SAS soldiers speak out amid war crimes inquiry

 

Australian Special Air Service Regiment soldiers have taken the unprecedented step of speaking out to defend the regiment's "unwavering moral compass" amid the inquiry into allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan.

In a commentary piece published by The Australian, the group - made up of five serving and seven former SAS operators - said they wanted to speak to the Australian public "who have trusted us and invested in us to defend our country for more than 60 years".

 

Australian SAS troops and US Army special-forces soldiers head into the Khas Oruzgan Valley prior to the battle. Picture: Supplied. Story: Ian McPhedran
Australian SAS troops and US Army special-forces soldiers head into the Khas Oruzgan Valley prior to the battle. Picture: Supplied. Story: Ian McPhedran

 

"Our Regiment is now the subject of the longest inquiry into allegations of war crimes conducted by the Australian Defence Force," the statement published by The Australian said.

"Accusations and allegations of war crimes as well as failures of leadership cut to the very core of the SASR. Such actions go against the very purpose of who we are as an organisation, and against the very nature of who we are as individuals."

The statement comes ahead of the report investigating war crimes alleged to have been carried out by Special Forces soldiers in Afghanistan.

News Corp understand the adverse findings to be detailed later this week will range from involvement in unlawful killings of non-combatants through to failures relating to oversight and supervision.

While the findings are significant, they relate to only a handful of the Special Forces soldiers who served in Afghanistan.

The statement comes ahead of the report into war crimes alleged to have been carried out in Afghanistan.
The statement comes ahead of the report into war crimes alleged to have been carried out in Afghanistan.

In their statement to The Australian, the soldiers said they were "not indifferent to human suffering" and did not have "a callous disregard for human life".

"We are however, selected for our unwavering moral compasses that we proudly hang our Sandy Berets on. We are not out of control. Indeed, we have spent most our professional soldiering careers in the SASR drilling and exercising, specifically to avoid casualties among non-combatants."

The soldiers said they were all singularly bound by the principle of "truth in reporting".

"This principle underpins our single most important regimental capability: long-range surveillance and reconnaissance," the statement published in The Australian said.

"Truth in reporting enables the SASR to act as the operational eyes and ears of the ADF and the Australian government - without truth in reporting, we are nothing.

"As early as 2006, it was our commitment to truth in reporting that instigated what has now resulted in the four-year-long Brereton inquiry into allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan.

"Truth in reporting is why we spoke up then and now.

"The matters before us are of an extremely grave nature, and we accept that the impact of the Brereton inquiry may adversely affect former and serving members and their families, as well as our strategic relationships with other coalition forces around the world.

"Whatever the outcome, we prefer our Regimental history to reflect hard truths over comforting fantasy. If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth.

The soldiers said they were "committed to accepting the outcomes and consequences of the Brereton inquiry and to action its recommendations".

"Then we will return to the shadows where we belong. We do not seek to be glorified for our actions or demonstrating our moral courage. We only seek the validation that truth in reporting is who we are and what we do," the statement said.

"Having had full legal representation, should it be proven that any former or serving individuals within the SASR have acted outside the law or the expected standards and behaviours demanded of an Australian soldier, we underline that we will wholeheartedly support their prosecution and removal from the Regiment. They have acted against everything the SASR fights and stands for. They are not one of us."

- with Ellen Whinnett

 

 

 

Originally published as SAS soldiers speak out amid war crimes inquiry



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