Call for in­quiry to halt spec­u­la­tion

The Dominion Post - - Politics - JO MOIR

With­out an in­quiry into al­leged civil­ian deaths in a raid in­volv­ing elite Kiwi troops there’s no stop­ping spec­u­la­tion, in­clud­ing about a pos­si­ble cover-up by the New Zealand De­fence Force for the ac­tions of Amer­i­can sol­diers, says Peter Dunne.

The United Fu­ture leader and Min­is­ter of In­ter­nal Af­fairs says in the ‘‘ab­sence of a clearer dis­clo­sure as to what ac­tu­ally hap­pened you’re left with all sorts of in­ter­est­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties’’.

Au­thors Nicky Hager and Jon Stephen­son, in their re­cently re­leased book Hit and Run, al­leged SAS troops were in­volved in raids on two vil­lages in Afghanistan in 2010 that left six civil­ians dead, in­clud­ing a three-year-old girl.

Chief of De­fence Force Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Tim Keat­ing has strongly de­nied the al­le­ga­tions and on Wed­nes­day, Hager and Stephen­son con­ceded the lo­ca­tion of the vil­lages in their book was wrong, but while the NZDF had the right lo­ca­tion, it had the wrong vil­lages.

Yes­ter­day, NZDF re­leased a new doc­u­ment di­rectly com­par­ing where Op­er­a­tion Burn­ham took place with where the au­thors claimed it took place in the book.

Ex­pla­na­tions from NZDF, ac­com­pa­ny­ing the doc­u­ment re­leased yes­ter­day, in­clude maps of the ac­tual raid site. It says no per­son­nel were tar­geted at any of the lo­ca­tions iden­ti­fied in the maps on pages 64-67 of the book, none of the houses iden­ti­fied were de­stroyed and he­li­copters did not land at the points iden­ti­fied.

Dunne said the unan­swered ques­tions are pre­cisely why a spe­cific in­quiry was needed to de­ter­mine the facts.

‘‘Is it pos­si­ble, when Keat­ing says ‘I’ve seen the video, I know what hap­pened and New Zealan­ders weren’t in­volved’, that he’s also seen some other things on the video that he doesn’t want to ac­knowl­edge, be­cause they could be rather del­i­cate in terms of our re­la­tions with the Amer­i­cans, for ex­am­ple.

‘‘Now, I’ve got no ev­i­dence to sug­gest that’s the case but ... you’re left open to all these pos­si­bil­i­ties.’’

If it was a cover-up for the Amer­i­cans you could un­der­stand the mo­tive, Dunne said, as it ‘‘wouldn’t be in New Zealand’s in­ter­ests at the mo­ment to rock the boat by drop­ping the United States in it’’.

For­mer de­fence min­is­ter Wayne Mapp, who was in Afghanistan at the time of the raid, said in a post on Pun­dit that both Kiwi sol­diers and Afgha­nis could be ‘‘hon­oured’’ by find­ing out what hap­pened the night of the Au­gust raid.

‘‘For me, it is not enough to say there might have been civil­ian ca­su­al­ties. As a na­tion we owe it to our­selves to find out, to the ex­tent rea­son­ably pos­si­ble, if civil­ian ca­su­al­ties did oc­cur, and if they did, to prop­erly ac­knowl­edge that.’’

But that doesn’t ‘‘nec­es­sar­ily re­quire an in­de­pen­dent in­quiry’’, Mapp said.

United Fu­ture leader Peter Dunne wants an­swers to the SAS raid in Afghanistan to put an end to spec­u­la­tion.

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