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Damning report alleges war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan

Australian special forces deployed in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016 were involved in the unlawful killing of 39 prisoners and civilians and the cruel treatment of two other individuals, according to a report by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) released on 19 November by ADF chief General Angus Campbell.

The investigation, carried out over four years by Major-General Paul Brereton, who is also a judge in the New South Wales Supreme Court, canvassed alleged war crimes committed by members of the Australian Special Air Services Regiment (SAS) and 2nd Commando Regiment during that time.

The heavily redacted report referred to “credible information” on 23 incidents, some of which involved a single victim. These incidents involved a total of 39 individuals killed, a further two cruelly treated, and a total of 25 current or former ADF personnel who were perpetrators, either as principals or accessories. Most of the perpetrators were involved in single incidents, but a few others were linked to several of them.

The report recommended that a total of 36 incidents involving ADF special forces be referred to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for criminal investigation, pointing out that none of these incidents could be discounted as “disputable decisions made under pressure in the heat of battle”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison telephoned Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani prior to the release of the report to extend his apologies, as did Gen Campbell to his Afghan counterpart General Yasin Zia.

Credible information indicated that junior soldiers had been required by their patrol commanders to shoot a prisoner to achieve their first kill in a practice known as “blooding”, the report stated.

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