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Australia: Afghanistan war crimes report released by Defence Chief Angus Campbell includes evidence of 39 murders by special forces

Friday 20 November 2020, by siawi3

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-19/afghanistan-war-crimes-report-igadf-paul-brereton-released/12896234

Afghanistan war crimes report released by Defence Chief Angus Campbell includes evidence of 39 murders by special forces

By political reporter Matthew Doran

Posted 10hhours ago, updated 3hhours ago

Play Video. here Duration: 3 minutes 10 seconds
Angus Campbell talks about the release of the Afghanistan war crimes report.

A culture of secrecy, fabrication and deceit has cast a heavy shadow over the legacy of the Australian special forces deployment in Afghanistan, with a landmark inquiry recommending 19 soldiers be investigated by police for the “murder” of 39 prisoners and civilians, and the cruel treatment of two others.

Key points:

The IGADF report found junior soldiers were encouraged to shoot prisoners to get their first kill
The report is highly critical of the culture among special forces, accusing troops of covering up crimes
2nd Squadron SAS will be struck off the Army’s order of battle in the wake of the findings

The long-running probe found “credible information” that 25 current or former Australian Defence Force personnel were involved in the serious crimes, either carrying out the offences or at least being “accessories” to the incidents.

The report recommends a total of 36 incidents be referred to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for criminal investigation.

Even before these matters end up in court, the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF) believes the Federal Government should pay compensation to the families of victims in Afghanistan.

The heavily redacted findings of Major General Paul Brereton’s investigation, which took four and a half years to complete, were released in Canberra today by ADF Chief Angus Campbell.

Secrets of War

A special ABC News series pulls together years of investigations and reports shedding light on allegations of serious misconduct and potential war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.
Read more

General Campbell offered an apology for “any wrongdoing by Australian soldiers”, predominately the actions of some within the elite SAS.

“It is alleged that some patrols took the law into their own hands, rules were broken, stories concocted, lies told and prisoners killed,” he said.

Major General Brereton said none of the incidents being referred to the AFP could be discounted as “disputable decisions made under pressure in the heat of battle”.

“The cases in which it has been found that there is credible information of a war crime are ones where it was, or should have been, plain that the person killed was a non-combatant,” he said.

Read the redacted IGADF report here.
Soldiers told to kill prisoners in practice known as ’blooding’

The inquiry said junior soldiers were often required by their patrol commanders to shoot prisoners to get their first kill.

This was a practice known as “blooding”.

“Typically, the patrol commander would take a person under control and the junior member, who would then be directed to kill the person under control,” Major General Brereton said.

The reckoning for alleged crimes is about to begin
Photo: Spotlight on a special forces officer pointing a gun at an Afghan man on the ground.

The soldiers of the SAS have been held up as heroes, yet a small number of them are being accused of the most heinous of crimes, including the murder of innocents, writes Mark Willacy.
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The inquiry also found evidence some Australian troops in Afghanistan carried “throwdowns” — such as weapons, radios and grenades not issued by the ADF — which would be planted next to the bodies of Afghan civilians to suggest they were a “legitimate target” in any post-incident investigations.

“This practice probably originated for the less egregious though still dishonest purpose of avoiding scrutiny where a person who was legitimately engaged turned out not to be armed,” Major General Brereton said.

“But it evolved to be used for the purpose of concealing deliberate unlawful killings.”

The inquiry interviewed 423 witnesses, and investigators pored over more than 20,000 documents and more than 25,000 images as part of the probe, investigating conduct between 2005 and 2016.
Read more:

SAS soldiers made to shoot prisoners to get their first kill, 39 civilians ’murdered’, inquiry finds
Afghanistan war crime report a nasty but necessary reckoning of a shameful recent history
What did Australian soldiers do and is anyone going to jail? What you need to know
’Warrior culture’ and ’toxic competitiveness’ a ’failure’ of unit and high command, ADF chief says
’These few people have tarnished our reputation’, former Defence Force chief says

SAS ’warrior culture’ problem called out

Major General Brereton’s report found problems with some SAS squadrons in which some troops were “not well-mentored, but were rather left to swim or sink”.

“A substantial indirect responsibility falls upon those in [the] Special Air Service Regiment who embraced or fostered the ’warrior culture’, and the clique of non-commissioned officers who propagated it,” he said.

“Special Forces operators should pride themselves on being model professional soldiers, not on being ’warrior heroes’.”

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He said investigators struggled to get information from troops during the course of their probe, saying senior officers were “frustrated by outright deceit by those who knew the truth and, not infrequently, misguided resistance to inquiries and investigations by their superiors”.

General Campbell said there had been a “misplaced focus on prestige, status and power, turning away from the [SAS] regiment’s heritage of military excellence fused with the quiet humility of service”.

“The report notes that the distorted culture was embraced and amplified by some experienced, charismatic and influential non-commissioned officers and their proteges, who sought to fuse military excellence with ego, elitism and entitlement.”

The IGADF found there were “liberal” interpretations of when troops could consider people to be “directly involved in hostilities”, and therefore able to be targeted.

“The inquiry has encountered enormous challenges in eliciting truthful disclosure in the closed, closely bonded, and highly compartmentalised Special Forces community, in which loyalty to one’s mates, immediate superiors and the unit are regarded as paramount, in which secrecy is at a premium and in which those who leak are anathema,” Major General Brereton said.

Play Video. hereDuration: 21 minutes 32 seconds
Watch General Angus Campbell’s full speech about the Afghanistan Inquiry

’We are all diminished by it’

He argued the behaviour meant ADF personnel as a whole were undermined.

“Moral authority is an element of combat power.”If we do not hold ourselves, on the battlefield, at least to standards we expect of our adversaries, we deprive ourselves of that moral authority, and that element of combat power.

“We are all diminished by it.”

General Campbell said he would be dealing, along with the Chief Of Army, with the commanders who oversaw units who allegedly committed war crimes.

Could our elite soldiers be charged with war crimes?
A graphic of a soldier with a gun.

There has long been chatter that international rules of armed conflict have been breached by Australian special forces soldiers in Afghanistan, but the prospect of criminal charges isn’t totally clear-cut.
Read more

“I am very concerned that these matters arose,” he said.

“They are incredibly damaging to an organisation and to the future of an organisation like the Australian Defence Force.”I’m leaving all options on the table and I want to work through the issue, case-by-case."

General Campbell announced the 2nd Squadron SAS would be struck off the Army’s order of battle in the wake of the findings.

He said the Chief of the Army would create a new squadron, with a new name and culture.

“These are actions that deal with a collective accountability that will not be forgotten, and the circumstances arising to lead to these outcomes will not be forgotten.”

Support services

The Defence all-hours Support Line is a confidential telephone and online service for ADF members and their families 1800 628 036
Open Arms provides 24-hour free and confidential counselling and support for current and former ADF members and their families 1800 011 046
Soldier On is a national support services provider for Defence personnel, contemporary veterans, and their families. Contact during office hours 1300 620 380

Posted 10hhours ago, updated 3hhours ago

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