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Impunity and Carefree Violence: Australia’s Special Forces in Afghanistan

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Submitted by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

In 2016, Australian Major General Jeff Sengelman approached the then chief of the Australian army Lieutenant General Angus Campbell with a nagging worry. The concern lay in allegations that Australian special forces had committed various war crimes in Afghanistan.  Sengelman was then special forces commander; Campbell was chief of the army.  Sociologist Samantha Crompvoets was duly commissioned to write a report on “Special Operations Command Culture interactions”.  It was leaked in 2018, and claimed that Australia’s special forces had engaged in the “unsanctioned and illegal application of violence on operations” aided by a timorous leadership and perception of impunity.

Campbell duly tasked the inspector-general of the Australian Defence Force, James Gaynor, with the role of investigating war crimes allegations connected with the Special Operations Task Group during stints in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016.  Paul Brereton, a New South Wales Supreme Court judge and major general in the Army Reserve, was given the task of leading the inquiry.  For four years, it has been conducted under conditions of utmost secrecy.  The instrument directing the inquiry, and the terms of reference of the inquiry, remain unpublished.

The report is expected to be completed by year’s end, though some preparations for softening the blow are already being made.  The IGADF annual report  of 2018-9, tabled in parliament in February, at least alludes to the fact that more than 338 witnesses have been examined since March 2016, noting “55 separate incidents or issues under inquiry covering a range of alleged breaches of the Law of Armed Conflict, predominantly unlawful killings of persons who were non-combatants or were no longer combatants, but also ‘cruel treatment’ of such persons.”  Exclusions are already clear: decisions made during the “heat of battle,” for instance, are of no concern.  Focus, instead, “is on the treatment of persons who were clearly non-combatants or who were no longer combatants.”

In an interview with journalist Stan Grant in an online conference series, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds was not optimistic about what would be unearthed.  “I think that will make some very significant findings, ones that I’m certain will make Australians uncomfortable and also dismayed at.  So, I think we do need to prepare ourselves for that.”  While she had not seen the report, she felt that there was enough to be troubled by, though “that in no way reflects on our current serving men and women both here and overseas who are doing an extraordinary job for your nation.”

The Senator is keen to push the point that things have improved since those dark days.  Army Commander Lieutenant General Rick Burr also made the point in a note to Australia’s soldiers that, “This is not who we are and not what we stand for.” He seemed to show some fondness for the bad apple theory, “concerned about the impact of those findings on those of you who served in Afghanistan and other operations and who served as professionals with pride and integrity.  You did the right thing.”

The ADF establishment has been particularly concerned with what is seen as the isolation of the special unit arm from the rest of the army.  Over the course of 20 rotations over 11 years in Afghanistan, “catastrophic and cultural shortfalls” have been identified within the Special Operations Command.  The Special Air Service Regiment and commandos have also been at each other’s throats in what can only be described as competitive viciousness.

Lying behind such lines of inquiry is a policy of containment: the idea that atrocities can be stemmed, cordoned off, and identified as the work of a few rotters within a rotten culture.  Identify the culture and its advocates; neutralise them.  Burr is confident that this has already taken place, using the insufferable language of organisational management in describing “substantial cultural and professional transformation.”  The question as to why such outfits should be deployed in the first place is never asked, leaving politicians and commanders immune and smug from the horrors of war and the stupidities of armchair planning.

While the IGADF inquiry has been moving slowly along, the exposes have come thick and fast.  The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has become the main font of disturbing revelations, its Afghan Files a trove of bloody and brutal adventurism.  The impact of their exposure led to investigations by the Australian Federal Police, not into allegations of such atrocities, but those who wrote about them.  Only this month, ABC journalist Dan Oakes received the comforting, if cold news, that he would not be prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions in the aftermath of raids conducted on the national broadcaster last year.  The CDPP waved the magic wand of public interest, and thought it poor form to be pursuing a journalist for exposing the misdeeds of Australia’s military effort in Afghanistan.  But more troubling for Oakes, the CDPP thought that any prosecution would have stood a reasonable chance of success.

Another matter of concern regarding the future efficacy of the inquiry has also surfaced.  This month, the ABC obtained an internal Defence Department bulletin noting the placing of an embargo on the shredding of any records relating to ADF operations in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2015.  The embargo stemmed from the Afghanistan Inquiry Task Force established with the “primary role” of preparing “Defence to receive and respond to the IGADF Afghanistan Inquiry report.”  Startling that this should have taken four years, but the Defence Department saw little trouble with it.  According to the dull formulation of a spokesperson, “In accordance with these requirements, key operational records relating to planning and conduct become eligible for destruction after 20 years.”

This should have caused a flurry of consternation.  For Rawan Arraf, director of the Australian Centre for International Justice, the timing of the embargo raised “serious questions about whether the Defence Department has had the proper processes in place; whether it has been complying with its regulations and international guidelines on record keeping and data protection, especially where it’s relevant to investigating any potential violations of international humanitarian law or the laws of armed conflict.”

While the findings of such inquiries will duly fill the books of military history, they will not alter the central problem in Australian military and foreign policy: that constant craving to deploy personnel to harsh foreign theatres without obvious strategic necessity.  Australia’s SAS and the commandos can rightly be seen to be the Ghurkhas of the US military, an elite annexe serving as auxiliaries for foreign power.

Troubled and ruined, Afghanistan has been killing, maiming and driving the imperially minded insane for centuries.  It has mocked and derided invaders, swallowed up armies.  The tag of military professionalism is mere dinner table formality in the face of unconventional warfare; when engaged in such areas of battle, the rules will go out the window.  By all means, hold the soldiers to account for such cruelties, but the same could be said about those who sent them there in the first place, decision makers who remain perennially immune from a prosecutor’s brief.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

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Assad must stay

why has taliban or whoever not kicked them out yet?

Fog of War

Smoke and mirrors ?
– Our secret Taliban air force
Inside the clandestine U.S. campaign to help our longtime enemy defeat ISIS –
https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/10/22/taliban-isis-drones-afghanistan/?arc404=true

roland

For a start the Taliban are controlled by the CIA and they want endless wars. secondly why do you want the Taliban to kick them out? The Taliban are vicious backwards animals they are the 80s and 90,s version of Isis so im glad those aussie soldiers are giving them hell. Aussie Aussie Aussie oi oi oi .

Fog of War

” For a start the Taliban are controlled by the CIA and they want endless wars ”

You should have stopped there with your comment.

roland

Why do people support the taliban?

Alekai Mordechai

What are australians doing in Afghanistan?

roland

Our corrupt government is controlled by the same evil fucks that control the American and Israeli governments our soldiers do not want to be there.

Fog of War

Now:

” Our corrupt government is controlled by the same evil fucks that control the American and Israeli governments our soldiers do not want to be there. “

Before:

” The Taliban are vicious backwards animals they are the 80s and 90,s version of Isis so im glad those aussie soldiers are giving them hell. Aussie Aussie Aussie oi oi oi . “

roland

Look I would prefer it if they weren’t there but since they are there I hope they kill as many jihadis as they can

Fog of War

As evidence has shown, both sides are bloody thirsty thugs controlled by the Cabal. Except one side is actually fighting in its homeland.

You’re supporting the other side , the CIA controlled invader thugs. Why ?

roland

Because they are my countrymen and the Taliban are evil jihadist types. If you support the taliban why don’t you support Isis.

Fog of War

Because I support neither, but supporting blood thirsty, savage behavior because someone is your ” countryman ” is not logical.

Alekai Mordechai

You don’t agree with what exactly?

Blaming others are easy. And taking life is easier.

roland

Oh is my fault there is war in Afghanistan oh sorry guys I will try and do better next time.

Alekai Mordechai

Nah!! go shoot more people. Who gives a @#$

Fog of War

I dont if they’re CIA controlled opposition.

roland

Of course they are CIA controlled how do you think they are still around?

Assad must stay

are you aussie?

roland

Yep

Assad must stay

that explains it lol

roland

Your American aren’t you? So you can’t laugh you fuckers are the craziest people in the world you also seem to harbour the most stupid people in the world.?

Assad must stay

Nah Aussies are def crazier maybe not stupider tho

roland

Maybe who knows one thing im sure of is Denmark is definitely the strangest place Jen’s Holm proved that.

Assad must stay

Hahahah that is definitely true hahahahha

Assad must stay

and what proof do you have that taliban are CIA controlled?

roland

The Taliban was created by the Americans to kick the soviets out. And they still control them to this day.

Assad must stay

whats in it for them, to be controlled by CIA?

roland

An endless supply of cash and weopons

Assad must stay

so why is US troops there fighting them?

roland

They are fighting them but they are not trying to win like vietnam they are trying to keep up the killing and keep the military industrial complex going you see if they won twenty years ago there would be no killing being done these days and that’s no fun is it.

Assad must stay

All should go home they are therefore nothing

Potato Man

hmmm…Not really…There so much you missed there and no Taliban came after war between Afghan and Soviets bud.
watch this video from 7:00
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnOdULpV810&list=LL&index=54

roland

The Mujahideen morphed into the Taliban they were the same people.

Potato Man

The Mujahideen break apart after USSR left Afghanistan, the country was fuked before the Soviet attack Afghanistan, British fuker put their monkey in Afghanistan and Soviet removed the monkey and put their ape to run the country which failed after they left.
The Mujahideen didn’t morphed into the Taliban – Taliban were part of Mujahideen and so was Al-Qaeda and Shia Muslims in Afghanistan. Their goal was to remove any country that wanted rule them….British & Soviet have history with Afghani people and both failed to rule Afghanistan. American are leaving as well.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_m7uL4Q44ws

cechas vodobenikov

false—even anglo historians admit USSR military defeated amerikan/al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Gorbachev foolishly took a political position to withdraw

Potato Man

British also took Afghanistan and control it but at what cost buddy.They leave as well…could they have fight to control again…yes.

“USSR military defeated amerikan/al Qaeda in Afghanistan.”
I can tell you are pro-Russian good on you buddy BUT Al-Qaeda/ISIS/Daesh will come back, like in Iraq and Syria…as long as Wahhabi State fund them…they will be back, there is no winning.
I take Afghanistan side on this matter, BECAUSE NO MATTER WHAT I DON’T LIKE MY COUNTY GET INVADED BY ANYONE. Soviets or American or British they are invaders…I have Afghani friends which don’t like any of the countries that invaded them or aided terrorists…I can understand them.

“Gorbachev foolishly took a political position to withdraw.”
Leaders make history and he decide to withdraw…what was the point to be in Afghanistan back then…you might called foolishly but that is your point of view, but the Americans now asking why they should be in Afghanistan.

Potato Man

Taliban are part of Afghanistan they are Afghani and get support from Pak/UAE/Qatar/KSA.
Kicked them out how…US came close to do so but they start another war…Iraq 2003 and yeah…US doing nothing in Afghan and they don’t know what to do anymore their leadership as good as donkey talking.

Assad must stay

I would bring them home

roland

The ISI in pakistan are funneling weopons to the Taliban the CIA created and control the ISI you see what’s going on here. I have talked to Aussie soldiers who have fought in Afghanistan and they said they were being fucked by intelligence at every turn.

Potato Man

Pakistan is on terrorists list…and they see Afghani people as their brothers…Taliban were THE government after Soviet lost the war.

American and with their NATO whores came to Afghanistan to fight Al-Qaeda…they won BUT then they stayed in Afghanistan to fight Taliban THE government of Afghanistan at that time.
“intelligence”???? you mean insurgent

BTW one thing that is fuking written in history about Afghani is that they known for not liking outsiders. They know what British apes did to them, they have not forgot about Sovite. They will fight no matter what…Afghanistan is known as the graveyard of empires.

No-one invited Aussie or American in Afghanistan, they (Afghan) got invaded by NATO…
Tell me this would you like Chinese coming to Australia and say we don’t like your government therefore kill hundreds of your people and make Australia hell where no-one can live in the country.
NATO playing the British card…

The ISI in pakistan are funneling weopons to the Taliban the CIA created and control the ISI you see what’s going on here.

No, most of the funding of Taliban comes from Qatar and KSA and Taliban hold most the country LMFAO, they know how tax works…they sell drugs as well.

roland

You don’t know what’s going on you think the americans came to afghanistan to fight alqeada when they created and control alqeada you moron they went to Afghanistan to get the heroin trade going again and kill as many people as they could. And if the americans really wanted to defeat the taliban don’t you think they could order Saudi arabia and qatar to stop giving the Taliban weopons?

Potato Man

Buddy, you are reading too much into it.

And if the americans really wanted to defeat the taliban don’t you think they could order Saudi arabia and qatar to stop giving the Taliban weopons?

Are you that stupid buddy?
Which country is next Afghanistan? IRAN – China Belt and Road Initiative goes to Afghanistan and then to Iran. Nor Wahhabi State like Iran nor US.

That’s what American fighting for and start bullying countries to not help China.
I never said American wanted to end Taliban…”they could” but why would they.
Taliban have made deal with American to not attack each others, Taliban have been attacking the Afghanistan government for years…and no American can’t really leave as China + Russia + Shia Afghanistan + Iranian – would take control of the country.
Pakistan is pro-Russia + China and like Iran.
The US funded Al-Qaeda to fight USSR…The Americans have killed hundreds of Taliban and Al-Qaeda…their goal is to stop China-Russia-Iran.
If they leave China would have much better time to help Syria – Iraq – Lebanon.
But it is a lost for US no matter what…they can slow them down but they can’t stop them

roland

Yes a lot of what you is true about the belt and road but china is not really trying to help Syria they allowed 50000 Chinese Muslims to go to Syria to fight for Isis in syria.and you can’t tell me that the Chinese government couldn’t have stopped them from going there.

Potato Man

and you can’t tell me that the Chinese government couldn’t have stopped them from going there.

I’m dying to say this, not to you only but others that say the same thing as you just did.
Chinese Muslims call Uighurs, and did you forgot about all “western” countries crying about them….you telling me you never heard about Muslims Uighurs…it is funny because Australia was one the louders fuker to attack China when they start sending those people to re-education camps.
You never watch what Chinese did to them??? really…you think China would let Wahhabi became a thing in China LMFAO.

Here in just 4 hour ago: US senators seek to declare Uighur ‘genocide’ by China in bipartisan push
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/28/us-senators-seek-to-declare-uighur-genocide-by-china-in-bipartisan-push
Why Americans are the best freinds of Uighurs that fighting in Syria I wonder. :/
There are video where people go undercover…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7AYyUqrMuQ

roland

You said the Chinese want to help the middle east how is allowing 50000 of their people to go over there and fight for Isis helping things?and I am well aware of western governments hypocrisy and don’t watch vice news they never tell the full story.

Potato Man

bitch fuk off you moron. “allowing – 50k” bitch proof it fuk face or stfu. Talk all you want and believe what you want…I don’t care about your wet dreams fukoff. You full of yourself. I done

roland

How about the Australian government set up an inquiry into western intelligence agencies clandestine support for the Taliban and the drug running that goes on? the politicians who are the real war criminals will be untouched by this taskforce.

Jens Holm

Australiens instead should learn Afghans to make beer and raise pigs and Talebans would have no income.

Alekai Mordechai

Many tried and failed miserably.

roland

I agree a cold beer might chill those Muslims out a bit.

Alekai Mordechai

Cold lassi works you know.

Perhaps it good to keep your beer and your people out of A-stan.

They’re happy and you’re happy.

Jens Holm

I have spoken against it from before we went in. I still do.

Unfortunatly Russia went in based one almost none and Qaida was made …

Potato Man

The thing is Australia have their Army and no army contractors, well not much…there are far more fuked up stroy coming from Afghan…

roland

Oh yeah the Australian government is persecuting it’s soldiers to discredit them because our soldiers are sickened by our corrupt government and want to do something about it. Some of them have started to speak out.

Potato Man

“discredit” them…those soldiers….

Recently declassified helmet-cam footage shows Australian Special Forces shoot & kill an unarmed, innocent Afghan farmer.
https://www.reddit.com/r/An

“do you want me drop this cu9t”….I’m sure they have a lot of credit in to their name buddy.

Your government is corrupt and Julian Assange knows that as an Australian.
Your people are corrupt as people NZ find out Christchurch mosque shootings he killed 51 people…
Don’t blame the government as it is people who choose the government in the so called democratic country.

BTW “Some of them have started to speak out.” link me the report.

roland

Our government are the people who sent our soldiers there who else would I blame? They are in charge and I don’t vote simply because it’s a pointless activity the same people control both sides of parliament we do not live in a democracy. And if you think Brendan Tarant shot those people in chrischurch you know nothing about what’s going on. And that unarmed person getting shot while sad and regrettable is nothing compared to what the Taliban do they murder unarmed women and children all the fucking time they blow them up while they are shopping for food for fucks sake. And earlier this year a soldier in uniform called on the attorney general to arrest the prime minister and others for their crimes the video was on you tube I don’t know where to find it now.

Potato Man

1> I understand two party system is shit but I also know in Australia you can vote to other parties…such as The Australian Greens (the Greens).

And if you think Brendan Tarant shot those people in chrischurch you know nothing about what’s going on

2> I watched him kill…kiddo I have been in 4Chan-LiveLeak for years if a shit happens I would know. I watch that livestream and I download the video.

And that unarmed person getting shot while sad and regrettable is nothing compared to what the Taliban do they murder unarmed women and children all the fucking time they blow them up while they are shopping for food for fucks sake.

3> FUCK YOU, That soldier killed that poor man for no fuking reason buddy…he was there but no one told him to kill civilians…he killed that man. He decide to kill that man. WHY ARE COMPARING YOUR SOLDIER TO TALIBAN, TALIBAN DO WORSE WHY SHOULD WE????

I know Australian soldiers have being killing civilians for years like the Zion Americans…and they would just put a gun next you the person they killed and take picture….
Buddy it is not about the government only…fuk no.

roland

Firstly the greens are controlled by the same people that control the Labor librel parties. You are ignorant about the Christchurch shooting that shooting was perpetrated by the same people that did port Arthur shooting – the illuminati they carry out these shootings to take semi automatic weopons off the public and you dumb fuck you think you know things cause you watch 4 Chan well guess what the illuminati have been involved in my life since I was young and it’s them that do those terrorist attacks and blame it on an innocent party. I am sick to death of retards who get all their info online lecturing me about things.

Potato Man

“Firstly the greens are controlled by the same people that control the Labor librel parties.”
Sure…I don’t fuking live their to care to know buddy…I said two party system is shit…no matter what.

You fuking lost me long ago…you fuked in the head buddy. I find that out not long ago.
Port Arthur shooting was done by one person Martin Bryant, if you believe other shit like illuminati…fuk can I do…sure I guess buddy.
“As of 2020, Bryant is housed in the maximum-security Risdon Prison near Hobart.”
Dumb fuk you don’t “watch 4 Chan” he fuking read what he was gonna do!!!!!!! You bitch don’t know, why they ban 4Chan; “The websites, which included LiveLeak, 4chan, 8chan, Voat, Kiwi Farms and Zero Hedge, were blocked for allegedly hosting footage of the shootings that was originally live-streamed on Facebook. Sites were banned using a combination of DNS blocking and IP blocking.”

“the illuminati have been involved in my life since I was young and it’s them that do those terrorist attacks and blame it on an innocent party.”
I really do think you up to something buddy…I now have 3 eyes…I believe you.

roland

You are incredibly stupid if you think Martin Bryant did that you arrogant little twerp

roland

I wrote a poem about this,
I shot a goat and fucked it
Just to see it die
I did things to it that would make any mother cry
I thrust and pushed, but still I didn’t cum
Then I flipped it over and did it up the bum
As I walked home along the dusty track my rifle in my hand I thought, this is what it must be like to be a soldier in Afghanistan.?

Peter Jennings

And just what is this extraordinary job that Australian servicemen are doing for their nation, thousands of miles away? If the Australian brass and admin think that looking after one’s security means sending troops thousands of miles from home then they are just a paranoid as the US admin and its poodles.
Maybe it’s all the US/nato training that has turned some into copy-cat cold-blooded murderers?

cechas vodobenikov

no morality in the aglosphere

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