A huge war-crimes scandal is rocking the Australian Special Operations community.

According to reports, Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) and 2nd Commando Regiment operators are under scrutiny for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan that took place between June and November 2012.

More than a dozen active and former operators, to include high ranking officers, have come out testifying that at least four Afghan detainees were executed by Australians warfighters. It is important to highlight, however, that it was the operators themselves who came forward with the illegal conduct.

Not even war heroes have escaped scrutiny. Former SASR operator Ben Roberts-Smith, VC, who is the Regiment’s highest decorated warrior. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is investigating him for allegedly brutalizing two Afghan males that had been apprehended during a search operation on September 11, 2009.

According to the reports, Roberts-Smith took one handcuffed Afghani, Ali Jan, to the edge of a small cliff and kicked him off. The injured prisoner was then allegedly executed by another SASR operator. Roberts-Smith has denied any wrongdoing.

The dead man’s widow, Bibi Dhorko, said to Australian media that “I want justice because I have been widowed … my children are now helpless. [My husband] didn’t side with anyone and never had a gun. He was living in the mountain and doing his work, only going occasionally to the village if we needed any supplies.”

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According to reports from down under, the SASR operators went rogue after three of their conventional army brethren were killed by an Afghan Army sergeant who went on a murdering rampage.

Sources familiar with the events told SOFREP that the SASR operators were assigned to a Boat Troop – SASR is comprised of four squadrons, each divided into troops (Boat, Air, and Mobility). As a Tier 1 unit, SASR is often involved in exchange programs with its allied brethren. And Boat troop operators often find themselves operating alongside SEAL Team 6 operators.

Ali Jan’s family said that he was a family man and a farmer, trying to make a living amid the war that has been plaguing Afghanistan for almost two decades.

But there lies the rub, it’s very hard to distinguish between the Taliban and any ordinary Afghan. Often, only the carrying of weapons and ammunition differentiates the two. And any savvy Taliban fighter hearing the sound of helicopters above his hiding place knows that by throwing his weapon and kit away he instantly becomes safe from the pipehitters who are after him and his buddies.

War exhaustion should also be considered. The deployment in which these incidents allegedly occurred was the 18th for Australia’s SOF units since the 9/11 attacks.

Executing prisoners, however, is something unacceptable – even if operators know their guilt and that they’ll be soon on the battlefield again because of the corrupt Afghan legal system.


 

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