barack Obama has announced his new strategy for Afghanistan.
* Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet wants to extend the mission’s mandate for another year and to increase the number of soldiers by 120.
* The issue of extending the mandate, which expires on December 13, is being debated in parliament, which is expected to vote to renew it next week.
* Thirty-six German soldiers have been killed in violence or accidents in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
* German soldiers are based in the northern region of Kunduz. Germany has resisted pressure from its NATO allies to deploy forces in the more violent south.
* The mission to Afghanistan has become increasingly unpopular in Germany as violence has surged to its deadliest levels since the Taliban was forced from power in 2001. A majority of Germans want their soldiers to come home.
Compiled by Erik Kirschbaum and Dave Cutler