Call for inquiry to halt speculation
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.