Elite Australian troops “unlawfully” killed 39 Afghan civilians according to an Australian military war crime report. Angus Campbell, Australian Defence Force chief general said the new patrol members allegedly would shoot prisoners in order to experience their first kill in a practice called “blooding” beginning in 2009. According to Campbell soldiers planted weapons and radios to frame prisoners as enemies supporting false claims that the prisoners were killed in action. General Campbell “sincerely and unreservedly” apologised to the people of Afghanistan on behalf of the 25 special forces accused of 23 incidents.
“Some patrols took the law into their own hands, rules were broken, stories concocted, lies told and prisoners killed,” Campbell said.
Campbell revealed that some Special Air Service troops encouraged “a self-centered, warrior culture” with “illegal” killings beginning in 2009, then a majority of “illegal” killings happening in 2012 and 2013. The report recommended 19 soldiers to be investigated for possible charges including murder. The findings were from a 4 year investigation by Judge Paul Brereton who was requested to investigate allegations and interviewed over 400 witnesses and reviewed thousands of document pages. Parts of the 531-page report were redacted due to classified information or material that could compromise future criminal proceedings. Some distinguished service medals awarded to special operations forces in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013 were called to be revoked by Campbell.
Campbell said, “To the people of Afghanistan, on behalf of the Australian Defence Force, I sincerely and unreservedly apologise for any wrongdoing by Australian soldiers”
Australian Defence Force chief general Angus Campbell’s Press Conference Speech
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks more than 26,000 Australian personnel were sent to Afghanistan to fight alongside US and allies against the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other groups. Combat troops from Australia left Afghanistan in 2013 but brutal accounts of misconduct have emerged since including reports of troops killing a prisoner to make space in a helicopter to killing a 6 year old child in a house raid. Mr. Campbell said he had spoken with his Afghan military counterpart expressing his remorse.
“Such alleged behaviour profoundly disrespected the trust placed in us by the Afghan people who had asked us to their country to help them,” Mr Campbell said.
“It would have devastated the lives of Afghan families and communities, causing immeasurable pain and suffering. And it would have put in jeopardy our mission and the safety of our Afghan and coalition partners.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Australians last week to brace for the “honest and brutal truths” contained within the redacted document. An independent panel was also established to drive cultural changes within the Australian armed forces. Allegedly, Australia’s government had previously spent years trying to suppress whistle-blower reports of the alleged wrongdoing, with police investigating reporters who attempted to bring these accounts into the public sphere. In 2017, ABC published the “Afghan files” which alleged that Australian troops had killed unarmed Afghan men and children. An investigation into ABC reporters for obtaining classified information led to a raid on their Sydney headquarters last year but the case was dropped.