The NZDF account of Operation Burnham has many gaps and inconsistencies. It has changed over time from civlian deaths being “unfounded” to “may have occurred, but not corroborated” (not corroborated by anyone except the Hit and Run sources and other locals that is). On civilian deaths the main fig leaf that the government and the NZDF has hidden behind has been the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) investigation. Brownlee:
“There have been several investigations including by ISAF itself and the allegations that are made simply have not been substantiated in any way whatsoever.”
This was always a terrible fig leaf. Hager, rebutting Keating:
5. An ISAF investigation has already occurred, there is no need for another inquiry: A WEAK SELF-SERVING ARGUMENT
First it is important to explain about the investigation done in August 2010 by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition headquarters, which was cited repeatedly during the NZDF press conference. In 2010 the subject of civilian deaths was very sensitive in Afghanistan and so ISAF was attempting to investigate all suspected cases of civilians being killed by ISAF forces. But these “assessments” were very far from being full or independent.
The ISAF investigation into the 22 August 2010 raid was completed in less than a week and did not involve anyone going to the area or talking to the affected villagers. It included a review of attack helicopter weapons system video and concluded that several “errant rounds”, caused by a gun sight malfunction, “may have resulted in civilian casualties”. However reports from SAS members and local people interviewed for the book describe multiple heavy attacks that wounded and killed civilians in different locations. Thus the hastily-conducted ISAF review appears far from being adequate. It is silent on most of the allegations in the book.
There is no need for New Zealand to rely on the brief and inadequate ISAF review. Most of the information needed to confirm whether or not the allegations in the book are correct is located here in New Zealand, in the SAS files. The best option is an independent inquiry where this information can be gathered and assessed.
The “report” was based on an “investigation” that didn’t involve the people affected. What a joke:
We know, thanks to a United Nations report in 2010 that ISAF never made it to the grave sites in Talah wa Barfak, let alone interviewed victims. Is the NZDF really satisfied with that report?
How would they know – turns out they haven’t even read it! Just the “executive summary”. Nor have they conducted their own investigation. David Fisher (following up last month’s NZDF evasions) reports in The Herald yesterday:
The military’s briefing to its minister on the deadly ‘Hit & Run’ raid by the NZSAS
NZDF has confirmed it has never carried out its own investigation into allegations civilians were killed during an NZSAS raid in Afghanistan.
It also received only a summary of the official inquiry that was carried out – one of the key pieces of information used by Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating to rule out any inquiry.
Receiving only a summary of a whitewash report and refusing to look further is the behaviour of an organisation with plenty to hide. Hager and Stephenson have facts, the NZDF are hiding behind a transparent fig leaf of deliberate ignorance.
He [Keating] told the Minister: “The information I have seen
(a summary of a whitewash report and curated video snippets)
clearly shows Defence Force and coalition personnel involved in the Operation taking deliberate steps to ensure the Operation was conducted in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict and the Rules of Engagement. “This includes ensuring the positive identification of individuals as lawful targets and taking all feasible precautions to minimise potential civilian casualties.”
I’m sure that all that is true, “deliberate steps” and “feasible precautions” were taken. And shit went wrong anyway and civilians died. And the NZDF doesn’t want to know, and the government doesn’t want to know. And neither of them want we the people to know.