Afghanistan’s President says Prime Minister Scott Morrison has expressed “his deepest sorrow over the misconduct by some Australian troops” in his country, as Defence prepares to release a long-awaited report into alleged war crimes.
A statement from Afghanistan’s presidential palace said Mr Morrison called President Ashraf Ghani overnight and told him that future investigations into the allegations would ensure justice.
This morning Defence Chief General Angus Campbell will release the long-awaited findings from an inquiry by the Inspector-General of the ADF (IGADF) into the conduct of Australian special forces during the Afghanistan war.
It has examined allegations of unlawful killings and other possible breaches of the laws of armed conflict committed mainly by elite soldiers during their lengthy deployment.
According to the palace, Foreign Minister Marise Payne also wrote to her Afghan counterpart to extend “apologies for the misconduct identified by the inquiry, by some Australian military personnel in Afghanistan”.
An excerpt of Senator Payne’s letter released by Afghanistan’s President reads: “The Australian Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC and the Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell AO DSC, are now considering the inquiry’s extensive findings and recommendations and will make public statements subsequently.”
The Prime Minister’s office did not mention an apology or expression of sorrow in its read-out of the call.
“The PM called President Ghani yesterday to foreshadow the release of the report today,” it said.
“[The Prime Minister] said the report contained some disturbing allegations and the Australian government was taking those allegations very seriously.
“President Ghani appreciated the direct contact, noted the many Australians who had served with distinction in Afghanistan and said he was counting on Australia’s justice system to follow up on these matters.”
Last week, Mr Morrison said the report included allegations of “disturbing conduct” by troops, and would require Australia to confront some “brutal truths” when it was released.
In response to the report, the government will create an Office of the Special Investigator which will look into any criminal allegations raised and, where appropriate, refer briefs to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to consider.
It also announced the creation of a new panel which will drive cultural change inside Australia’s SAS and commando regiments.
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