Australian Special Forces Vets Frustrated as Commanders Absolved in Afghan War Crimes Inquiry
Last year, the national broadcaster ABC had their offices raided by police amid an investigation into journalists who reported on leaked documents that allegedly revealed that the Australian military committed war crimes in Afghanistan.
Former and currently serving members from the Australian Special forces soldiers have expressed frustration with the Brereton war crimes report and its failure to sanction high-level commanders.
They also conveyed anger regarding a decision to remove the meritorious conduct citation from the entire special operations task group between 2007 and 2013.
Vietnam veteran and former SAS officer Michael von Berg said on Saturday that the report was highly concerning, but raised questions over the conclusions surrounding command responsibility and the move to strip the unit citation and dissolve the 2 squadron.
Von Berg who was given a military cross for involvement in major contact in Vietnam in 1966 said the patrol troops alone should not bear the brunt of the report's conclusions and commanders inevitably hold some responsibility due to their position.
“There is no way, if you are a good officer, that you don’t know what is going on with your troop or squadron or regiment", the former reconnaissance platoon commander claimed.
He said his personal view is that the war crimes investigation should go "right up to the top, to the prime minister and cabinet".
"We have flogged these poor buggers [SASR soldiers] over multiple tours and many of the tasks they were doing were basic infantry tasks", he added
He continued saying that "cordon and search, disruption and advance to contact, ambushing and observation post work" is intended for the infantry while he SAS "has been set up to operate in small groups and here they are doing basic infantry work and that has been the problem".
"Having said that, rotation pressure is no excuse for the allegations disclosed", he stressed.
Von Berg also said that veterans were livid regarding the dissolution of 2 Squadron SASR and the decision to strip the laudable citation from the special operations force.
“A lot of the old diggers who served in 2 squadron back in Vietnam are at an age like I am, of 77, and they are struggling, and all of sudden to lose the identity of the squadron they proudly served with twice in Vietnam is particularly sad. I understand the reasoning but I think it’s disappointing".