Author Topic: Inspector General of Australian Defence Forces Report on Afghan War Crimes  (Read 2146 times)

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Offline FJAG

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The Australian IGADF Report on war crimes committed by Australian troops in Afghanistan is complete after four years of investigation.

There's a good backgrounder on it here.

Apparently:

Quote
Detailing the findings, General Angus John Campbell said the investigation found evidence that 25 members of the Australian special forces had killed prisoners, farmers or other civilians.

The report “found there to be credible information to substantiate 23 incidents of alleged unlawful killing of 39 people by 25 Australian special forces personnel predominantly from the Special Air Service Regiment,” Campbell told reporters.

See here.

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Offline Dimsum

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Offline Brihard

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Jesus. Some sons of bitches need to go to jail.

How many allied soldiers died in attacks motivated by reprisal for these atrocities?
+300
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Offline FJAG

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Chief of Defence Force apology.  Full transcript and video in link.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-19/defence-chief-angus-campbell-afghanistan-apology-transcript/12899854

Thanks for that. The article contains a link to the government's site of the redacted report which, for convenience, is here.

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Offline CloudCover

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This in particular has to sting: "With this in mind, I have accepted the Inspector-General's recommendation, and will again write to the Governor-General, requesting he revoke the Meritorious Unit Citation awarded to Special Operations Task Group rotations serving in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013."

is there a precedent for that? 
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Offline MilEME09

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Holy Jesus this makes Somalia look like peanuts, I only hope charges follow.
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Chief of Defence Force apology.  Full transcript and video in link.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-19/defence-chief-angus-campbell-afghanistan-apology-transcript/12899854
Transcript of the news conference here.

Wow .....
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Offline Dimsum

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More here: https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/afghanistan-war-crimes-report-released-by-defence-chief-angus-campbell-includes-evidence-of-39-murders-by-special-forces/ar-BB1b9bfz?ocid=msedgntp&fbclid=IwAR3S1sd1ABW82jmcIQmhLBWH73EB_JS05FewDCibf_9NKJe7Bu9L8PdWQ9k

2 Squadron disbanded, to be replaced by new Squadron, with a new name and new culture.

To be honest, after what has come out from the report and conference, I'm surprised only one sqn of the SASR was struck (and even then, reformed) when the CAR was completely disbanded after Somalia.  From Wiki, SASR has the following (notes in square brackets added by me):

Regimental headquarters
1 Squadron
2 Squadron [obviously no longer]
3 Squadron
4 Squadron
[X Squadron]
Specialist Support Squadron
Operational Support Squadron
152 Signal Squadron
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Offline daftandbarmy

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Nice to have a billionaire in your corner:


Kerry Stokes promises to stand by SAS

Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes wants to help members of the Special Air Service Regiment accused of war crimes, their families, and other members of the elite military unit through a special fund he helped establish, according to his spokesman.

Mr Stokes also plans to donate the Victoria Cross and other medals awarded to former SAS corporal Ben Roberts-Smith to the Australian War Memorial if Mr Roberts-Smith is unable to repay a loan to the media billionaire.

Mr Stokes is chairman of the memorial in Canberra.

Mr Stokes has agreed to cover Mr Roberts-Smith's legal costs in a defamation lawsuit he has initiated over articles accusing him of committing war crimes.

"The funding of his legal action is a private matter, however he has put his medals up as collateral on a loan and will relinquish them if required," Mr Stokes said.

"If this eventuates, I will donate his medals with Ben’s approval to the Australian War Memorial, as I have done so with other VCs and medals in the past."

The line of credit was first reported by The Australian Financial Review's Rear Window column on Monday. One source said it was worth about $1 million.

In addition to the Australian Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery, Mr Roberts-Smith holds the Medal for Gallantry and a commendation for distinguished service.

The Victoria Cross was awarded for a battle in June 2010 in Kandahar Province when he put himself in the line of fire to allow other members of his patrol to get into a better position. He then stormed the enemy and killed two machine gunners.

Mr Stokes has a long connection to the SAS, which is based in his home town of Perth. He was a co-founder of the SAS Resources Fund, set up in 1996 following a night-time helicopter collision near Townsville that killed and injured 15 members of the unit and three from the Army Aviation Regiment.

In 2012, mining entrepreneur Andrew Forrest joined the board of the fund, which provides financial assistance to serving soldiers and their families, and ex-members of the regiment and their dependants when they suffer financial hardship, according to its website.

A spokesman for Mr Stokes said the fund may be used to support current and former members of the SAS during an investigation by a special prosecutorial unit in the Department of Home Affairs into the allegations that Australian soldiers executed 39 prisoners and civilians in Afghanistan during the war there.

He said the assistance could include help for legal and other costs, including mental health treatment, although the decision would have to be made by the fund, which is not controlled by Mr Stokes.

"He supports all SAS soldiers, not just Ben," spokesman Tim Allerton said. "It's the whole SAS community."

Mr Roberts-Smith is an executive for Channel 7 in Brisbane. He is suing Nine, which owns The Australian Financial Review, for reports in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald about his service in Afghanistan.

The chief of the Defence Force, Angus Campbell, said on Thursday that the Second Squadron of the SAS would be abolished and its name retired following the allegations.

Ben Roberts-Smith owes Kerry Stokes $1.9m

The head of the army, Lietenant General Richard Burr, was present at the SAS base in Perth on Thursday morning. He commanded the regiment in 2003 and 2004.

The identities of the 19 Australian soldiers accused of war crimes were redacted in the report, although General Campbell said their military honours could be revoked.

Mr Roberts-Smith's official biography states that he was a member of the SAS Second Squadron.

Legal process

Any convictions could take years. Testimony provided by some 423 witnesses to the investigation is not admissible in court, and there is no certainty the tightly-knit special forces units will turn on each other in public trials.

There is also the possibility of future political interference. British governments obstructed investigations and prosecutions of war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to Human Rights Watch, a lobby group.

A six-year British investigation into the behaviour of military special forces in the Afghan war closed in 2020 without charging any servicemen, it said.

"Canberra needs to learn lessons from the UK's failed efforts to prosecute soldiers implicated in war crimes in Iraq," said Elaine Pearson, the director of Human Rights Watch in Australia.

Even the Australian investigators seem to appreciate that prosecutions may be difficult to achieve, citing problems in other Western nations that fought in the war.

"Even where the evidence is apparently strong and clear, pitfalls have been encountered, both political and popular," the report said. "It is predictable that Australian prosecutions could encounter similar obstacles.”

https://www.afr.com/work-and-careers/leaders/kerry-stokes-promises-to-stand-by-sas-20201119-p56g48
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Offline Dimsum

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Andrew Hastie, former SASR officer and current Liberal (equiv to our Conservative) MP, speaks out:

Quote
My Reflections on the Afghanistan Inquiry

[snip]...Like all of us, I am grieved by the findings of the Brereton Report, handed down by the Chief of the Defence Force. There is much to be troubled by: the report details credible information regarding allegations of unlawful killings by Australian soldiers. Specifically, 23 incidents of alleged unlawful killings of 39 people, perpetrated by 25 Australian Special Forces soldiers, mainly from the Special Air Service Regiment.

The report is hard reading. It is comprehensive, detailed and unsparing in its judgement on those alleged to have committed war crimes. As a former officer of the SASR and someone who believes in Regimental honour, I feel great shame in what has occurred. We were sent to Afghanistan in a double trust—to defend Australia’s values and interests by force, but also to uphold those values in our battlefield conduct. Many good soldiers honoured that trust; a small number of soldiers did not.

Many people want to know: how did this happen? Here are some personal observations on the Brereton Inquiry that are shaped by five years of service in SASR and five years as a Member of the Federal Parliament.

[rest on link]

https://www.andrewhastie.com.au/the_afghanistan_inquiry?fbclid=IwAR3rJk3SuNn8sbxqp2nT6dGvRWJ_M8O_Msj7ClrZlMz9sNP7ZBf37v2-aD4
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Offline FJAG

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Let the piling on begin:

Quote
Australia's entire SAS regiment must be disbanded after Brereton report, expert says
Failure to take strong steps could drive terror-recruiting and undermine future Australian counter-insurgency efforts

Christopher Knaus

An international security specialist has argued the entire Special Air Service regiment must be disbanded after the Brereton report, saying its continued existence will drive terror-recruiting campaigns and undermine future Australian counter-insurgency efforts.

Dr Allan Orr, an expert in counter-insurgency who served as a consultant to the Coalition Counter-Insurgency Academy in Iraq during the war, says the failure to take strong steps in response to the Brereton inquiry would also risk placing Australian soldiers in heightened danger during future operations in Muslim nations, and undermine Australia’s standing at international bodies such as the United Nations.

Counter-insurgency campaigns depend heavily on establishing legitimacy and winning over local populations.

But Orr says the continued existence of the SAS – given the public allegations of dozens of unlawful killings of Afghan civilians – would make that objective extremely difficult.

“You’ve lost the next small war before it starts,” Orr told the Guardian. “Counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism campaigns are a case of politics divided by force. Not disbanding will see Australian forces losing the next small war before the first shot is fired and they will structurally compromise the entire political effort of the next coalition by just being there.”

Disbandment, while a radical step, has been used elsewhere. In Canada, the elite Airborne Regiment was disbanded in 1995, following the so-called “Somalia affair”, during which troops were accused of the torture and murder of a Somali teenager.

Orr is not the only expert to argue for a similar move in Australia. Christopher Elliott, a researcher with the defence studies department at King’s College London, argued in the Conversation that Australia’s special forces are “not salvageable, at least in their current structure”.

So far, the Australian government has committed to disbanding SAS’s 2 squadron and removing the meritorious unit citation from all special forces who served in Afghanistan.

Those moves were enough to prompt anger and resentment among special forces ranks, who felt as though senior command were escaping punishment and contradicting their own public statements that the majority of special forces were beyond reproach.

The defence chief, Angus Campbell, said he had considered disbanding the entire regiment after the Brereton report but decided against it.

“But we believe very strongly that the path forward for developing that regiment and Australia’s special operations capability is by committing to building and working with the people to see a better organisation emerge,” he said.

Braden Chapman, the signals intelligence officer turned whistleblower who helped expose alleged war crimes, does not think the SAS should be disbanded.

“[The SAS] still serve a purpose … if they move back to how they were, concentrating on their original purpose, it would be much more helpful than that direct action role that they’ve been doing for 18 years,” Chapman told the ABC.

But Orr argues disbanding 2 squadron is not only “completely disingenuous” but sends the wrong message.

“Disbanding a squadron also places blame on the enlisted ranks firmly,” he said. “Disbanding the entire regiment would be the officer corp taking responsibility also, but of course we see now rampantly that wasn’t ever an option.”

He said the failure to disband also sends a wider message to the international community.

“It pushes Australia out of the international leadership system with blatant hypocrisy (democracy as we say not as we do),” Orr said. “We may as well quit the UN because it’s clear you hold your troops to Blackwater levels of accountability and now have the same human-rights power indices as Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Russia.

“Basically you are tier two now on the global stage. It also sends the message that the army is uncontrollable and unaccountable, determines its own justice.”

Orr says the continued existence of the SASR also risks breeding domestic terrorism “like nothing has before”.

“This shows, for those susceptible to radicalisation, proof positive that ‘white men’ have two sets of rules and that it’s OK to kill non-western peoples,” he said.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/nov/25/australias-entire-sas-regiment-must-be-disbanded-after-brereton-report-expert-says

Sounds a bit shrill to me.

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Offline Brihard

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Let the piling on begin:

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/nov/25/australias-entire-sas-regiment-must-be-disbanded-after-brereton-report-expert-says

Sounds a bit shrill to me.

 :cheers:

Indeed. One way or another they're still going to need a ski team, and they don't get to just knit a new one out of balls of yarn. The same operations will have to be conducted by most of the same operators, regardless of what label is slapped on them.

There absolutely does need to be some higher command accountability on this though. They're can't stop this at the level of NCOs and platoon commanders.
Pacificsm is doctrine fostered by a delusional minority and by the media, which holds forth the proposition it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

Offline daftandbarmy

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Indeed. One way or another they're still going to need a ski team, and they don't get to just knit a new one out of balls of yarn. The same operations will have to be conducted by most of the same operators, regardless of what label is slapped on them.

There absolutely does need to be some higher command accountability on this though. They're can't stop this at the level of NCOs and platoon commanders.

You mean, like we did with the Somalia Inquiry? Oh wait....
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Offline dapaterson

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Indeed. One way or another they're still going to need a ski team, and they don't get to just knit a new one out of balls of yarn. The same operations will have to be conducted by most of the same operators, regardless of what label is slapped on them.

There absolutely does need to be some higher command accountability on this though. They're can't stop this at the level of NCOs and platoon commanders.

Brown and Boland might want to disagree.
Putting the *** in acerbic.

Offline Weinie

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Brown and Boland might want to disagree.

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Offline Brihard

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I'm speaking to what ought to be the case, not how we shat that particular bed a few decades back...

I still personally hold to 'you can delegate responsibility but you cannot delegate accountability'. But then I'm back at the bottom again these days and don't delegate anything, so what do I know?
Pacificsm is doctrine fostered by a delusional minority and by the media, which holds forth the proposition it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

Offline FJAG

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Indeed. One way or another they're still going to need a ski team, and they don't get to just knit a new one out of balls of yarn. The same operations will have to be conducted by most of the same operators, regardless of what label is slapped on them.

You're absolutely right about that. When I look at the Canada situation I have to say that I never really understood the concept behind the Canadian Airborne Regiment while I consider the development of JTF2 and the CSOR into what they are today as a good step forward out of the ashes.

Harder to do in Australia because the SASR and 2 CdoRegt already fill pretty much the same high end roles. I'm not sure how you would even want to reorganize them other than to remove certain leadership elements and try to rebuild the culture. Obviously that won't solve the problems that Orr predicts. Haters will be haters and regardless of what you do there will be a taint on any organization that follows on.

That's my biggest problem with Orr's article. He offers no viable alternative. Disband the SASR and then ... what? Create a new unit called ... what? Man it with ... who?

There absolutely does need to be some higher command accountability on this though. They're can't stop this at the level of NCOs and platoon commanders.

Agreed. This from pages 471-2 of the Report with respect to "Command and Collective Responsibility":

Quote
 The criminal behaviour described in this Report was conceived, committed, continued, and concealed at patrol commander level, and it is overwhelmingly at that level that responsibility resides.

 There is credible information that during SOTG Rotation , believed that his troop was carrying throwdowns, at least for the purpose of fabricating incriminating evidence to justify the detention and prosecution of local nationals in respect of whom there would otherwise have been insufficient evidence, and took no step to prevent or prohibit that practice.

 There is no credible information that any troop/platoon, squadron/company or SOTG commander knew that, or was recklessly indifferent as to whether, subordinates were committing war crimes.

 There is no credible information of a failure by any troop/platoon, squadron/company or SOTG commander to take reasonable and practical steps that would have prevented or discovered the commission of the war crimes referred to in this Report.

 However, SOTG troop, squadron and task group Commanders bear moral command responsibility and accountability for what happened under their command and control.

 That responsibility and accountability does not extend to higher headquarters, including in particular HQ JTF 633 and HQ Joint Operations Command, who did not have a sufficient degree of command and control to attract the principle of command responsibility.

Commanding Officers of SASR during the relevant period bear significant responsibility for contributing to the environment in which war crimes were committed, most notably those who embraced or fostered the ‘warrior culture’ and empowered, or did not restrain, the clique of NCOs who propagated it.

 That responsibility is to some extent shared by those who, in misconceived loyalty to their Regiment, or their mates, have not been prepared to ‘call out’ criminal conduct or, even to this day, decline to accept that it occurred in the face of incontrovertible evidence, or seek to offer obscure and unconvincing justifications and mitigations for it.

In short there is no evidence of any actual knowledge or collusion in the criminal activities by higher ranks but there is clearly culpability as to the fostering of the cultural environment that allowed this to happen. It will be very interesting to see how that particular aspect of the issue will be dealt with especially considering the Chief of Army commanded the SASR in 2003-4 and the current Chief of Defence Force was an SASR Squadron commander and commanded JTF633 during 2011-12.

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Offline Weinie

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I'm speaking to what ought to be the case, not how we shat that particular bed a few decades back...

I still personally hold to 'you can delegate responsibility but you cannot delegate accountability'. But then I'm back at the bottom again these days and don't delegate anything, so what do I know?

I agree. But I have 4 kids ages 14,12, 9 and 3. My three year occasionally still pisses the bed; he feels really bad about it and understands that it is not accepted. Occasionally at his daycare he does the same thing.

For systemic, enduring faults, the accountability rests with the higher ups. When the kids occasionally piss themselves, don't blame the parents.
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Offline Brihard

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I agree. But I have 4 kids ages 14,12, 9 and 3. My three year occasionally still pisses the bed; he feels really bad about it and understands that it is not accepted. Occasionally at his daycare he does the same thing.

For systemic, enduring faults, the accountability rests with the higher ups. When the kids occasionally piss themselves, don't blame the parents.

If only the case at hand could be called an 'occasional' problem... Sadly it looks like it was much more systemic than that.
Pacificsm is doctrine fostered by a delusional minority and by the media, which holds forth the proposition it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

Offline Weinie

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OK. I don't want to conflate Somalia and alleged SAS misdeeds in Afghanistan.
“In the absence of orders, go find something and kill it.”
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Offline Good2Golf

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Let the piling on begin:

But Orr argues disbanding 2 squadron is not only “completely disingenuous” but sends the wrong message.

Quote
“Disbanding a squadron also places blame on the enlisted ranks firmly,” he said. “Disbanding the entire regiment would be the officer corp taking responsibility also, but of course we see now rampantly that wasn’t ever an option.”

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/nov/25/australias-entire-sas-regiment-must-be-disbanded-after-brereton-report-expert-says

Sounds a bit shrill to me.

 :cheers:

I don’t understand Orr’s 2 Squadron comment?

Is 2 Sqn run by NCMs only?  How does deactivating one of four squadrons bias against NCMs? ???

Regards
G2G

Offline daftandbarmy

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https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/nov/25/australias-entire-sas-regiment-must-be-disbanded-after-brereton-report-expert-says

Sounds a bit shrill to me.

 :cheers:


I don’t understand Orr’s 2 Squadron comment?

Is 2 Sqn run by NCMs only?  How does deactivating one of four squadrons bias against NCMs? ???

Regards
G2G

The right answer is probably something like: you don't get rid of deep and dangerous performance issues by disbanding organizations. You get rid of them through good leadership.


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Offline Dimsum

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I don%u2019t understand Orr%u2019s 2 Squadron comment?

Is 2 Sqn run by NCMs only?  How does deactivating one of four squadrons bias against NCMs? ???

Regards
G2G

I don't believe it is - there was another article saying that the Chief of Army (or the Chief of Defence Force) was a former 2 Sqn officer years ago.



Also, some SAS folks are potentially facing dismissal:

Quote
Defence starts dismissing SAS soldiers in wake of Afghanistan war crimes inquiry

At least 10 current members of the elite Special Air Service Regiment implicated in the damning Afghanistan war crimes inquiry have received "show cause" notices from the Defence Department.

The ABC can reveal Defence "initiated administrative action" against serving Special Forces members within days of last week's landmark Brereton war crimes report being made public.

Defence sources have told the ABC the elite soldiers facing possible expulsion are members of the SAS's now disbanded 2 Squadron as well as the Regiment's 3 Squadron.

Other Special Forces members may eventually be discharged or face a range of disciplinary sanctions, including formal warnings.

[rest on link]

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-26/defence-dismissing-sas-soldiers-accused-war-crimes-afghanistan/12920946
« Last Edit: November 26, 2020, 09:54:39 by Dimsum »
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Offline Good2Golf

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I don't believe it is - there was another article saying that the Chief of Army (or the Chief of Defence Force) was a former 2 Sqn officer years ago.



Also, some SAS folks are potentially facing dismissal:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-26/defence-dismissing-sas-soldiers-accused-war-crimes-afghanistan/12920946

I attributed it to Professor Orr’s mal-comprehension of the organization...