NZDF spending on Thiel’s Palantir

Another dogged investigation by Matt Nippert:

The New Zealand Defence Force has spent millions on controversial spy software produced by secretive Silicon Valley firm Palantir.

After refusing for more than a year to reveal the extent of links to Peter Thiel’s big data analysis company, prompting a complaint by the Herald on Sunday to the Ombudsman, the NZDF were forced to disclose annual spending with Palantir averaged $1.2 million.

The figures suggest since contracts were first signed in 2012 the defence force has spent $7.2m with the firm.

Thiel’s New Zealand citizenship has been controversial given how little time he has spent here.

Defence Force under fire over Afghan attack, pressure for inquiry

Pressure is growing for an official inquiry into the NZ Defence Force involvement in an attack on Afghan villages, detailed in the Nicky Hager book ‘Hit and Run’.

Press editorial: Inquiry into Defence Force actions in Afghanistan essential to clear the fog of war

When the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) went on the defensive over allegations raised by journalists Nicky Hager​ and Jon Stephenson in their 2017 book Hit & Run, claims that the two journalists had the location of a SAS raid wrong were central.

The book alleged that a 2010 SAS raid on two villages in Afghanistan left six Afghan civilians dead, including a young child, and injured 15 others. The NZDF has always denied the allegations, claiming that insurgents were targeted and that reports of civilian casualties were “unfounded”.

Disagreement over the location of the raid was so important to the NZDF’s version of events that it was described as the “central premise” of Hit & Run in a media release attributed to Lieutenant General Tim Keating in 2017. Keating said there were “major inaccuracies” in the book, with “the main one” being the location and names of villages. Readers at home might have assumed that if Hager and Stephenson could not even get the location right, surely the rest of their story collapses.

A year later, the NZDF has quietly conceded that Hager and Stephenson were not so inaccurate after all. In official information released without fanfare this month after the Ombudsman intervened, the NZDF has confirmed that photographs of a village published in Hit & Run were indeed the location of the 2010 raid as the authors claimed, although the NZDF continued to quibble about much smaller points, such as the distance between two buildings.

The last Government ruled out an inquiry:

When former Prime Minister Bill English ruled out an inquiry in 2017, he said that “allegations of war crimes now seem to apply to some other place, not the place where the New Zealand operation was carried out”. He perpetuated the idea that the authors were mistaken. We now know that English should not have been so adamant.

Then Labour leader Andrew Little differed.

A year ago, as Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Little called for an independent inquiry into the events described in Hit & Run.

This may now happen.

An inquiry is said to be under active consideration by Attorney General David Parker who is expected to announce a decision soon. This week’s revelations about the location and a greater acknowledgement of possible civilian casualties will have made that inquiry essential.

Bryce Edwards has rounded up a lot more on this – Political Roundup: Defence cover-up starts to unravel

The New Zealand Defence Force’s attempted cover-up of the Hit & Run controversy appears to be unravelling. The military has finally been forced to make an about-turn – what they had claimed was a key flaw in the allegations in the 2017 book was, in fact, correct.

Toby Manhire explains the significance of the NZDF’s new admission in The fog of time: why the Defence Force’s Hit and Run admission really matters. He explains that the dispute over the location of the village had previously been the “central premise” of the NZDF’s attempted rebuttal of the claims, and with this now turning to dust, the case for an official inquiry into the matter is “overwhelming”.

Over to David Parker.

Little & Peters should see SAS video

Vernon Small points out that basically Prime Minister Bill English has said ‘trust me because I trust Tim Keating’ as his reasoning for not having an inquiry into the SAS attack in Afghanistan that was publicised by Nicky Hager’s and Jon Stephenson’s book Hit & Run.

Stuff: English’s Monday performance shows just how much National lost when Key quit

In the Hit and Run case, in contrast, English has been over-cautious in keeping the military sweet, leaving too many questions unanswered.

Add to that his extraordinary claim that Keating was “independent” and was not part of the operation.

He was in essence saying “trust me, because I trust Keating”.

I don’t think that’s good enough, and neither does Small.

So where to now on this?

If Labour leader Andrew Little wanted to put English’s assurances to the test, he should ask to see the classified video.

As the leader of her majesty’s loyal opposition there could surely be no objection to a similar briefing to that given to English and Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee, especially if other non-elected Government officials have been privy to the footage. If English wanted to buttress his position, he should invite Little to view it.

As a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Little – and presumably Winston Peters – ought to have the appropriate clearances.

It might help achieve the kind of “reconciliation” between the conflicting accounts that former defence minister Wayne Mapp said were possible.

That is a very good suggestion. Our Defence Force should be trusted not just by the Government but by the whole Intelligence and Security Committee, and to do that they need to see the same evidence that English has seen.

The Defence Force line is that they they use coordinates not village names, but it should not be beyond their ability to establish that the villages named in the book are in the area they identified.

You can see why they might be reluctant. Having achieved headlines saying Hager and Stephenson had the wrong location for the villages, they will fight to the last spin doctor standing to avoid a headline that reads: “Defence Force confirms its attack was on the villages of Khak Khuday Dad and Naik identified in Hit and Run“.

In the larger scheme of things it may seem a minor point.

But it is that default to “spin” and a reliance on cute semantics that undermines English’s case – and his reliance on the Defence Force.

English hasn’t handled this decisively or convincingly. Everything can’t be revealed about our SAS and Defence Force as Hager and Stephenson want, but the public should have confidence in our military, and that requires more than the perception of one-sided spin.

I also agree with Small on the Key difference, our last PM is likely to have come up a better and more convincing way of dealing with and to the allegations.

I think the whole Intelligence and Security Committee, including Little and Peters, should see the evidence that English has based his decision on.

But English looks too dithery to deal decisively with this.

Operation Burnham update

Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson got a lot of favourable media coverage initially after the release of their book Hit & Run, but after a counter by NZ Defence Force head Tim Keating revealed errors (from both sides) and created confusion, the fizz has gone out of the story.

I think that some sort of inquiry is still quite possible, but it is more likely to be due to the involvement of lawyers acting for the Afghan villagers rather than being compelled by the book.

Stuff knocks the stuffing out of Hit & Run in Below the beltway: The week in politics

UP

Chief of Defence Tim Keating:  His rebuttal of some key information in Hit & Run appears to have staved off any Government inquiry.

DOWN

Hager and Stephenson: some basic errors in Hit & Run have weakened their case for an inquiry into the book’s central allegation that innocent civilians were killed.

Steve Braunias lampoons them in Secret diary of Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson

Nicky Hager

Every word in the new book I wrote with Jon Stephenson is 100 per cent absolutely correct.
Our central claim in Hit & Run is that the New Zealand SAS launched a revenge raid on a village in Afghanistan, and killed innocent civilians.
There is no room for error.
It’s more than a book; it’s an immaculate object, something to gaze upon with awe, and to be received as gospel truth.
I call it The Book of Nicky.

Jon Stephenson

I call it The Book of Jon.
But Nicky’s right, of course. The book is 100 per cent absolutely correct – and bear in mind that’s a modest estimate.
It follows that any criticism of the book is 100 per cent absolute bollocks.
There’s actually no point in the New Zealand Defence Force [NZDF] criticising the book, because everything they’ll say about it is wrong, and they’re going to look foolish.
Very, very foolish.

That’s just the beginning.

Audrey Young at the Herald: SAS inquiry would signal a new era of civilian scrutiny of NZDF

An inquiry would serve varying interests, but the villagers affected by the raids would not necessarily be top of the list.

An inquiry would almost certainly come down somewhere between potential “war crimes” as suggested by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson in their book, Hit and Run, and that of “exemplary” behaviour by New Zealand forces as characterised by the Chief of Defence Force, Lt General Tim Keating.

At the very least it would find some regrettable errors.

‘Regrettable errors’ are an unfortunate inevitability in wars.

It is certainly in NZDF’s own interests to have an inquiry.

Future NZDF operations rest on the confidence in which the New Zealand public has in them.

The Government and Defence believe that holding an inquiry would undermine the ability of the SAS to carry out future raids, fearful that every operation could be subject to an inquiry. (Well, shouldn’t it if it goes wrong?)

There has to be some effective means of holding our military to account, but they also need a degree of secrecy to operate effectively. Can both be catered for by an inquiry?

NZDF and the SAS in particular should be subject to more robust civilian and parliamentary scrutiny – perhaps even by the statutory intelligence and security committee.

An inquiry into the raids would be a good start for a new era of scrutiny.

David Fisher has a useful and fairly comprehensive summary in The complete guide to the NZSAS raid and the allegations civilians were killed

A point on this:

And what does NZDF say to all of this?

After almost a week’s silence, Chief of Defence Lieutenant-General Tim Keating called a press conference to deny the NZSAS had killed civilians.

The time taken for the NZDF to respond raised some eyebrows but:

  • Hit & Run, which had taken three years to put together, was a surprise attack
  • Keating was away in Iraq when the book was launched (by coincidence or be Hager design?) and didn’t return to New Zealand until the following weekend, after which he responded.

Fisher concludes:

Will there be an inquiry?

It’s highly likely. At its essence, there is a key difference between the claims in the book Hit & Run and NZDF’s position. Hit & Run says six civilians were killed, including a 3-year-old girl. NZDF says nine combatants were killed.

But the high likelihood of an inquiry stems from the involvement of the lawyers, Rodney Harrison, QC, Deborah Manning and Richard McLeod. New Zealand is signatory to international laws, which dovetail into our legislation, that are likely to give them the power to force NZDF into court.

At this stage, they are seeking a Commission of Inquiry with three commissioners, one of whom they say should be a senior judge. Mapp said yesterday “as a nation we owe it to ourselves to find out” and to front up.

What are the possible outcomes?

Compensation was said by Mapp to be appropriate under Afghan culture. However, the allegation of “war crimes”, if true, comes with significant penalties, including life in prison.

The Hit & Run authors also called for an end to the secrecy under which the NZSAS is able to operate. Further, they say former NZSAS commanders have gone on to senior roles in the military, creating an imbalance of power and a tendency to lobby for international duties that meet their skillset.

I think that an inquiry may be prudent – for the Government and for the NZDF – but I have doubts about whether it will be conclusive, and it is unlikely to satisfy Hager and Stephenson.

Cartridge challenge to ‘Hit & Run’ claims

The NZ Defence force has been disputing claims made by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson in their book ‘Hit & Run’, and it has been determined that the book pointed to the wrong location for the attacks. This caused confusion over attack claims.

This was after Hager and Stephenson  made a brash claim on Sunday:

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

Now a gun shop owner is disputing more evidence from the book.

Newstalk ZB: Further doubt cast on Hit & Run allegations

EXCLUSIVE: As calls for an inquiry into civilian casualties in Afghanistan grow, a crucial aspect of the controversial book Hit & Run is being challenged.

Now, Richard Munt of gun shop Serious Shooters in Auckland is contesting a further aspect of the account: a photograph of used shell casings supposedly discharged by SAS snipers who allegedly shot to death an Afghan teacher.

Without knowing the background of the photo, Munt argues the shell casings are too large to come from any weapon the soldiers would have carried, but must have come from an Apache helicopter.

AfghanAttackCartridges

“The SAS are generally issued with something usually no larger than a fifty-calibre Browning machine gun – and that’s a squad support weapon – and that would be approximately one half of the diameter of those cartridge cases.”

Munt believes there’s no way the shells could have come from the SAS.

“I would say they are from some form of large calibre cannon from Apache helicopter. They are not from a shoulder-fired firearm.”

“It would be almost impossible to fire from a shoulder-fire firearm without injury to the shooter. They are large, they are an anti-tank weapon.”

The cartridge evidence has been raised before.

I presume the cartridges are just claimed as evidence and there is no evidence that links them specifically to the attack in question, or the time in question, or the location in question.

And there is certainly no way of linking them directly to the SAS.

I’m not an expert but if the above cartridges are from a helicopter firearm, or if they were even fired from a hand held weapon, they are unlikely to have naturally fallen in a small area like that. Ejected shells usually end up well scattered.

More on ‘Hit & Run’

Two more developments in the ‘Hit & Run’ Afghan attacks.

Wayne Mapp, who was Minister of Defence at the time, has posted more about it at The Pundit – Operation Burnham

We can honour both our soldiers and the Afghans, but only by finding out what really happened on that August night in 2010… though that may not require a full inquiry.

Over the past 25 years, New Zealand has spent a great deal of time examining the consequences of the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s. We have done so because we want to do right, not because we were legally obliged to do so. The restorative and recuperative value of doing so is internationally recognised. In the process we have built a fairer and more just nation.

The war in Afghanistan has been New Zealand’s biggest military engagement since Vietnam, which is now two generations ago.

As much as anything this explains why I agreed to be interviewed by Jon Stephenson. He has spent more time in Afghanistan than any other New Zealand journalist. As with many independent journalists reporting from war zones this has not been without controversy.

In August 2010 when Operation Burnham took place I was in Afghanistan on a visit arranged months before. I understood that the operation was among the most significant operations that New Zealand had undertaken in Afghanistan.

I had been fully briefed on the plan on the morning before it took place. Based on the briefing, and on the advice of the military professionals, I recommended that it proceed.

Hager and Stephenson have said that Prime Minister John Key gave final approval but that would seem to have been a littler more than rubber stamp involvement.

I knew that the operation had not achieved its stated aims of arresting or otherwise dealing with the people who had been identified as leading and organising Taliban operations against the PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team). I knew this because I was formally briefed on that fact at the time. I also knew that other people had been killed. As I have said in interviews, these people were acting as insurgents, in effect acting as enemy combatants.

As in all guerrilla war, it is often a case of villagers by day and insurgents by night. It was a reasonable and appropriate decision to engage them as they looked to be attacking the New Zealand soldiers on the ground. In such a case we have an absolute right to defend ourselves.

But it became clear later that it was also possible there were other casualties. In particular, the death of a three year-old girl.

This emerged in a television documentary in 2014.

Stephenson also told me enough about what had happened for it to be believable that this could have occurred, even if it was not fully proven.

It was claimed then, and has been claimed again in ‘Hit & Run’. I don’t know what actual evidence there is to support this, but it seems to have played a significant part in motivating Mapp to speak out.

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 causalities did occur, and if they did, to properly acknowledge that.

This does not necessarily require an independent inquiry, such as lawyer Deborah Manning wants. In fact we are most likely to get this sort of information through diplomatic approaches to the Afghan government, and trusted NGO’s on the ground.

… the accounts of the NZDF and Stephenson are reconcilable, given the recognition that civilian casualties may have occurred.

They could both be largely correct – but with the identity of those killed and whether any of them were anti-Afghan Government combatants or not potentially contentious.

New Zealand has good reason to be proud of the professionalism of its defence forces. The SAS are among the most highly trained and respected soldiers in the world. In our name, we ask them to undertake the most hazardous military missions, often deep within enemy held territory. They have an absolute right to defend themselves against attack. The risk of capture of our soldiers by the Taliban would be beyond contemplation.

Part of protecting their reputation is also finding out what happened, particularly if there is an allegation that civilian casualties may have been accidentally caused. In that way we both honour the soldiers, and also demonstrate to the Afghans that we hold ourselves to the highest ideals of respect of life, even in circumstances of military conflict.

The Spinoff details some of this in ‘As a nation we owe it to ourselves to find out’: former Defence Minister Wayne Mapp admits he was a source for Hit and Run and also says this:

The Spinoff understands that Mapp has been weighing his conscience over the past few days, and has been particularly troubled by the book’s account of a three-year-old girl, Fatima, being killed in the operation. He believes that neither the NZDF nor the media has focused enough on her fate, and this is thought to be part of what motivated him to write the piece for Pundit: a sense that there is a moral obligation on the part of the New Zealand government to atone for these acts, should they be found to have occurred broadly as described in Hit & Run.

The NZ Defence Force has also added to their claims about this and have put out more maps- see Defence moves to undermine Afghan raid book with map comparison (which includes the maps):

The Defence Force has issued a new document in the war of words over the book Hit and Run, making a direct comparison of maps of the locations described in the book, and the satellite view of the actual raid area.

Explanations from Defence, accompanying the document released on Thursday, include maps of the actual raid site. They say 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.

“Only positively identified armed insurgents were targeted,” the Defence Force document claimed.

Defence claims nine insurgents were killed in the raid, but have named none. They said SAS troops only fired only two bullets and killed one insurgent. The others were killed by other coalition forces including US helicopter gunships.

@FelixMarwick has a response from Bill English:

PM responds to latest comments by Wayne Mapp on “He’s a private citizen and is free to follow whatever opinions he has”.

PM also says Mapp “doesn’t have any new, or particular, information” Doesn’t believe speculation about events is a reason to hold an inquiry

More from NZ Herald: NZDF advice will decide if inquiry held, PM says

A decision on whether an inquiry or further investigation is needed into allegations an SAS raid led to civilian deaths will be based on advice from the Chief of Defence Force.

…Prime Minister Bill English told reporters today that he was waiting for further advice from Keating – a former commanding officer of the NZSAS – into whether any further action is required.

“He will tell us whether he thinks there is a basis there with any new evidence or any new information,” English said.

“It’s his job to look into these kinds of allegations…the book has turned out to be wrong, pretty fundamentally wrong about events that might have happened but certainly happened somewhere else.”

This looks like to continue.

What would an Afghan inquiry achieve?

The Afghan SAS attack blew up in media again yesterday with Nicky Hager, Jon Stephenson and lawyer Deborah Manning trying to excuse their errors and push harder for an inquiry – see Afghan village hit and miss.

What would an inquiry achieve?

Currently we have claims by Hager and Stephenson, who say they have talked to villagers from Afghanistan – some of whom may have been ‘insurgents’ fighting against the Afghan government who were aided by the NZ SAS and the US military.

The Afghan villagers may have motives of their own. What is not clear to me is whether they have been trying to get their story out and Stephenson stepped in to help, or whether Stephenson and Hager have gone to the villagers to support a possible agenda.

And Manning says that she is representing the villagers – did they approach her, or did she offer her help to them?

Of interest in this issue is what are Hager, Stephenson and Manning trying to achieve?

Of course the NZ Defence Force and the Government are interested in defending their reputation and trying to justify their actions in Afghanistan.

This is about just one brief incident in  a war that has been going on for decades in Afghanistan. The US involvement has largely been from 2001 to 2014, with seemingly little overall success.

The remote valley where the SAS attack occurred is apparently now controlled again by the Taliban so Stephenson and Manning have been unable to go there, they have talked to people from there.

If an inquiry is held what could it achieved?

Getting evidence and testimony from the Tirgiran valley area where the attacks occurred could be difficult.

It could be hard enough getting proof of who died as a result of that one attack – claims have been made by Stephenson and Hager of 6 civilian deaths but the NZDF claims 9 insurgent deaths. Could both be correct? Possibly.

It would be even harder to prove who killed who and whether those killings were justified by terms of engagement or not.

It appears that the push for an inquiry is to force details out of the NZDF, but that’s complicated because if there is video evidence it is said to be held by the US military.

SAS soldiers could be required to give witness accounts but that has problems if it were to be done in public.

It’s quite possible an inquiry would not clear the matter up.

If it didn’t prove any war crimes there will inevitably be claims from some that the NZDF didn’t disclose everything – they have already been accused of covering up and unless they admit to war crimes (very unlikely) those accusations are likely to continue.

Yesterday Hager said:

“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.”

Perhaps that is what they are after, an ongoing festering with the implication from them that the NZDF is hiding things.

Who will benefit from this? What will it achieve?

Is it a sensible use of time and effort even for Hager and Stephenson? It seems like a crusade on one small event in a long and brutal war.

I’m really struggling to see what will be achieved by an inquiry other than giving some people to keep things festering.

 

Hager: NZDF rebuttal “doesn’t change anything”

After NZ Defence Force chief Tim Keating strongly contested claims made by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson in ‘Hit & Run’ Hager says this doesn’t change anything.

1 News: NZDF Afghanistan raid rebutal ‘doesn’t change anything’, Nicky Hager says

Mr Hager this evening hit out at the press conference, saying the NZDF is simply desperate to avoid a formal inquiry.

“If they were right and I don’t think they are that the location of this destruction was 2km from where we were told it was, this doesn’t change anything,” he said.

“I think what is going on here, inside of the Defence Force they are very keen to avoid an inquiry.”

But it has changed things considerably, switching Hager and Stephenson from attack to defence as they try to counter Keating’s claims.

They will be well aware that their reputations are on the line – as is Keating’s.

RNZ: Hit & Run authors dispute NZDF account

It is impossible the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) carried out a simultaneous raid on a separate Afghan village the night that civilians in two nearby villages were killed, the authors of Hit & Run say.

The NZDF has not claimed simultaneous raids, they say the SAS were never at the villages that Hager and Stephenson claimed were attacked by them.

One puzzle – if a simultaneous  raid could not have been carried out how could two villages have been attacked as they claim?

Hit & Run co-author Jon Stephenson told Checkpoint with John Campbell both the Defence Force and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) agreed there was only one raid that night.

“It’s virtually impossible that there were two identical operations in the same area.”

He stuck to the book’s claim that the single raid that occurred was carried out in Khak Khuday Dad and Naik.

“Lots of things were found [in the two villages] that are consistent with our story, including cannon rounds from Apache helicopters,” Mr Stephenson said.

“We know that the Chinooks left big indentations in the wheat fields that were seen and measured by the villagers.”

That’s what the villagers are claiming. Villages where insurgents came from (Stephenson says they had left the villages to avoid being attacked).

The book’s other co-author, Nicky Hager, said General Keating’s claims were a bluff by the Defence Force, which Mr Hager said was doing everything it could to avoid a formal inquiry.

“If Tim Keating is confident that they have done nothing wrong, they should have a full inquiry.”

“Releasing selective information is not the way you get to the bottom of a story … and they should be welcoming this if they think they’ve got nothing to hide.

“But I believe they are desperately trying to avoid it [an inquiry] because they know the book is true.”

Keating said he would welcome an inquiry, although he thought there would be legal difficulties with that.  He said he would try and have video coverage of the attack released.

Hager is implying that if there is no ‘full inquiry’ the NZDF must be trying to hide something.

But if an inquiry is held and it finds no proof that the SAS attacked to two other villages as alleged, or that the SAS killed civilians contrary to terms of engagement, then Hager may still claim only selective information has been released.

It isn’t up to Keating to order an inquiry. Prime Minister Bill English sounds reluctant to have an inquiry at this stage.

NZDF news conference

 

Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Tim Keating held a news conference this afternoon to answer questions about the allegations relating to the SAS in operations in Afghanistan.

Stacey Kirk at Stuff lived blogged and has a lot of details, but she also summarises:

Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Tim Keating has made the following points on Operation Burnham.

  • Operation Burnham was not carried out in the two villages detailed in the book Hit & Run, Keating says.
  • Operation Burnham was conducted some 2km south of the two villages detailed in the book.
  • There may have been civilian casualities, but nothing was proven and the names of the people who were killed in Hit & Run were not present where the SAS was operating.
  • “Revenge was never a driver – we are a professional force,” said Keating.

More detail:

So that was a very detailed, and hence confusing, press conference.

The short of it appears to be that the NZ SAS and Defence Force were carrying out an operation – Operation Burnham – following intelligence received after the death of Lieutenant Tim O’Donnell at the hands of insurgents.

The operation took place, some 2km south of the villages where authors Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson claim it took place in their book Hit & Run.

While Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Tim Keating acknowledges some civilian deaths may have occurred, they weren’t the villagers detailed in the book.

US Apache Gunships were firing at targeted points on the edge of a village where the operation was taking place.

It was realised that some of those rounds were falling short of the target, and going into a building.

But Keating says insurgents were known to have been present inside that building anyway, although there may have been civilians in there as well. (That’s where the possibility of civilian deaths may have occurred).

Keating suggested those civilians could have been being used as human shields by Taliban insurgents.

As soon as it was realised there was a problem with the sight on one of those Apache gunships, that helicopter was called off.

Video exists of the battle, which is classified, but has been seen by Keating. He seemed open to finding out whether some of it could be released – though that comes down to the other ISAF coalition partners.

Today was the first time he acknowledged that there could have been civilian deaths, in line with statement that came out with the ISAF investigation in 2011.

Previously, the defence force said the claims of civilian deaths were “unfounded”.

Unfounded and “may have occurred” are two different things, after all.

But Keating was very clear that the performance of the SAS and NZDF troops on the ground was “exemplary”.

NZ ground forces only fired two bullets in the operation, which killed a single insurgent.

Keating was unable to give names of the insurgents that were killed, but it appears that previous claims that we did not get the specific insurgents that were the subject of the intelligence gathered beforehand, still stand.

A Military legal advisor was with the commander for the entire operation, and found no cause for concern.

The SAS suffered one injury, and another fact for you: the ISAF coalition forces announced their arrival to the battle sight by loud-haler, for benefit of any civilians present, but somewhat giving away the element of surprise.

Details: NZDF hits back at Hit and Run claims


Toby Manhire at The Spinoff compares thee claims of Stephenson and Hager versus NZDF and details common ground and differences:

Hit and Run: What are crucial differences in authors’ vs Defence Force version of events?


Coincidental NZDF report on Afghanistan

NZ Herald has obtained a Defence Force draft report on their deployment in Bamiyan, Afghanistan.

A damning NZ Defence Force report on our largest commitment to Afghanistan is hugely critical of politicians and senior commanders, along with many other aspects of our decade-long deployment to the country.

But it was shelved after being deemed “insufficiently accurate”, a decision made by a commander who oversaw one of New Zealand’s six-month deployments to the country.

The fate of the draft report on the Provincial Reconstruction Team’s deployment to Bamiyan contrasts with comments by a military source familiar with its production, who said there was never any feedback of deep inaccuracies.

Instead, the NZ Herald was told, there was concern inside Defence headquarters about the media getting hold of it.

Key findings include:

  • The report is critical of a lack of a “cohesive campaign plan” and that decisions made in Wellington were impacting on the freedom of commanders to command in the field.
  • It says our team endured poor facilities and substandard equipment; some personnel had to buy their own boots as those supplied “failed to cope with rough conditions”.
  • There were also issues with weapons, including faulty rifle equipment and too-few infra-red sights.

More details: Our faulty war: the Afghanistan report they fought to keep secret

A draft report claimed to contain inaccuracies but highlighting problems corroborated by other sources.

What about the timing of the publication of this?

The Herald obtained the report through the Official Information Act after a three-year struggle and the intervention of Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier.

In releasing the report to the Herald, Commander Joint Forces NZ Major General Tim Gall said in a letter it had too many inaccuracies to be relied on.

The Herald article  has a link to the letter: MAJOR-GENERAL TIM GALL LETTER (p. 1)

NZDFlettertoFisher

That’s dated 5 December 2016.

Investigative journalism can take time, but the timing of this being published, within a week of the launch of Hager and Stephenson’s book, is interesting. It is one of a several reports by Fisher related to the Defence Force in Afghanistan.