Australia to discharge 13 soldiers after Afghan war crimes probe

Published November 28, 2020
Members of Australia's special forces conduct an exercise during the Australian International Airshow in Melbourne on March 2, 2011. — Reuters/File
Members of Australia's special forces conduct an exercise during the Australian International Airshow in Melbourne on March 2, 2011. — Reuters/File

SYDNEY: Australia has told 13 special forces soldiers they face dismissal in relation to a report on alleged unlawful killings in Afghanistan, the head of the country’s army said on Friday.

An independent report published last week in redacted form said there was evidence that 39 unarmed Afghan prisoners and civilians were killed by 19 Australian soldiers.

None of the 19 soldiers were identified in the report, which was written by a state judge appointed by the inspector-general of defence. The 19 current and former soldiers have been referred for possible prosecution.

Under mounting pressure, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, the head of the Australian army, said 13 current soldiers have been issued with notices that could eventually lead to their termination.

Burr did not identify any of the 13 soldiers, but said they were not part of the 19 current and former soldiers who face possible criminal charges. He said the 13 soldiers that face dismissal have two weeks to respond to the notice.

“At this time, 13 individuals have been issued administrative action notices in relation to the Afghanistan inquiry,” Burr told reporters in Canberra.

“We are all committed to learning from the inquiry and emerging from this a stronger, more capable and effective army.” Australia’s most senior military official apologised to Afghanistan last week after the release of the report.

The report into the conduct of special forces personnel in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016 said senior commandos may have forced junior soldiers to kill defenceless captives in order to “blood” them for combat. The inquiry examined more than 20,000 documents and 25,000 images, and interviewed 423 witnesses under oath.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2020

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