BERLIN — Germany's defense minister for the first time referred to military operations in Afghanistan as a war, while he promised to investigate a friendly fire clash that left six Afghan soldiers dead.
Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg broke a government taboo on the politically charged word, preparing Germans to expect more fighting by telling reporters Sunday: "Even if not everyone likes it, regarding what happens in parts of Afghanistan, one can colloquially refer to it as war."
German politicians have stopped short of using the word to refer to military operations in Afghanistan for fear of generating even more public opposition to a mission that is already deeply unpopular.
Some 4,000 German soldiers control the relatively peaceful north of Afghanistan, and 39 German soldiers have died in Afghanistan in the last nine years. Parts of the north have recently proven more volatile.
Friendly fire clashes on Friday left six Aghan soldiers dead, the same day three German troops died and eight were wounded in heavy fighting with insurgents.