Afghan village hit and miss

Both The NZ Defence Force and Hager & Stephenson have had some problems with geography in Afghanistan. Maps of the area are not helpful. H&S are relying on local knowledge.

Hager and Stephenson had pointed to a location about 2 kilometres from where the SAS/Afghani attack occurred (I think on the other side of a mountain). They this doesn’t change their claims to any extent as civilians were still killed and there is still a possible war crime situation.

But it does show that Nicky Hager does get some things wrong in his books.

The NZDF has been criticised for getting village names wrong, but were correct in their location.

Their main error was calling the attack site Tirgiran Village, whereas that seems to be the name of the general valley area, not a specific housing site.

Jon Stephenson made the same naming error in 2014 (this issue has been brewing for that long) – see MTV Native Affairs Investigation Collateral Damage – Independent Inquiry Must Be Initiated.

The stories of H&S and NZDF now sort of match up, with both describing the attack as being in two adjacent locations which seem to be the name villages.

The lawyer representing the villagers, Deborah Manning, says the location and names doesn’t make any difference and the uncertainty over the location was more reason to have a comprehensive inquiry.  In particular the claim of 6 civilian deaths is unresolved.

It may still be that the NZDF misled or covered up, but that is unproven.

H&S seem to be relying on accounts of people from the village area, but it seems to have been confirmed that insurgents came from the area so their claims should be considered in that light.

If a 3 year old child was actually killed then I don’t want to detract from the sadness of that, but I don’t know if that has been proven, it may be just an unsubstantiated claim.

The NZDF has said they will try and obtain video footage of the attack but that will need to come from the US military, if they still have it.

Prime Minister Bill English still says he sees no reason to order an inquiry.

This has become even messier and is likely to carry on as both sides try to add credibility to their stories.

Comprehensive details at The Spinoff:  Tirgiran locals: ‘Tirgiran is not a village, and therefore “Tirgiran Village” does not exist’

Newstalk ZB: Footage of disputed NZSAS raid in Afghanistan could be released

Hager statement from today:

RadioLive: Hit and Run: Lawyers’ map of Operation Burnham and letter to the Prime Minister

It looks like there is a while to go with this story.

Another thing to remember is the recent claim that Hager and Stephenson said it was “actually impossible that the story is wrong”

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

Hager and Stephenson stood by the information in Hit and Run, with Stephenson saying the pair were “100 per cent sure” Kiwi soldiers had been operating in the villages they named.

“We’re absolutely confident we’re right, no question about it.”

The information came from “multiple, multiple sources”, Stephenson said.

In a statement sent to media on Sunday night, the authors say it’s “actually impossible that the story is wrong”.

“The NZDF press release is simply incorrect and implausible. To be true, it would require an identical raid by identical forces, using identical helicopters, on identical targets at the same time,” the statement says.

Bold claims that they checked out, admitted they weren’t right about the location, but then said it didn’t really matter about a bit of inaccuracy.

From Stuff: Hit and Run authors concede they got the location for a raid wrong in their book

“We have checked the NZDF maps shown at the press conference and it appears the location of the raid and the villages is indeed slightly different to what our local sources told us. But the villages at that location are definitely called Naik and Khak Khuday Dad, and all the rest of the story in the book is unchanged.

They have conceded their local sources – possibly insurgents – told them a different location to where the attacks took place.

The odds of an inquiry into whether elite Kiwi troops killed civilians in an Afghanistan raid look increasingly slim after Bill English said allegations of war crimes looked “quite far-fetched”.

Speaking to media on Wednesday the prime minister said “there hasn’t been any credible evidence presented that there were any civilian casualties” but he remained open to reviewing any new evidence following the release of the book, Hit and Run.

The accounts and claims in the book may (or may not be) correct but they are not of a legal standard, they are hearsay. Neither Stephenson nor Hager have been to the villages, they are relying on what they have been told.

There is little actual evidence at this stage.

NZ Herald: NZSAS raid: Errors emerge in location and names of Hit & Run villages

Hager said the “location of the raid and the villages is indeed slightly different to what our local sources told us”.

But he said it “does not change the story in any significant way”.

He said the names of the villages were correct and “all the rest of the story in the book is unchanged”.

Unchanged at this stage, but now with a significant error known so credibility of their story is a bit shakier. They are relying on the word of their informants, there is little if any specific evidence available at this stage.

The current position of Bill English.

Although there was no case for an inquiry into alleged war crimes, English said Keating was required by law to consider other allegations “and make a decision on whether there is basis for an inquiry, and he is still working through that”.

“The presence of the allegations does not require the Defence Force to rebut or refute them in every single way. It is up to the people making the allegations to prove, as they stated when they launched the book, that war crimes were committed. They haven’t reached that threshold.”

That’s a challenge that no doubt Hager and Stephenson will try to meet.


“We believe the NZDF is trying to avoid a full and independent inquiry precisely because some officers are scared of what it will show. But the issue will continue to fester, as it has for years, until that happens.”

The old ‘if they don’t prove they’re innocent they look guilty’ trick.

Leave a comment


  1. Ray

     /  29th March 2017

    It’s worth remembering that the “insurgents ” were Taliban supporters who managed to escape the raid but did attend the funerals of the villagers who were killed in the raid.
    So I doubt if there were many civilians involved and would be very surprised if they travel to NZ to attend an investigation.
    After all they might get smacked with a murder charge.

  2. Nelly Smickers

     /  29th March 2017

    [Deleted, irrelevant to this topic. PG]

    • patupaiarehe

       /  29th March 2017

      That is in really bad taste Nelly. As much as I enjoy most of your comments here, that isn’t funny. At all…

      • Nelly Smickers

         /  29th March 2017

        Why do you think it was even MEANT to be *funny*, Patu ❓ ‘

        It was an *exact quote* from US Gen *Curtis Lemay*, prior to the bombing of Japan….when he was asked did he have concerns about the *killing of civilians*.

        It shows the American mindset which persists to this day…and IMHO *quite relevant* to the situation as it is in Afghanistan and elsewhere 😡

        • patupaiarehe

           /  29th March 2017

          Perhaps putting it in the right context, might be a good idea. Just saying…

  3. Gezza

     /  29th March 2017

    The plots thicken. Strong comeback from Hager & Stephenson.

    • patupaiarehe

       /  29th March 2017

      My ‘BS bell’ is ringing loudly, at any comment from either side. Those who were there, are the only ones who know the truth. Shit runs downhill, and the only thing an investigation will achieve, is placing the blame on some poor bugger, who was doing what he thought was right, at the time. War sucks, just ask BJ…

      • “Those who were there, are the only ones who know the truth.”

        The problem is that:
        a) the attacks where at night with obviously limited visibility
        b) the attackers are probably bound to silence
        c) the attackees are not unbiased

        • Gezza

           /  29th March 2017

          Sounds like Hager & Stephenson aren’t moving too many folks from Dipton Province towards an inquiry at this stage.

        • patupaiarehe

           /  29th March 2017

          You are quite correct on a, b, & c Pete. My point is, that any investigation is pointless, keeping points b & c in mind…

  4. Hager and Stephenson need to put this all in front of NZ Police, behind closed doors and name names with regards those they are accusing of “war crimes”. The Police are bound to investigate. Then walk out of the Police station to the waiting media types and say a formal investigation of “war crimes” has been requested.

    Time for St Nicky to front up with some hard, cold facts to the correct authority and stop trying to create a political scandal….. he won’t do it of course, because the Police are the enemy as well being simple lackeys of the reigning political and business elite….

    I figure the wind around Roseneath has impair some peoples judgment

  5. It is not the name of the village that was in dispute – by the way, it is shown on many old maps of the area.. H&S gave precise grid references. These are wrong. They also had a photo showing steel cased ammunition from the attacker’s weapons. NZDF use brass cases. They also obviously did not know about the army video or that an Army lawyer was watching the operation in live time.
    Focussing on the village name is just H&S trying to deflect and not admit that their story is falling to bits around them.

    • Has anyone got an idea of the scale of the photograph? I may have been confused about the nature of the rounds, but they certainly were centre fired steel cased cartridges, not brass like we used.

      • chrism56

         /  31st March 2017

        Other blogs have identified them as cannon shells from an Apache, though could always be left over ones from a MiL24

        • The problem with the shells and the water bottles is there is no evidence tying them to the attack, and even if there was they probably wouldn’t mean much anyway. Unless quenching one’s thirst and shooting are not allowed under terms of engagement.

          In reality they are evidence of virtually nothing.

  6. You know in all of the time we spent in Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam we never had a legal officer with us on patrol. Pity actually cause he could have helped me by cooking a hot dinner out of the 2hr Rat Pack. Seriously though that is an extra ordinary thing to have legal advice right on the spot, shows the extent to which the NZ Force went to ensure adherence to the laws of war. I wonder if it has happened in any of the other recent NZDEF operations.


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