The origin of the skull is not clear. Bild speculates it could come from a Muslim mass grave in the area, or that it could belong to one of many Russian soldiers who died fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Regardless of where it comes from, the damage is done.
A chorus of voices has emerged from the government to express disgust at the photos. German Defense Minister, Franz Josef Jung told reporters: "It is clear and unmistakable that this kind of behavior from German soldiers cannot be tolerated." He added "This behavior is diametrically opposed to the values and behavior we teach and train our soldiers in. The pictures provoke disgust and absolute incomprehension."
The photos couldn't come at a worse time. On Wednesday, the Bundestag's defense committee will discuss the case of Murat Kurnaz, the Turkish-born German resident who was released this summer from the the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay and has since accused German elite soldiers of abusing him in Afghanistan's Kandahar region. Also on Wednesday, the government announced that it is to extend its commitment to the anti-terror Operation Enduring Freedom, but that the number of German troops in Afghanistan will be reduced from 2,800 to 1,800.
Evidence that German soldiers may be participating in some of the uglier aspects of war may well increase public opposition to the keeping the troops in Afghanistan at all.
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