Members of Australia’s special forces conduct an exercise during the Australian International Airshow in Melbourne. File/Reuters
Australia has told 13 special forces soldiers they face dismissal in relation to a report on alleged unlawful killings in Afghanistan, the head of the country's army said on Friday.
An independent report published last week in redacted form said there was evidence that 39 unarmed Afghan prisoners and civilians were killed by 19 Australian soldiers.
None of the 19 soldiers were identified in the report, which was written by a state judge appointed by the inspector-general of defence. The 19 current and former soldiers have been referred for possible prosecution.
Under mounting pressure, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, the head of the Australian army, said 13 current soldiers have been issued with notices that could eventually lead to their termination.
Burr did not identify any of the 13 soldiers, but said they were not part of the 19 current and former soldiers who face possible criminal charges. He said the 13 soldiers that face dismissal have two weeks to respond to the notice.
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“At this time, 13 individuals have been issued administrative action notices in relation to the Afghanistan inquiry,” Burr told reporters in Canberra.
“We are all committed to learning from the inquiry and emerging from this a stronger, more capable and effective army.”
Australia’s most senior military official apologised to Afghanistan last week after the release of the report.
The report into the conduct of special forces personnel in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016 said senior commandos may have forced junior soldiers to kill defenceless captives in order to “blood” them for combat.
The inquiry examined more than 20,000 documents and 25,000 images, and interviewed 423 witnesses under oath.
Australia sent troops to join US-led forces that tried to defeat the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan in the years after the Islamists were forced from power in 2001.
The shameful record included alleged instances in which new patrol members would shoot a prisoner in order to achieve their first kill in a practice known as "blooding,” said Australian Defence Force Chief Gen. Angus Campbell.
On Thursday, Morrison, citing allegations of “serious and possibly criminal misconduct,” appointed the prosecutor to deal with the issue domestically and forestall any move by the International Criminal Court.
Afghans have been rattled by the Taliban’s claim to have won the war against US and its Nato forces which will begin a five-month staged pullout on May 1st. Afghans believe the evacuation will precipitate increasing violence rather than lead to a peace deal
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