NZDF disputes Hager/Stephenson claims

There’s usually more than one side to a story. The head of the NZ Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating has responded to accusations made in the book Hit & Run.

He claims that there are major discrepancies in Hit & Run, in particular the NZDF never operated in the two locations mentioned in the book.

Stuff: Defence Force chief slams ‘major inaccuracies’ in SAS Afghanistan allegations

Defence Force chief Lieutenant General Tim Keating has slammed “major inaccuracies” in a book about alleged SAS involvement in the death of Afghanistan civilians, saying Kiwi troops never operated in the two villages identified as the site of the attack.

In a statement, Keating said the central premise of Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s book, Hit and Run, was incorrect.

Keating said there were “some major inaccuracies” in the book, including the location and names of the villages where the civilians were allegedly killed.

Updated – see NZDF statement below.

TirgiranMap

It is certainly hilly. I couldn’t find Naik or Khak Khuday Dad on Googlee maps, only Tirgiran. It is in a very remote area.

So the counter claims contend that there are major discrepancies. This is one reason why it pays not to jump to conclusions in reaction to stories like this.

The villages where civilians were killed may not have known the nationality of those involved in the attack on them.

My guess is that Nicky Hager and/or Jon Stephenson will respond to this.

UPDATE:

Defence Force link: NZDF Statement on Hager/Stephenson Book

The central premise of Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s book, Hit and Run, is incorrect, says the Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating.

NZDF troops never operated in the two villages identified in the book as having been the scene of combat operations and civilian casualties.

Since the release of the book, the New Zealand Defence Force has spent considerable time reviewing the claims contained in it, despite the allegations of civilian casualties being the subject of a NATO investigation in 2010.

Upon review of Hit and Run, it is evident there are some major inaccuracies — the main one being the location and names of the villages where the authors claim civilians were killed and property was destroyed wilfully during a New Zealand-led operation.

The villages are named in the book as Naik and Khak Khuday Dad, but the NZDF can confirm that NZDF personnel have never operated in these villages.

The authors appear to have confused interviews, stories and anecdotes from locals with an operation conducted more than two kilometres to the south, known as Operation Burnham.

The villages in the Hager and Stephenson book and the settlement which was the site of Operation Burnham, called Tirgiran, are separated by mountainous and difficult terrain.

The NZDF has used the geographical references in the book and cross-referenced them with our own material.

During Operation Burnham, New Zealand was supported by coalition partners, which included air support capacity as previously reported.

The ISAF investigation determined that a gun sight malfunction on a coalition helicopter resulted in several rounds falling short, missing the intended target and instead striking two buildings.

This investigation concluded that this may have resulted in civilian casualties but no evidence of this was established.

Hit and Run does not prove civilian casualties were sustained in the village where Operation Burnham took place.

The NZDF reiterates its position that New Zealand personnel acted appropriately during this operation and were not involved in the deaths of civilians or any untoward destruction of property.

The NZDF welcomes anyone with information relevant to Operation Burnham to come forward and be assured that any allegations of offending by NZDF personnel would be taken seriously and investigated in accordance with our domestic and international legal obligations.

Their map:

NZDFMap.jpeg

This response was quick.

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35 Comments

  1. Bill Brown

     /  26th March 2017

    Maybe if Keating is correct, the govt will do the enquiry to make Hagar look stupid, but flip side is no enquiry could be seen as a cover up

    Reply
  2. Marner

     /  26th March 2017

    Very interesting. Wonder if NZDF will release the ISAF report, or at least agree to the Afghan Givt allowing it to be released.

    I was interested to note the report by David Fusher in Friday’s Herald where he interviews a SAS soldier who claimed that a 2010 raid was much talked about in the unit, with real concern that the ROE were problematic.

    Reply
  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  26th March 2017

    That came out of left field, didn’t it? I wonder if the NZDF will sue Hager for libel?

    Reply
    • See the tweet I added, Stephenson and Hager stand by their claims for now.

      Reply
      • Nelly Smickers

         /  26th March 2017

        And what about *Deborah Manning*…….didn’t someone say she’s actually *been* there ❓

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  26th March 2017

          Yes. She did.

          Reply
          • Nelly Smickers

             /  27th March 2017

            So do you think then she could have gone to the *wrong village* and spoken to some different people…..or am I just being silly ❓

            Reply
          • Gezza

             /  27th March 2017

            Hard to say. She probably needs an on-screen grilling for more details from a reporter with a solid track record for hard-nosed, incisive questioning & getting to the truth, like Katie Bradford.

            Reply
    • Gezza

       /  26th March 2017

      Interesting development. Time for the ISAF report to be produced I think. The attack being made on the villages named in the book is critical to the credibility of the Hit & Run allegations. The onus is now back on Hager & Stephenson to come up with something more than a “holding” tweet. NZDF has provided a rebuttal.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  26th March 2017

        Who has got the ISAF report? The NZDF says it doesn’t have a copy.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  26th March 2017

          I know. Silly eh? WTF were they thinking?

          The ISAF presumably keeps records of investigations, unless someone from ISAF just rang up the Chief of Defence or sent a text or an email or a handwritten note or a letter or something.

          Probably a good idea for NZDF to ask for a copy, then get back to us & advise if they’ve got it – or if the file’s been deleted or whatever, so that if that’s the situation they can try Wikileaks or whoever else might have one. 😳

          Reply
        • NOEL

           /  27th March 2017

          I thought I imgined some said they didn’t have a copy.
          Did they have a summary only?

          Reply
        • Blazer

           /  27th March 2017

          NZDF ‘lost’ it …apparently.

          Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  27th March 2017

          Keating says NZDF only had a summary but he has requested the full report.

          Reply
  4. artcroft

     /  26th March 2017

    Hager has got SAS witnesses to support his claim. Inquiry to go ahead and interview these soldiers I guess to ascertain who’s correct.

    Reply
    • It’s possible the soldiers were correct, or it’s possible that hearsay has confused the two locations.

      I agree I think the inquiry is the best way to ascertain what actually did happen and where.

      Reply
    • NOEL

       /  27th March 2017

      .Do they have someone who was involved in the operation?
      Claims are he is a non badged SAS member working with hearsay and scuttlebutt.

      Reply
  5. Alan Wilkinson

     /  26th March 2017

    Wild country. Stone age certainly.

    Reply
  6. Blazer

     /  26th March 2017

    NZDF are quite categorical in their claims.They have had time to verify their position.Hager may have made a mistake ..relying on Stephenson.Moneys on NZDF….

    Reply
  7. patupaiarehe

     /  26th March 2017

    Yes, well, anyway… The public didn’t get the truth the first time, so why anyone imagines they will get the truth, from any so called enquiry, is beyond my understanding. Terrible things happen in war, pretty regularly. Just ask BJ. And as for the lawyers, who claim to be working on behalf of others, if they are claiming a percentage of any settlement, they are only working for themselves…

    Reply
  8. Geoffrey Monks

     /  27th March 2017

    Page not found

    Reply
  9. I doubt very much that Hager has got SAS witnesses. At the very best they may be former NZSAS soldiers. SAS soldiers in the active role are under discipline that requires them to not engage with media or persons outside of their unit unless approved by their Officer Commanding. Would the CDS make an untrue statement? Tim Keating is a very meticulous person and his integrity and honesty are without question.
    I too am concerned that lawyers have found clients allegedly from Villages A and B who say NZ SAS Troops attacked them. How did they identify them, are they expert in NZ idiomatic language? NZSAS go to extraordinary efforts to hide that they are special forces troops when on operations? So Hager and Stevenson claim to be 100 per cent correct? I think they should be saying the allegations of unnamed witnesses who claim to be NZSAS can be substantiated – as allegations, no more, no less. Gezza now understands why I insisted on using “alleged”. I would like a Court of Inquiry to be held by the Judge Advocate General to establish the truth of the matter, with powers to subpoena witnesses, and if the claims by Hager, Stevenson or the lawyers are found to be incorrect, then they should be require to buy back and destroy all copies of the book, plus pay costs for the Inquiry that could be substantial.

    Reply
    • duperez

       /  27th March 2017

      And if Hager, Stevenson or the lawyers are found to be correct?

      Reply
  10. I would be angry that Defence HQ had tried to cover up the truth and would demand that Brownlie be sacked. But I do not believe the CDS would knowingly lie as part of a cover up so the first premise will never happen.

    Reply
  11. Alan Wilkinson

     /  27th March 2017

    Keating is giving a press conference and outlining his case giving details of Operation Burnham.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11826200

    Reply
  12. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  27th March 2017

    Oh dear,
    two completely different valleys where NZDF was and Where H& S said incident took place:
    Valley alignment – N-S versus E-W
    topology – lush river valley versus dry valley
    4 ridge systems between the 2 locations
    No line of sight between the locations.

    Reply
  13. Alan Wilkinson

     /  27th March 2017

    Maybe Hager’s title “Hit and Run” refers to himself?

    Reply
  14. Reply
  15. Alan Wilkinson

     /  27th March 2017

    Keating says NZDF fired only two rounds during the operation at a single insurgent who was threatening them. He says a helicopter with a mis-aligned sight accidentally hit a building which contained insurgents but may have contained civilians. He said that helicopter was ordered to cease fire as soon as that was seen. He says a quantity of RPGs and other weapons were found and destroyed and that two buidings were burned, one by a cooking fire and the other when armaments were being destroyed.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  27th March 2017

      Thanks for that link via The Herald Alan. The press conference clip was recoded so the whole conference & questions & answers section are viewable via the facebook app. The questions aren’t audible on my iPad.

      Reply
  16. Nelly Smickers

     /  27th March 2017

    On the upside, when I just called in to drop off the shopping to Wayne’s mum, one of the other old dears there (her hubby was a Korean vet), said she *can’t stand* that Hagar ❗ She reckoned it would have been *priceless* to be a fly on the wall to have *seen his face* when it came over the wireless that JK was retiring…..

    >>> (And just heard *Jack Lame on ZB* saying he’s got *Hagar* on his show after 5pm)

    Reply
  17. I have just read this text of a Q and A with Stuff and Nicky Hager:

    “Mar 22, 2017 12:48 PMNicky Hager
    My co-author Jon Stephenson spent a lot of time in Afghanistan and did meet some of the victims face to face. Since then we have had extensive contact with them via long distance communication.
    Mar 22, 2017 12:45 PMKate
    Did you spend time in Afghanistan as part of your investigation. Did you meet the victims and their family members?”

    So, I take it that Hager has not been to the villages and spoken to the villagers but has relied on Stephenson and unknown others for evidence for the book.
    The comment from him about Jon Stephenson spending a lot of time in Afghanistan is vague as to timing. We need to know how many times has Stephenson been to Afghanistan since December 2015 and to what areas was he permitted to travel?

    I personally would like to know when and for how long the NZ Lawyers featured in media reports were in Afghanistan since December 2015, and what statements have been recorded from the alleged family of victims? Have the families been properly identified by Afghani authorities? Remember movement in Afghanistan is subject to local controls.
    Finally I challenge Hager and Stephenson to stand up in public in front of me and other returned servicemen and prove to us the veracity of his books claims. If he isn’t prepared to do so, then he will confirm his book is, as I consider nothing more than unproven allegations that are not in my view permitted under the Bill of Rights Freedom of speech.
    Hager’s studied, carefully worded answers to his questions indicate he has something to hide,

    Reply
  18. Hager, answer the questions. You have absolutely no credibility at all unless you do1

    Reply

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