Evidence Australian troops ‘unlawfully killed’ 39 Afghans

Evidence Australian troops ‘unlawfully killed’ 39 Afghans
An honor guard at Defense HQ ahead of the release of the Australian Defense Force (ADF) findings from the Inspector-General of the ADF Afghanistan Inquiry, Canberra, Nov. 19, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 19 November 2020

Evidence Australian troops ‘unlawfully killed’ 39 Afghans

Evidence Australian troops ‘unlawfully killed’ 39 Afghans
  • Chief of the Defense Force General Angus Campbell: ‘Some patrols took the law into their own hands, rules were broken, stories concocted, lies told and prisoners killed’
  • Campbell ‘sincerely and unreservedly’ apologized to the people of Afghanistan and said the 25 special forces accused of wrongdoing in 23 incidents had brought a ‘stain’ on their regiment

CANBERRA: Australia’s top military officer on Thursday admitted there was credible evidence his special forces unlawfully killed at least 39 Afghanistan civilians and prisoners, recommending the matter be taken up by a prosecutor investigating alleged war crimes.
“Some patrols took the law into their own hands, rules were broken, stories concocted, lies told and prisoners killed,” said Chief of the Defense Force General Angus Campbell.
His comments came as the result of a damning years-long investigation into the military’s behavior in Afghanistan were published.
Campbell “sincerely and unreservedly” apologized to the people of Afghanistan and said the 25 Australian special forces accused of wrongdoing in 23 incidents had brought a “stain” on their regiment, on the armed forces and on Australia.
“This shameful record includes alleged instances in which new patrol members were coerced to shoot a prisoner in order to achieve that soldier’s first kill, in an appalling practice known as ‘blooding’.”
Campbell called for some distinguished service medals awarded to special operations forces who served in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013 to be revoked.
After the September 11, 2001 terror attacks more than 26,000 Australian uniformed personnel were sent to Afghanistan to fight alongside US and allied forces against the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups.
Australian combat troops left the country in 2013, but since then a series of often-brutal accounts have emerged about the conduct of elite special forces units.
They range from reports of troops killing a six-year-old child in a house raid to a prisoner being shot dead to save space in a helicopter.
The military has long been revered in Australia, and its campaigns — from Gallipoli to Kokoda — have played a crucial role in fostering the country’s identity as independent of colonial power Britain.
Australia’s government attempted to cushion the blow of the report, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison telling Australians last week to brace for the “honest and brutal truths” contained within the redacted document.
Morrison also called his Afghan counterpart Wednesday to foreshadow “some disturbing allegations” that the government was taking “very seriously.”
The office of President Ashraf Ghani had a different interpretation of the conversation — saying in a series of tweets that Morrison had “expressed his deepest sorrow over the misconduct” — a characterization that was strongly disputed by Australian officials.
Last week Morrison announced the appointment of a special investigator to prosecute the alleged war crimes, a move aimed at forestalling any prosecution at the International Criminal Court.
An independent panel was also set up to drive cultural and leadership changes within the armed forces.
Australia’s government had previously spent years trying to suppress whistleblower reports of the alleged wrongdoing, with police even investigating reporters involved in bringing those accounts into the light.
The matter first came to public attention in 2017 when public broadcaster ABC published the so-called “Afghan files,” which alleged Australian troops had killed unarmed men and children in Afghanistan.
In response, Australian police launched an investigation into two ABC reporters for obtaining classified information — even raiding the broadcaster’s Sydney headquarters last year, before dropping the case.


Germany wants broader Iran nuclear deal

Updated 54 min 39 sec ago

Germany wants broader Iran nuclear deal

Germany wants broader Iran nuclear deal
  • Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has rejected talk of reopening the 2015 deal

BERLIN: Germany said Friday that a new broader Iran nuclear accord must be reached to also rein in Tehran’s ballistic missile program, warning that the 2015 deal was no longer enough.
“A form of ‘nuclear agreement plus’ is needed, which also lies in our interest,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, told Spiegel magazine in an interview.
“We have clear expectations for Iran: no nuclear weapons, but also no ballistic rocket program which threatens the whole region. Iran must also play another role in the region.”
“We need this accord because we distrust Iran,” he added.
The 2015 nuclear deal — known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA — gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
The European Union and the United States were key signatories in the deal but US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 and has reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign.
President-elect Joe Biden has signalled that Washington could rejoin the deal as a starting point for follow-on negotiations if Iran returned to compliance.
But Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has rejected talk of reopening the 2015 deal, saying on Thursday: “We will not renegotiate a deal which we negotiated.”
He added that Western powers should look to their own behavior before criticizing Iran.
He also complained at what he characterised as a lack of European outrage at the assassination of one of Iran’s leading nuclear scientists, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, outside Tehran last week — an attack Tehran has blamed on Israel.
Decades old US-Iranian tensions dramatically escalated after Trump walked out of the deal.
In recent months, alarm has also grown over Iran’s regional activities through proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, which the West says destabilizes the region.