Australian Politics

Australian special forces allegedly committed war crimes in Afghanistan


A classified defence inquiry has reportedly found Australia's elite special forces used 'unsanctioned and illegal' violence while on missions

Members of Australia's elite special forces have been accused of committing war crimes in Afghanistan amid weak leadership and a lack of accountability, a confidential defence inquiry has found.

Sources connected to the special forces told the inquiry some soldiers made use of “unsanctioned and illegal application of violence on operations", according to Fairfax Media, which has seen the report. 

It also alleges some soldiers showed a "disregard for human life and dignity". 

Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, himself a former SASR special forces soldier who now chairs parliament's Intelligence committee, said he trusted the credibility of the journalists who obtained the report. 

"I don’t want to go into specific allegations but they should be taken seriously," Mr Hastie told ABC Radio on Friday morning. 

The inquiry was led by defence department consultant Dr Samantha Crompvoets. It was commissioned in 2016 by then Special Operations Commander Major General Jeff Sengelman. 

The report, which has never been released to the public, triggered an investigation by NSW judge Paul Brereton into the conduct of special forces soldiers in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2016. The investigation will eventually make "recommendations" to the Australian Defence Force. 

Defence Minister Marise Payne has reportedly been briefed on the Crompvoets report's contents.

Labor's shadow defence minister Richard Marles said he would seek a briefing from Ms Payne's office. 

"These are obviously deeply concerning reports," Mr Marles wrote in a media release. 

"We will also be seeking, subject to national security considerations, as much of this report as possible be brought to the public domain. Information in a report as significant as this should not be coming to light via leaks to newspapers."

Australia's special forces have led the country's war effort in Afghanistan and are made up of two key units: the Special Air Services Regiment and the Commandos. 

The inquiry reportedly found there was poor coordination between the two units, among other cultural problems.

“Some of these related to policy, process and governance failure – like loss of weapons, unacceptable WHS [Workplace Health and Safety] practices, poor audit results, injudicious and wasteful practices in resources management, less than transparent or compliant acquisition practices,” the report says, according to Fairfax Media. 

“Even more concerning were allusions to behaviour and practices involving abuse of drugs and alcohol, domestic violence, unsanctioned and illegal application of violence on operations … and the perception of a complete lack of accountability at times.”

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