Likely there will be an inquiry into SAS-led Afghan raid

EDITORIAL

It seems likely that Prime Minister Bill English will this week announce an inquiry into the SAS-led raid in Afghanistan in August 2010 which appears to have caused the death of at least one civilian, a three-year-old girl called Fatima, and possibly more.

While there have been issues with some information supporting allegations made in Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s book Hit & Run, and a central claim that war crimes might have been commited seems a stretch, there is enough evidence of civilian death and injuries — contrary to repeated deniels from the Defence Force over the years — that it is incumbent on the Government to seek further investigation.

Even if it and the Defence Force don’t want to, with the involvement of three high-powered lawyers now, they face the risk of being forced to by the courts.

Any inquiry needs to be independent and should be into all aspects of the raid and its outcome, and how the Defence Force has responded to repeated allegations of civilian deaths. A further claim an insurgent was handed over to an Afghan security agency with a reputation for torture also needs investigating.

The claim the Defence Force has been involved in a deliberate cover-up is serious. Holding to the incorrect line that allegations of civilian deaths were “unfounded” rather than unconfirmed could have been an error. Looked at in light of the three years it took the NZ Herald to have it release the only review of its Afghan operations, though, it does look like our military is overly defensive and might prefer to sugar-coat than learn hard lessons.

On National Radio this morning, Mr English said he and his Defence Minister would discuss a report with advice from the Chief of the Defence Force today, and an announcement would likely be made in the next few days.

“Given the fundamental problems with the allegations, it’s unlikely to be an inquiry into war crimes,” he said.

Mr English was not concerned about the possible timing of an inquiry in the run-up to a general election, because “these are serious allegations”.

It seems likely that Prime Minister Bill English will this week announce an inquiry into the SAS-led raid in Afghanistan in August 2010 which appears to have caused the death of at least one civilian, a three-year-old girl called Fatima, and possibly more.

While there have been issues with some information supporting allegations made in Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s book Hit & Run, and a central claim that war crimes might have been commited seems a stretch, there is enough evidence of civilian death and injuries — contrary to repeated deniels from the Defence Force over the years — that it is incumbent on the Government to seek further investigation.

Even if it and the Defence Force don’t want to, with the involvement of three high-powered lawyers now, they face the risk of being forced to by the courts.

Any inquiry needs to be independent and should be into all aspects of the raid and its outcome, and how the Defence Force has responded to repeated allegations of civilian deaths. A further claim an insurgent was handed over to an Afghan security agency with a reputation for torture also needs investigating.

The claim the Defence Force has been involved in a deliberate cover-up is serious. Holding to the incorrect line that allegations of civilian deaths were “unfounded” rather than unconfirmed could have been an error. Looked at in light of the three years it took the NZ Herald to have it release the only review of its Afghan operations, though, it does look like our military is overly defensive and might prefer to sugar-coat than learn hard lessons.

On National Radio this morning, Mr English said he and his Defence Minister would discuss a report with advice from the Chief of the Defence Force today, and an announcement would likely be made in the next few days.

“Given the fundamental problems with the allegations, it’s unlikely to be an inquiry into war crimes,” he said.

Mr English was not concerned about the possible timing of an inquiry in the run-up to a general election, because “these are serious allegations”.

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Bob Hughes - 6 months ago
Sorry Jeremy, you have been proved wrong. Bill English has since said "there is no basis for an inquiry" into the claims made in the book Hit