Germany’s Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbaue on Tuesday announced that she had ordered the partial dissolution of the elite Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK) commando unit. The unit has faced several recent allegations, including the discovery of missing munitions, growing internal ties to far-right extremists, and allegations they have become independent of the military’s chain of command.
Kramp-Karrenbauer told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper in a statement that the KSK had “become partially independent” from the chain of command, with a “toxic leadership culture.” She went on to add that the KSK “cannot continue to exist in its current form” and must instead be “better integrated into the Bundeswehr [German army].”
The KSK were created in 1996 to form a more military and internationally focused version of Germany’s domestically focused Grenzschutzgruppe 9 (GSG 9), which is an elite police force created in response to the 1972 Munich Olympic tragedy. The group specializes in anti-terrorism and hostage rescues operations in hostile territory. The group’s operations are classified, but they have been confirmed to have been involved in Kosovo, Bosnia, and prominently in Afghanistan. They are sometimes referred to as the German equivalent of the British SAS or US Navy Seals.
The allegations of extremist trends within the KSK date back to 2017 when KSK members threw a farewell party for a commander that allegedly included right-wing rock music, throwing pig heads, and several members performing Nazi salutes. That incident was investigated, and several members where suspended and discharged. In the same year, there were also allegations that members of KSK were part of those arrested in an attempt to organize an assassination plot, titled Day X, targeting leftist politicians with the intent to blame the attack on migrants in the country.
In January, Germany’s Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) published a report revealing that it was investigating 550 soldiers for suspected ties to far-right extremist activities. Mad also noted that “20 of the suspected right-wing extremism cases currently being processed were within the KSK, which, in relation to the number of personnel, was five times as many as in the rest of the Bundeswehr.”
Finally, in May of this year, German police found military weapons and explosives at the home of a KSK soldier with far-right ties. This prompted Kramp-Karrenbaue to set up an investigation to examine the ongoing allegations of ties to far-right groups within the Bundeswehr at large and specifically within the KSK. The group presented a report on its findings on Tuesday with several suggestions.
The report stated that one of the KSK’s four companies, the one with the most extremist ties, will be completely dissolved and not replaced. The KSK’s current operations will be moved to other units where possible. The group has also been ordered not to take part in any international exercises and missions until further notice. The KSK’s Chief Commander Markus Kreitmay, who has been in that post since 2018, is expected to remain in place, as he is widely regarded as a successful advocate for reform within the unit.
The report also found that approximately 48,000 rounds of ammunition and 62kg (137lb) of explosives are missing from the unit, which Kramp-Karrenbauer noted was both “disturbing” and “alarming.” An internal investigation has already been launched to determine if the items were stolen, lost, or merely a result of poor recordkeeping. Further recommendations are expected to be announced in the coming days, but so far the Defense Minister has stressed that, despite considering dissolving the unit, the current plan is for it to instead be restructured and to continue to exist in some form.