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Germany Disbands Elite Army Unit With ‘Toxic Leadership Culture’ Amid Far-Right Sympathy Uptick

Germany’s defense minister revealed on Wednesday that a unit of the Kommando Spezialkraefte (KSK), the country’s elite commando force, would be disbanded. The dissolution follows a report published in January revealing that hundreds of soldiers may embody far-right extremist ideologies.

On Wednesday, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that the KSK, an anti-terrorism and hostage rescue unit with roughly 1,300 soldiers, had created “a wall of secrecy” around itself and that the force has a “toxic leadership culture” that “cannot continue to exist in its present form,” NPR reported.

Kramp-Karrenbauer also confirmed that some of the 70 soldiers from the disbanded force would be reassigned to other combat companies while “those who made clear they are part of the problem and not part of the solution must leave the KSK,” military.com reported.

“We will give the KSK time to press the reset button,” she added, although she also noted that “we need the KSK.”

“The vast majority of the men and women in the KSK and in the Bundeswehr, or German military, as a whole are loyal to our constitution, with no ifs or buts,” she added.

On Wednesday, Gen. Eberhard Zorn, inspector general of the armed forces, also revealed that around 48,000 rounds of ammunition and 62 kilograms worth of explosives had gone missing from the special forces, which had raised additional concern among officials.

Kramp-Karrenbauer’s announcement also comes six weeks after investigators found Nazi memorabilia and stolen ammunition and explosives on the property of a KSK seargeant major who had served since 2001. 

A January report by Germany’s Military Counterintelligence Service revealed that around 500 soldiers in the German military were being investigated for right-far extremism; 20 were linked to the KSK.

“We are currently dealing with around 20 suspected cases of right-wing extremism in the KSK alone while at the beginning of 2019, there were half as many,” head of the Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) Christof Gramm said in January.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Gramm revealed that elite units can get big heads about their status.

“Elite units such as these have cultural factors that may develop into susceptibilities,” Gramm noted. “For example if there is a misguided sense of tolerance.” 

“The soldiers have an elitist self-confidence. They have special capabilities and skills and a well-developed sense of loyalty. Such a mind-set can involve risks,” he added.

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