Government Inquiries – Afghanistan

Government Inquiries – Afghanistan

Government sources 


Afghan inquiry decision soon, Sophie McNeill, Nick McKenzie and Rafael Epstein, The Age, 27 March 2010

THE Defence Force’s chief military prosecutor is looking into whether Australian commandos deviated from an operation plan during a bungled raid in Afghanistan last year and if charges should be laid.

Six Afghan civilians were killed in the raid in February 2009.

The prosecutor, Brigadier Lyn McDade, is examining the soldiers’ actions and examining the extent to which the compound the civilians lived in was mentioned in the original operations plan, known in the Army as a ”CONOPS”.

Deadly Afghan raids expose leadership, Tom Hyland, The Age, 21 March 2010

While military prosecutors agonise over whether to lay charges for the February 12 killings, an unanswered question is whether massive failings uncovered by an inquiry into the death of Lieutenant Fussell also contributed to the mayhem at Amrullah’s house.

The next day, Colonel Terry McCullagh was appointed to inquire into Lieutenant Fussell’s death. He found there had been a breakdown in ”track discipline” – tactics aimed at reducing the IED threat by ensuring soldiers keep on a path that has been checked or walked over. Colonel McCullagh also heard complaints about the leadership of the officer in charge, a major. He recommended these complaints be investigated.

In April last year, four months after Colonel McCullagh submitted his report, defence chief Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston appointed retired vice-admiral Chris Ritchie to conduct a second inquiry. His report, submitted on July 23, is a stark indictment of the unit’s leadership, preparation and training, and of a system that had selected ”the wrong man for the job and [had] then been unable to identify or correct its faults”.

Admiral Ritchie’s key finding is damning. While the direct cause of Lieutenant Fussell’s death was his contact with an IED, this ”was not the sole cause of death”. ”Deficient training, assessment, certification and consequently leadership [of the commandos] operated to increase the risk that such a casualty might occur. Therefore, those deficiencies materially contributed to the death of Lieutenant Fussell.”

The ADF’s inquiry was completed last July. It was sent to the the Australian Defence Force Investigative Service, responsible for complex and major investigations. It then sent a brief of evidence to the Director of Military Prosecutions, Brigadier Lyn McDade, in November. Last week Defence Minister John Faulkner said Brigadier McDade would make a decision on whether to prosecute ”in the near future”. The Sunday Age understands a key issue is the use of grenades by the commandos in the raid.

Questions from Oruzgan: A Special Investigation, Defence Spokesperson, SBS Dateline, 4 March 2010

Here is the full text of the email response to Dateline’s questions sent by a Defence Spokesperson…


Please find below a response to your media enquiry regarding the 12 February 2009 incident in Oruzgan Province…


Report of Inquiry Officer – Possible civilian casualties from close air support strike at [REDACTED], Afghanistan on 28 April 2009 [PDF], Inquiry Report, Department of Defence, 18 December 2009

Report of Inquiry Officer – Possible civilian casualties resulting from clearance of a compound at [REDACTED], Afghanistan on 2 April 2009 [PDF], Inquiry Report, Department of Defence, 18 December 2009

Inquiry Officer’s Report into the death of Private B.J. Renaudo in Afghanistan on 18 July 2009 [PDF], Inquiry Report, Department of Defence, 17 December 2009

Inquiry Officer’s Report into the Death of Liutenant M.K.H. Fussell in Afghanistan on 27th November 2008 [PDF], Inquiry Report, Department of Defence, 2 November 2009

  • Review of VADM Ritchie Inquiry Report [PDF], Inquiry Report, Department of Defence, 2 November 2009

  • Inquiry Officer’s Report into Matters Relating to the Force Preparation, Training, Certification and Leadership Associated with the Force Element Identified in the Inquiry Officer’s Report into the Death of Liutenant M.K.H. Fussell [PDF], Inquiry Report, Department of Defence, 2 November 2009

Report into the death of CPL Hopkins [PDF], Inquiry Report, Department of Defence, 24 July 2009

Inquiry Officer’s Report into an allegation that an indirect fire mission by Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan on 5 January 2009 caused a number of Unintended Civilian Casualties [PDF], Inquiry Report, Department of Defence, 28 May 2009

Inquiry Officer’s Report into the death of Private Gregory Michael Sher in Afghanistan on 4 January 2009 [PDF], Inquiry Report, Department of Defence, 7 May 2009

Defence investigation into Afghan allegations, Media Release, Department of Defence, 8 January 2009


Claims that up to nine Afghan locals living in the Baluchi Valley were injured during clashes between the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Taliban insurgents, are being investigated by the Australian Defence Force (ADF). There are also unconfirmed reports that there may have been Afghan fatalities. The claims were made after a series of significant battles between Taliban insurgents and Coalition forces, including Australian troops operating in the area. Defence has commenced a formal investigation into the claims after reviewing its recent operations and identifying that the ADF could have been involved in the incident.


Release of the Inquiry Officer’s Report into the Death of Signaller Sean McCarthy, Media Release, Department of Defence, 9 October 2008

“The Inquiry Officer’s Report found that Signaller McCarthy died from massive wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated under the Long Range Patrol Vehicle he was travelling in. The Inquiry Officer found that the Aero-Medical Evacuation process was conducted within timings specified by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and agreed to by Australia. The Inquiry Officer also found that no equipment, personnel or process contributed to Signaller McCarthy’s death.”

Media Conference by the Vice Chief of the Defence Force Announcement Re: The Findings in to the Death of an Australian Soldier in Afghanistan and Claims of Mistreatment of Detainees, Lieutenant General David Hurley, Department of Defence, 29 August 2008

Australian Forces Under Fire In Southern Afghanistan – Update, Media Release, Department Of Defence, MSPA 307/08, 19 September 2008

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is working closely with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan authorities who will launch a joint ISAF / Afghan Government investigation into the incident that occurred on 18 September. The ADF will also conduct a full investigation. Initial ADF reporting indicates that the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) patrol was moving on foot towards a subsequent activity when they were fired on from a number of locations by unknown attackers. The SOTG patrol returned fire in self-defence.  Initial assessment indicates that the SOTG personnel acted in accordance with their Rules of Engagement and that their actions were appropriate and proportionate in what was a complex and lethal environment.  The ADF can confirm that Chora District Governor and tribal leader, Rozi Khan, was among those killed.  It is not possible at this time to determine that he was killed by ADF fire. A number of groups, including Afghan National Police personnel, were in the vicinity of the incident.  No ADF personnel were wounded, however initial reporting indicates that a number of local nationals were killed or wounded in the exchange of fire. 


Inquiry Officer’s Report Into the Detention of Local Nationals on 29-30 April 2008 in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, Department of Defence, released August 2008 [1.08 MB, PDF]

Inquiry Officer’s Report into Collatoral Damage and Allegations of Mistreatment of a Local National in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan on 23 November 2007, Department of Defence

Inquiry Findings into 2007 Incidents In Afghanistan, Media Release, Department of Defence, 12 May 2008

“Defence today released the findings of inquiries into the combat deaths of three Australian soldiers last year, and a separate but related investigation into civilian deaths and allegations of mistreatment of a detainee.

The three combat death inquiries established the facts surrounding the deaths of Trooper David Pearce on 8 October 2007, Sergeant Matthew Locke on 25 October 2007, and Private Luke Worsley on 23 November 2007. The fourth inquiry investigated civilian casualties and an allegation of detainee mistreatment by Australian troops during the 23 November incident in which Private Worsley was killed.”

IO Report into the Death of PTE LJ Worsley In AFG on 23 Nov 07, Department of Defence, 12 May 2008  [341 KB, PDF]

IO Report into Collateral Damage and Allegations of Mistreatment, Department of Defence, 12 May 2008 [2.40 MB, PDF]

IO Report into the Death of Locke, Department of Defence, 12 May 2008 [563 KB, PDF]

Analysis and Commentary

Soldiers charged over deadly Afghan raid, ABC, APP, 2010-09-27

The Director of Military Prosecutions says a former member of Australia’s Special Operations Task Group will be charged with manslaughter following an incident in which four children died last year in Afghanistan. The charges relate to an incident on February 12, 2009, when six Afghans were killed during an Australian Special Operations Task Group raid targeting an insurgent leader in Uruzgan province.


Australia PM to probe Guantanamo man torture claim, AFP, Bangkok Post, 26 February 2010

Egyptian-born Mamdouh Habib on Thursday won the right to sue the government over interrogations in which he alleges he was tortured, beaten and shackled to the floor in the presence of Australian spies, diplomats and police officers.

Rudd said he would look into the claims, which centre on 12 interrogation sessions following Habib’s arrest in Pakistan in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. “I will get into the detail of it,” Rudd told local television. “I don’t think it’s right. But I’ll test the argument that’s been put.”

Australian citizen Habib is seeking compensation over the electrocution, burning, sleep deprivation and drug injections he says he suffered in Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan and at the US military base Guantanamo Bay.

Our war crimes loopholes exposed, Fergus Hanson, Lowy Institute, 25 February 2010

On Monday Senator Wong tabled some fascinating answers to a series of questions on notice from Senator Ludlam concerning Australia’s approach to war crimes (see p.110 of this Senate Hansard, made available online this morning). Just incidentally, the questions were asked on 30 September 2009 — so at 146 days for a reply that’s slightly over the 30-day rule.

A number of Senator Ludlam’s questions are dodged, but there are some interesting insights into the gaps in Australia’s war crimes policy. The most interesting replies concerned: …

  • War Crimes in Occupied Afghanistan, Gideon Polya, Information Clearing House, 15 April 2008

    The annual infant death rate in Occupied Afghanistan (6.2%) is 51 times that in Occupier Australia, 38 times that in Occupier US and similar to the “annual death rate” of 10.2% for Australian prisoners of war of the Japanese in World War 2 – a war crime for which key Japanese leaders were tried and hanged

Army’s lethal legal gap, Tom Hyland, Age, 21 February 2010

Army chiefs have refused to act on warnings that major gaps in the training of military legal officers are increasing the risk of Australian troops killing civilians in Afghanistan. The legal officers were not properly trained for their role in advising commanders on the legality of targeted killings of insurgents, an inquiry has found.

The law of instant death, Tom Hyland, Age, 21 February 2010

The men might have been irrigating their fields or they might have been planting bombs. They were being watched by unseen observers. When the observers suspected the men were sowing a deadly crop, they initiated a scientific process, called the kill chain. The men were four Afghans, killed on the orders of an Australian army officer on a moonless night in Afghanistan early on April 28 last year. Their deaths were delivered by missiles riding a laser beam from a US drone aircraft, remotely controlled by a pilot who might have been half a world away.

Afghan women, children die in clashes involving Diggers, Tom Hyland, Age 11 January 2009

Australian troops fired mortars and called in air strikes in a series of intense battles in which eight Afghan women and at least one child were reported killed last week. There are conflicting versions of what happened. Local police quoted in the Afghan press said they were hit by a Taliban rocket, while some residents said they were hit in an air attack.While the incident is now subject to multiple official investigations, the deaths came amid a series of heavy clashes between Australian and Afghan government forces and the Taliban over the past two weeks.

ADF probing claims Aust troops harmed Afghan civilians, ABC, 8 January 2009

Australian soldiers are being investigated over claims they may have wounded or killed up to nine civilians during fighting in Afghanistan. The soldiers were part of a coalition force battling Taliban insurgents near Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan Province. The Australian Defence Force (ADF) says a review of operations in the region has found Australian troops could have been involved.

Inquiries into Abuse Claims by Taliban, Brendan Nicholson and Jonathan Pearlman, SMH, 10 May 2008

Three separate investigations are under way into allegations that Australian troops maltreated Afghan civilians who were captured during a raid on a bomb-making operation just north of the Australian base at Tarin Kowt on April 30, 2008. Air Chief Marshal, Angus Houston, said an initial inquiry carried out in the country by the ADF indicated there was no truth in the allegations. However, two teams have gone to Afghanistan to investigate further.

Project coordinator: Richard Tanter
Additional research: Arabella Imhoff
Ronald Li
Updated: 30 March 2010