German general fears a bloodbath
By Toby Helm in Berlin
THE head of the German equivalent of the SAS has angered senior Nato officers by predicting a "bloodbath" if special forces from allied nations move into Afghanistan to try to hunt down Osama bin Laden.
In a deliberate call for caution, Brig Gen Reinhard Gunzel, who commands the elite Kommando Spezialkrafte (KSK), said success would be "almost impossible" without severe and unacceptable losses to his special troops and those of other allied nations.
Even if such a combined force did find bin Laden, this would not mean victory, he said. "Behind him stand so many fanatic followers that another one would immediately replace him."
The 57-year-old brigadier general added: "Special forces would come lightly armed and unprotected. There would be a bloodbath. No special unit in the western world could agree to such an action."
The Brig Gen insisted that troops with a "western philosophy" and a will not to die would have "little chance against men who are willing to give their lives in a fight".
His remarks were first published, with his full consent, on the internet by Spiegel Online news service on Friday as rumours spread through Germany that some KSK troops were about to be dispatched to within striking distance of Afghanistan.
Last night, a spokesman for the German ministry of defence confirmed that Brig Gen Gunzel had authorised the interview, but declined to comment further. Officials inside the ministry made clear, however, that the comments had shocked and angered fellow defence chiefs.