Sixty SAS soldiers ‘will quit’ in protest at squadron being disbanded over ‘war crimes’ report

More than 60 outraged SAS soldiers may quit in protest against their squadron being disbanded over war crimes by some of its members in Afghanistan.

Chief of Army Rick Burr removed the 2 Squadron of the Special Air Service Regiment from the army’s order of battle in the wake of the release of the Brereton Report.

The four-year inquiry uncovered a ‘shameful record’ of unlawful killings, including cases where new patrol members were told to shoot a prisoner to achieve their first kill in an ‘appalling practice’ known as ‘blooding’. 

Former officer in the Sydney-based special forces 2nd Commando Regiment Heston Russell said SAS members are now in ‘absolute uproar’ and already have or intend to resign over the ‘group punishment’.

The Perth-based 2 Squadron Special Air Service Regiment was removed from the Army's Order of Battle in the wake of the release of the Brereton Report

The Perth-based 2 Squadron Special Air Service Regiment was removed from the Army's Order of Battle in the wake of the release of the Brereton Report

The Perth-based 2 Squadron Special Air Service Regiment was removed from the Army’s Order of Battle in the wake of the release of the Brereton Report

Former officer in the Sydney-based special forces 2nd Commando Regiment Heston Russell said SAS members are now in 'absolute uproar' and already have or intend to resign over 'group punishment'

Former officer in the Sydney-based special forces 2nd Commando Regiment Heston Russell said SAS members are now in 'absolute uproar' and already have or intend to resign over 'group punishment'

Former officer in the Sydney-based special forces 2nd Commando Regiment Heston Russell said SAS members are now in ‘absolute uproar’ and already have or intend to resign over ‘group punishment’ 

‘The 2nd squadron has been there since 1964 and has generations of veterans who fought in Borneo, Vietnam and many other deployments in between, many of whom never even deployed to Afghanistan,’ he told The Daily Telegraph.

‘Disbanding punishes nearly 60 years, multiple generations, of those who served.’

Because the soldiers are unable to mount a public defence, they have written more than 350 letters to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to ‘get their voice out in public’.

The mass exodus comes as veterans blast a morning tea and a parade at the SAS barracks in Perth on Tuesday to wrap up 2 Squadron as an ‘insulting’ slap in the face.

Key findings from the report: 

  • Special forces were responsible for 39 unlawful killings, most were prisoners, and were deliberately covered up. 
  • Thirty-nine Afghans were unlawfully killed in 23 incidents, either by special forces or at the instruction of special forces. 
  • None of the killings took place in the heat of battle. 
  • All the killings occurred in circumstances which, if accepted by a jury, would constitute the war crime of murder.  
  • There have been 25 perpetrators identified either as principals or accessories. Some are still serving in the ADF. 

 

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The event, which was slated to recognise the soldiers’ service to Australia, has now been ‘postponed’ after families of soldiers said they wouldn’t attend to take a stand against the disbandment of the squadron.

The ADF will instead wait until there is an implementation plan for what happens after the report to properly commemorate the disbanded unit.

Mr Russell, a former Major in the 2nd Commando Regiment and Voice of a Veteran founder, said members and their families were ‘disgusted’.  

‘The biggest thing that veterans suffer from when they leave the military is a loss of purpose or a loss of identity,’ he told The West Australian. 

‘Those that have fought under a unit that was 2 Squadron, and people have died under it. On Anzac Day when they get together that’s part of their identity. 

‘We’re just tearing down these symbols. Families of these old guys are calling me saying “hey it’s actually really hurting my grandad”.’ 

The ADF said it would work with the 2 Squadron veteran’s community and ex-service organisations to ‘appropriately acknowledge their service’.

The 465-page Brereton report, which blames the killings in part on a ‘warrior hero’ culture among special forces, recommended that 19 people face criminal investigation and called for sweeping reforms to Australia’s military.

One particular incident, wholly redacted in the report, was described as ‘possibly the most disgraceful episode in Australia’s military history’.  

There was also evidence that troops took part in ‘body count competitions’ and covered up illegal killings by staging skirmishes, planting weapons and retrospectively adding names to target lists. 

There was also evidence that troops took part in 'body count competitions'. Pictured: Body camera footage from Australian SAS forces in Afghanistan

There was also evidence that troops took part in 'body count competitions'. Pictured: Body camera footage from Australian SAS forces in Afghanistan

There was also evidence that troops took part in ‘body count competitions’. Pictured: Body camera footage from Australian SAS forces in Afghanistan

One of the killings was described in the report as 'possibly the most disgraceful episode in Australia's military history' but details were completely redacted (Pictured: Chapter 2.50 of the Afghanistan Inquiry report)

One of the killings was described in the report as 'possibly the most disgraceful episode in Australia's military history' but details were completely redacted (Pictured: Chapter 2.50 of the Afghanistan Inquiry report)

One of the killings was described in the report as ‘possibly the most disgraceful episode in Australia’s military history’ but details were completely redacted (Pictured: Chapter 2.50 of the Afghanistan Inquiry report)

Australia’s Chief of Army said he was left ‘sickened’ by the landmark investigation.  

‘I was shocked by the extent of the alleged unlawful acts that were described in the report,’ Lieutenant General Rick Burr told the Nine Network.

‘That is absolutely not what I expect of anyone in our army, anywhere in our army at any time, and why I’m so determined to lead our army through this into a better place.’

The inquiry has also raised questions about how Australia’s elite soldiers should be represented at the war memorial in Canberra. 

How special force soldiers were responsible for the ‘most disgraceful episode in Australia’s military history’

Australian soldiers stand accused of murdering 39 people in Afghanistan as part of a campaign of cruelty against prisoners while on tour in the war-torn country.

The damning findings were outlined in a major report into alleged Australian war crimes in Afghanistan made public last month.

The four-year inquiry uncovered a ‘shameful record’ of unlawful killings which took place outside the ‘heat of battle’, including cases where new patrol members were told to shoot a prisoner to achieve their first kill in an ‘appalling practice’ known as ‘blooding’.

There was also evidence that troops took part in ‘body count competitions’ and covered up illegal killings by staging skirmishes, planting weapons and retrospectively adding names to target lists.

One particular incident, wholly redacted in the report, was described as ‘possibly the most disgraceful episode in Australia’s military history’.

A SAS squadron embroiled in the allegations is being disbanded, while 19 current and former soldiers face possible criminal prosecution

A SAS squadron embroiled in the allegations is being disbanded, while 19 current and former soldiers face possible criminal prosecution

A SAS squadron embroiled in the allegations is being disbanded, while 19 current and former soldiers face possible criminal prosecution

The 465-page document, which blames the killings in part on a ‘warrior hero’ culture among special forces, recommended that 19 people face criminal investigation and called for sweeping reforms to Australia’s military.

Australia’s Chief of Army was left ‘sickened’ by the landmark investigation. 

Paul Brereton, who led the four-year inquiry, found young soldiers were forced to kill Afghan soldiers in a practice known as ‘blooding’ to achieve their first kill.

‘I was shocked by the extent of the alleged unlawful acts that were described in the report,’ Lieutenant General Rick Burr told Nine Network.

‘That is absolutely not what I expect of anyone in our army, anywhere in our army at any time, and why I’m so determined to lead our army through this into a better place.’

A SAS squadron embroiled in the allegations is being disbanded, while 19 current and former soldiers face possible criminal prosecution.

All special forces soldiers who served in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013 could also lose their meritorious unit citations.

Australian soldiers stand accused of murdering 39 people in Afghanistan and treating prisoners with cruelty (pictured, soldiers in Afghanistan)

Australian soldiers stand accused of murdering 39 people in Afghanistan and treating prisoners with cruelty (pictured, soldiers in Afghanistan)

Australian soldiers stand accused of murdering 39 people in Afghanistan and treating prisoners with cruelty (pictured, soldiers in Afghanistan)

Darren Chester, the minister for veterans’ affairs and defence personnel, agrees with the recommendation.

‘I think it’s a tough call but I think in the circumstances it is a fair call,’ he told ABC radio.

‘I think it’s a difficult decision, a difficult recommendation, but I think it’s one we probably have to follow through with.’

However, Mr Chester is concerned for the vast majority of veterans who served with great distinction in Afghanistan.

‘They have no reason to have their work in uniform either defined or diminished in any way because of these allegations that have come forward,’ he said.

‘The last thing they need right now is our judgement, they need our support.’

The inquiry has also raised questions about how Australia’s elite soldiers should be represented at the war memorial in Canberra. 

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