Hit and Run authors reply to defence force presss conference

By   /   March 29, 2017  /   25 Comments

TDB recommends Voyager - Unlimited internet @home as fast as you can get

The Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating presented the NZDF response to the book Hit and Run at a press conference on Monday 27 March 2017. For 45 minutes he and his colleagues suggested that everything in the book was incorrect.

The Hit and Run authors have now had time to study the defence chief’s statements. Our conclusion is that the NZDF criticisms are wrong – with one exception – and that they have failed to address almost everything of substance in the book. This is what a cover up looks like.

The cover up continues

An analysis of the New Zealand Defence Force response to the book Hit and Run

By Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson

The Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating presented the NZDF response to the book Hit and Run at a press conference on Monday 27 March 2017. For 45 minutes he and his colleagues suggested that everything in the book was incorrect.

The Hit and Run authors have now had time to study the defence chief’s statements. Our conclusion is that the NZDF criticisms are wrong – with one exception – and that they have failed to address almost everything of substance in the book. This is what a cover up looks like.
1. The raid described in the book “is not an operation NZSAS conducted”: INCORRECT

The information presented in Keating’s press conference leaves no doubt that the book and the defence chief are talking about the same raid. Keating gave the name of the raid (Operation Burnham), the times and date (12.30-3.45am on 22 August 2010), the location in the Tirgiran Valley, and said the SAS arrived in two Chinook helicopters, used SAS snipers, found a quantity of ammunition in one building and had one SAS trooper injured by falling debris. All of these are details of the SAS raid publicised first in chapter 3 of the book. There were not two different raids with the same operation name at the same time in the same valley. It is obviously the same raid.

An NZDF power point presentation shown in the press conference showed three main SAS objectives in the valley called A1, A2 and A3. The book had already identified the SAS’s main targets as being the house and guest house of an insurgent named Abdullah Kalta and the house of an insurgent named Naimatullah, neither of whom were present during the raid. The NZDF objectives A1 and A2 are the buildings belonging to Abdullah Kalta seen in a photo on p.60 of the book and NZDF objective A3 is the house of Nematullah shown on pp. 39 and 60 of the book.
2. The SAS raid was in a different village with a different name: INCORRECT

The defence force claimed that the SAS raid occurred in a village called Tirgiran, not the villages of Naik and Khak Khuday Dad named in the book. This is not true. The locals know the names of their own villages and they are called Naik and Khak Khuday Dad. The raid occurred there.
3. The SAS raid was about two kilometres from the position we gave in the book: CORRECT, BUT DOES NOT CHANGE THE STORY IN ANY SIGNIFICANT WAY

After the NZDF press conference, Nicky Hager said that the authors stood by the whole story and that at most the NZDF denials might mean that the events in the book occurred two kilometres from where we thought they were, ie. a slightly different location in the isolated mountain valley.

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. Likewise the photos in the book of the villages attacked in the raid are correct, as are the photos of the victims and destroyed houses.

The Defence Force leapt on this and tried to sow doubt about the rest of the book. Keating said the “central premise” of the book was incorrect; that there were “major inaccuracies – the main one being the location”. But the location is a minor detail, difficult to establish in mountains with no roads or detailed maps (there are no known maps of the valley that include the locations and names of the villages along it). Contrary to what Keating said, the central premise of the book is that the actions of the SAS and its allies in the villages of Naik and Khak Khuday Dad led to civilian deaths and injuries, destruction of houses, neglect of wounded people and then a cover up – and none of that has changed.
4. The NZDF has now replied to the allegations in the book: INCORRECT

The defence force has not replied to most allegations in the book. Most strikingly, Keating’s presentation did not address the deaths and injuries suffered by children, mothers and elderly people who were obviously not insurgents – which are the most important allegations in the book.

The allegations that the defence force has avoided or answered inadequately to date are:

* SAS-controlled attack helicopters fired at civilians in Khak Khuday Dad village with many casualties, including the three-year-old child Fatima

* SAS snipers appear to have shot at least one civilian, a recently graduated school teacher home on holiday

* SAS-controlled attack helicopters pursued two farmers who opposed the Taliban along the valley and killed them

* Twelve houses were destroyed despite there being no military necessity to do so

* No assistance was given to the wounded at the time, including in houses that Defence now says it knew might have contained civilians

* Nor did the SAS go back to render assistance later, despite knowing that civilians were likely to have been injured

* The SAS returned for a second raid on the village Naik and blew up a house or houses

* A bound and blindfolded prisoner was beaten by an SAS trooper while his colleagues looked on and did nothing

* The prisoner was then handed over to the Afghan secret police who were known to have a notorious reputation for torturing prisoners

* That prisoner was then tortured by the Afghan secret police and when the defence force learned about this it kept it secret

* The SAS arranged the extra-judicial killing of some other insurgent suspects

* The NZDF repeatedly denied and covered up what the SAS have done, and continue to do so to this day.
5. An ISAF investigation has already occurred, there is no need for another inquiry: A WEAK SELF-SERVING ARGUMENT

First it is important to explain about the investigation done in August 2010 by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition headquarters, which was cited repeatedly during the NZDF press conference. In 2010 the subject of civilian deaths was very sensitive in Afghanistan and so ISAF was attempting to investigate all suspected cases of civilians being killed by ISAF forces. But these “assessments” were very far from being full or independent.

The ISAF investigation into the 22 August 2010 raid was completed in less than a week and did not involve anyone going to the area or talking to the affected villagers. It included a review of attack helicopter weapons system video and concluded that several “errant rounds”, caused by a gun sight malfunction, “may have resulted in civilian casualties”. However reports from SAS members and local people interviewed for the book describe multiple heavy attacks that wounded and killed civilians in different locations. Thus the hastily-conducted ISAF review appears far from being adequate. It is silent on most of the allegations in the book.

There is no need for New Zealand to rely on the brief and inadequate ISAF review. Most of the information needed to confirm whether or not the allegations in the book are correct is located here in New Zealand, in the SAS files. The best option is an independent inquiry where this information can be gathered and assessed.
6. Keating said the insurgents may have used civilians as human shields; aircraft video showed insurgents were killed; the conduct of the New Zealand ground forces was “exemplary”; and so on: UNSUBSTANTIATED CLAIMS AND SELECTIVE INFORMATION

Much of Keating’s presentation was unsubstantiated assertions. This does not help the public find the truth since the defence force has an obvious interest in avoiding bad news about itself. He also said that the book claimed the SAS “deliberately killed civilians”, which we did not say. If we are correct that bad things are being covered up, we cannot expect the people at the heart of the cover up to provide impartial information. Once again, this means that the only acceptable option is a full and independent inquiry.
7. Lieutenant General Tim Keating told the press conference: “The ground force commander was an NZSAS Officer who controlled both the ground activities and provided clearance, after the appropriate criteria had been met, for any involvement of the aircraft. These elements were co-ordinated by an air controller in his location.” CORRECT AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION

This statement contradicts earlier statements by the government (in 2014) where ministers suggested that if there had been any civilian deaths they were the responsibility of the US pilots, not the New Zealand SAS. It confirms what we said in the book: that the SAS commanders in charge of the raid have responsibility for deaths and injuries caused by the US attack helicopters, which they controlled and had requested to be part of the raid.
8. Finally, Keating told the press that there were legal complications for having an inquiry: INCORRECT

This is not correct. We are not proposing an inquiry by the defence force about itself. The government has the power to launch a full and independent inquiry at any time. 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.

***
Want to support this work? Donate today
***
Follow us on Twitter & Facebook
***

25 Comments

  1. Richard Christie says:

    Most of the information needed to confirm whether or not the allegations in the book are correct is located here in New Zealand, in the SAS files.

    Heh, as if incriminating records don’t tend to disappear.

  2. Michal says:

    Let’s get on with the enquiry NOW!

  3. Tamati Tautuhi says:

    Evidently it is very difficult to identify the enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to friends who have been there, this is common in these types of war zones, I know we had the same trouble in Vietnam which is not suprising. Time to rethink our activities in some of these war zones?

    • Afewknowthetruth says:

      The enemy is easily identified: it is your own government.

      The enemy is your own government because your own government is actually owned by overseas money-lenders and corporations, and promotes the short-term agendas of money-lenders and corporations, one of which is profits from wars.

  4. John W says:

    So Keating is not working for NZders but is most likely linked with US grab of resources for private interests.

    This man is committing treason.

    A monster who deserves the mistrust consequence of his actions which are connected with war crimes.

    We have dishonest politicians and so called defence leaders.

    There is no defence for lying even when paid to do it.

  5. Once ........ says:

    And just an afterthought.
    If I were a member of the SAS, or anywhere in the military, I’d be really fucked off that the muppets at the top were shaming all I stood for, and all I joined up for – so badly.
    But then (as Andrew Little claimed, and as the Gnats are even more desperate to try to prove) – he’s a man of integrity – so we should not therefore question.
    Stop fucking digging mate. Just front up with ALL you know, put it on the table, and just see where the chips fall. After all, you are such a hero

  6. silvertuatara says:

    I have the up most respect for all those persons working hard towards helping the families and victims be heard and would like to see the NZDF’s denials be swept away to allow for the commencement of restorative justice and compensation to be paved..

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      1000% silvertuatar. same here.

      Time for us to hang our ex military head’s in shame when our peers above are just puppets of the interest of the Global elite buzzards.

      Ex National Serviceman.

  7. Dave says:

    As Hager and co cannot even get the location correct I suggest they return to the hole from where they emerged.

    • bert says:

      You really need to engage your brain before commenting. Maybe Dave it is you who needs to return to the hole you emerged, John Key’s!
      You probably would have to run hard to catch Key, as he is as slippery as Brownlee( I was not minister at the time of the raids).

    • Go Dave, a really heavy thinker…firstly Dave read the book, secondly Dave read the blog slowly and carefully, lastly engage your brain and by doing these three things you may learn to understand just what investigative journalism actually means…

  8. Mike the Lefty says:

    A story was posted on stuff that basically said all claims in the book had been completely negated by that geographical error. Although it did not specifically say it: the inference was that the authors were lying.
    Funny, though, the story had disappeared from stuff only an hour or so later.
    ?

  9. Pat O'Dea says:

    “If any of these topographical details are of any moment at all, let the cartographers and lawyers argue it out in court”

    The evidence is clear. Whatever its name, or its exact location, the Afghan village attacked by the NZSAS, that Tim Keating mentions in his rebuttal, is the very same village that Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson claim they attacked.

    Of this there can be no doubt.

    That the coalition forces knew this village under a different name to that of its inhabitants is not unusual, and often common on different sides of a front line in war time. Foreign forces in unfamiliar territory are often reading off topographical maps that they themselves have had made up for their military maneuvers, in places where exact maps had never existed before, or where they wouldn’t know the maps and names their opposing side, or even the local population were working off.

    This is not unusual or remarkable at all, that it is being remarked on and held up as evidence, tells me that Tim Keating is refusing to openly face up to, or rebut the real points of difference between himself and Hager and Stephenson, about what happened in this village.
    That these maps were off by 20 miles is also neither here nor there, (in this case literally). This valley is not the sort of place visited by Google Street view vehicles even in peace time.

    If any of these topographical details are of any moment at all, let the cartographers and lawyers argue it out in court.

    That this is never going to be allowed to happen, can also be of no doubt. That is, not if the NZDF or the Government can prevent it.

    To get any sort of justice for the Afghan civilians killed and maimed and left to die by our forces, (and/or prevent a reoccurrence), the NZDF and Tim Keating first have to be called out and convicted in the court of New Zealand public opinion.

    Nicky Hager and John Stepheson, and/or other prominent people closely connected to this case, and prominent opinion shapers or commentators convinced of the need to address this injustice. Will have to go out on a limb and publicly call out Tim Keating for what he is.

    Tim Keating, You are a LIAR, and an accomplice in committing murder after the fact.

    Tim Keating has said that this is a matter of honour and reputation, let us see if Tim Keating would be prepared to defend his and the NZDF’s “honour” and “reputation” in court.

    I doubt it. And instead will back down, to be exposed publicly as a blustering blowhard.

    Maybe then the public will demand that transparency and enforceable checks and balances are imposed on our armed forces, by independent civil authorities.

  10. silvertuatara says:

    Thanks to Hager and Stephenson’s cunning rouse, they have got the NZ Defense Force to finally, with full certainty of geo-location, to pinpoint the exact sight where they slaughtered a number of persons that were not on their list, and for whom would have been alive the next day had the operation not proceeded.

    I challenge the NZDF to provide to the New Zealand public two lists;

    1. The list of the persons that they killed that night and,

    2. The authentic capture and kill list that was in effect prior to the night that these fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons including children were executed, although some translations of the word execute, denote that for the execution to occur that one must have first been found to have been a legally condemned person…..these ex-judicial killings need to be tested in an international court I say.

    The way that I see it is the NZSAS person approving the use of lethal force that night, must then be the person who is also responsible to have had determined that all persons killed were legally condemned persons and every one who died tat night deserved to have been condemned to death.

    This must be the fastest and most expedient form of capital punishment in any civil/military court around……just think about it……with a probable list ( codified, in true military style) as long as a snipers rifle of the excuses that the military legal establishment can use to justify the killing of innocents during conflict…..how definite does the person calling the raids shots have to be about whether a person is or is not a civilian…especially since they are probably aware that any mistakes, accidental or intentional will quite possibly never be independently investigated. A persons right to life being determined in a split second, without the person having their rights to have been heard considered, by a single commanding officer coordinating multiple areas at night.

    Far from Exemplary in my mind.

    (A) You have the right to…
    (B)….oh he is running away Sir….
    (A)….”exemplary”, shoot him.

    or,

    (A)….Oh he has gone inside a home….
    (B)….but there are women in kids in there…
    (A)….don’t worry we can kill them to, and claim that they were being used as human shields “exemplary” FIRE.

    Or,

    His names not on the list sir…..

    …but even though he was unarmed, and running away from you, you did feel that your life was threatened…

    …well not really sir….

    .….BUT EVEN THOUGH HE WAS UNARMED, AND RUNNING AWAY FROM YOU, YOU DID FEEL THAT YOUR FELLOW SOLDIERS LIVES WERE IN DANGER…

    …well not really sir, but he did look, scared, upset, confused possibly angry, and definitely fearful for his life…

    LOOKED ANGRY YOU SAY, EXEMPLARY… BLOODY INSURGENT DESERVED WHAT HE HAD COMING …

    5 year old kid looking for their dad in all the confusion….

    Have you seen my dad?

    DID HE LOOK ANGRY?

    No scared, upset, confused and worried that he would be hurt….

    WELL THEN DEAR, DO WE HAVE A DEAL FOR YOU….A NEW ROAD, AND A COUPLE OF SCHOOLS…

    But have you seen my dad?

    COME ON LADS TIME TO LEAVE, THERES ANOTHER VILLAGE ON OUR LIST FOR TONIGHT

    …dad, dad where are you dad?
    …dad, dad where are you dad?
    Daaaaaaddd…. dad talk to me…talk to me dad…wake up dad, wake up….please wake up, dahaad….

    I have to reflect on how far civilization has come when I watched Keating, no remorse, no empathy, no apology. Remember Hager and Stephenson were approached by SAS members who were not comfortable about the manner in which this particular raid was carried out, and according to Keating everything was carried out to an exemplary standard.

    To find out that the two villagers both parties talked about are one in the same and that Keeting, the SAS planners and senior decision makers did not even know the correct names for each of the villages is just so upsetting to me.

  11. CLEANGREEN says:

    Yes and it is clear that the PM Bill English has been more evasive and tricky than anyone else now, as he was spouting out that he had seen nothing that convinces him the need for a “Independent enquiry”.

    He has clearly lost his credibility entirely now and should apologise to the nation or resign for attempting to “subvert the course of justice” and falsely attempt to ruin the long standing public respect career’s of two of our finest journalist’s and patriotic NZ citizens.

    If I was Nicky and John I would place a defamation case against the PM Bill English tomorrow!!!!!!

  12. Pat O'Dea says:

    So what would be the point of an inquiry and/or a defamation court case that may shed some light arising from these allegations?

    “It is all in the past”, “there is nothing we can do about it”, “its happened”, “bad things happen in war”, “let’s move on”.

    The main point, is to stop it happening again!

    One revealed fact is that SAS involved in this raid were awarded medals for their actions.

    The awarding of medals is an official endorsement by the NZDF top brass of what the SAS did on that raid. The awarding of medals and other military decorations is an encouragement to others to continue with similar behaviour in future operations, in the knowledge that you will be officially recognised and rewarded for it.

    I have no intention of prosecuting or even identifying the soldiers on the ground who were given these medals, or even to have these medals taken off them. If those men want to wear these medals and parade them on their tunics at public events, alongside their comrades, let that be on their conscience.

    If in their hearts these men know these allegations are true then by wearing them they are devaluing all other medals and awards and decorations and diminishing those awarded them.

    No my target is not these men, it is those men who awarded these medals. It is those men, the men that gave the orders for this attack, and those that awarded the medals after it, that need to face legal civilian court, or even military court martial proceedings.

    Only when these people are made accountable, will such atrocities be prevented from occurring again.

    To this effect I will call out Tim Keating again.

    Tim Keating, You are a LIAR, and an accomplice in committing and covering up murder after the fact.

    Defend your honour Tim Keating, that is if you have any. Or be revealed as a coward, as well as a liar. Tim Keating as a revealed liar and coward, you have no moral right to ever be in any position where you can order others into harms way, or to harm others.

    • “It is all in the past”, “there is nothing we can do about it”, “its happened”, “bad things happen in war”, “let’s move on”.

      The latest version of the “I was only following orders” excuse…

  13. jay says:

    Our big brother U$ commits War Crimes almost daily, it’s bread and butter to them so why can’t mini bro NZ follow suit!? Why are we so precious?

    An American Century of Carnage
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46751.htm

    Operation Mosul: A Medieval Massacre
    March 27, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova described it this way weeks after US-led terror-bombing and Iraqi ground operations began last October – long before the worst horrors ongoing now.

    US-orchestrated operations are being conducted under “conditions of absolute information blockade,” Zakharova explained.

    Nothing was done to protect, evacuate or otherwise help civilians. They’ve been on their own in harm’s way without humanitarian or any other type aid or consideration for their welfare and safety since last October.
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46740.htm

    nice clean little dawg lies down with Big Dawg and surprise surprise gets Big Dawg’s flea infestation!

  14. the relic says:

    where to start, so many things r sickening in this affair i would like to raise one of the less obvious & no doubt controversial aspects not covered by previous posters. the aspect being the conduct & culpability of the nzsas soldiers present on this raid because at the end of the day they r in these peoples villages & homes uninvited as part of the false war on terror kicking in doors choosing who gets a black bag over their heads & torn from a familly & handed over for torture, execution or gitmo wthout trial for years ~ following orders does not excuse them. truth be known, turn up with a backpack b4 invasion these villagers would give the shirt from their backs & welcome u into their homes, they had no beef with nz – now they do, thanks sas. people of nz used to strive for honour, equality, decency, principles, fairness and common sense politicians never have & need to be removed. what honour in killing woman & children and the men defending their country & families who have never harmed us who dont even know your coming that u outnumber & vastly outgun & accept a medal for it when the war is here – not my sas.

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      PM Bill English should apologise to Nicky Hagar & Jon Stephenson for saying they are wrong, as they were totally correct.

      They should take a Deformation case for damages against the errant PM.

      http://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/29-03-2017/tirgiran-locals-tirgiran-is-not-a-village-and-therefore-tirgiran-village-does-not-exist/

      “We believe in the integrity of the Defence Force, more than a book that picks the wrong villages.” That was the prime minister, Bill English, speaking this morning.

      PoliticsBrought to you by
      Tirgiran locals: ‘Tirgiran is not a village, and therefore “Tirgiran Village” does not exist’
      By Toby Manhire | Politics Editor
      March 29, 2017

      Residents of the Afghan area where NZ forces undertook Operation Burnham in 2010 say the NZ Defence Force claim it took place in Tirgiran Village is a nonsense, like describing an attack on ‘Otago City’.

      Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson have meanwhile conceded that they were out by 2km in locating the villages, but argue it ‘does not change the story in any significant way’.

      “We believe in the integrity of the Defence Force, more than a book that picks the wrong villages.” That was the prime minister, Bill English, speaking this morning.

      He was backing the position of the Defence Force Chief Tim Keating, who said this week that “the central premise of Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s book, Hit and Run, is incorrect”. It had wrongly stated the August 2010 operation took place in the villages of Naik and Khak Khuday Dad. He also rejected a range of other claims in the book, including civilian injuries and deaths, the motives for the operation and the nature of a second raid.

      The most startling “major inaccuracy“, however, was location: the NZ-led operation had successfully targeted Tirgiran Village, the NZDF Chief insisted. They had never operated in the villages mentioned in the book and video evidence proved this to be “irrefutable”.

      The authors have in turn rejected that account, with Jon Stephenson telling the Spinoff, he remained in “no doubt that New Zealand SAS troopers were in Tirgiran, at both Naik and Khak Khuday Dad”.

      Now, locals from the Tirgiran Valley have responded, via lawyers acting on their behalf, throwing fresh doubt on the NZDF claims, saying, “Tirgiran is not a village, and therefore ‘Tirgiran Village’ does not exist.”

      In a letter to English and Chris Finlayson, the Attorney General, lawyer Richard McLeod reiterates an earlier request for a formal inquiry.

      He writes: “The NZDF has stated that Operation Burnham took place in ‘Tirgiran Village’, which it claims is located 2+ kilometres south of the villages of Naik and Khak Khuday Dad … We have provided the NZDF map to our clients, together with the NZDF media release of 26 March 2017. Our clients are locals and residents of this area, and of course they know the names of the villages in which they live.”

      The locals’ assessment: “Tirgiran is not a village, and therefore ‘Tirgiran Village’ does not exist … Tirgiran is a valley area. Naik and Khak Khuday Dad villages are in fact located within the red retangular box in the NZDF map. The identified Objectives 1 and 2 are located in Naik village. The most northern village (incorrectly named Khak Khuday Dad in the NZDF map) is in fact a village named Khakandy. The north-western village (incorrectly named Naik Village in the NZDF map) is in fact a village named Beidak.”

      The letter adds: “Tirgiran is the name of the river valley and the greater area depicted on the NZDF map, and both the Naik and Khak Khuday Dad villages are located within Tirgiran Valley. To be completely clear, there is no separate settlement of any kind named ‘Tirgiran Village’, anywhere in the Tirgiran Valley … For the NZDF to claim that an operation occurred in ‘Tirgiran Village’ is akin (in New Zealand terms) to claiming that an operation took place in ‘Otago city’, ‘Waikato town’ or ‘Waitakere village’. It is plainly wrong to conflate an area into a village as the NZDF has done in this case.”

      They further write: “It is unclear to us whether the creation of this flawed document has been the result of misunderstanding, error or otherwise. However, it is plainly incorrect and unreliable. It must follow that so too are the conclusions which the NZDF seeks to draw from this map, namely that they have never operated in our clients’ villages. Indeed on our instructions, the latest NZDF statements are effectively an admission that they did so.

      “We reiterate that the villages of Naik and Khak Khuday Dad were raided by international forces on 22 August 2010, and that six civilians – non-combatants – were killed and 15 were seriously injured … The flawed NZDF map and its derived conclusions therefore reinforce our view that it is untenable for the NZDF to assert that Operation Burnham was a separate operation on the night of 22 August 2010 to the military operation that was carried out that same night in our clients’ villages – or indeed that no NZDF military operations occurred in relation to our clients’ villages.

      “For the sake of our clients and the New Zealand public, it is imperative that the truth of what happened during the military operation of 22 August 2010 in Tirgiran be established. Allegations of serious human rights violations have been made against the NZDF Operation Burnham. These must be addressed now and at the outset by way of a formal inquiry.”

      The book’s authors, Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, have also just issued an itemised rebuttal of the NZDF position.

      Hager and Stephenson statement on the NZDF press conference
      The raid described in the book “is not an operation the NZSAS conducted”: INCORRECT

      The information presented in Keating’s press conference leaves no doubt that the book and the defence chief are talking about the same raid. Keating gave the name of the raid (Operation Burnham), the times and date (12.30-3.45am on 22 August 2010), the location in the Tirgiran Valley, and said the SAS arrived in two Chinook helicopters, used SAS snipers, found a quantity of ammunition in one building and had one SAS trooper injured by falling debris. All of these are details of the SAS raid publicised first in chapter 3 of the book. There were not two different raids with the same operation name at the same time in the same valley. It is obviously the same raid.

      An NZDF power point presentation shown in the press conference showed three main SAS objectives in the valley called A1, A2 and A3. The book had already identified the SAS’s main targets as being the house and guest house of an insurgent named Abdullah Kalta and the house of an insurgent named Naimatullah, neither of whom were present during the raid. The NZDF objectives A1 and A2 are the buildings belonging to Abdullah Kalta seen in a photo on p.60 of the book and NZDF objective A3 is the house of Nematullah shown on pp. 39 and 60 of the book.

      The SAS raid was in a different village with a different name: INCORRECT

      The defence force claimed that the SAS raid occurred in a village called Tirgiran, not the villages of Naik and Khak Khuday Dad named in the book. This is not true. The locals know the names of their own villages and they are called Naik and Khak Khuday Dad. The raid occurred there.

      The SAS raid was about two kilometres from the position we gave in the book: CORRECT, BUT DOES NOT CHANGE THE STORY IN ANY SIGNIFICANT WAY

      After the NZDF press conference, Nicky Hager said that the authors stood by the whole story and that at most the NZDF denials might mean that the events in the book occurred two kilometres from where we thought they were, ie. a slightly different location in the isolated mountain valley.

      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. Likewise the photos in the book of the villages attacked in the raid are correct, as are the photos of the victims and destroyed houses.

      The Defence Force leapt on this and tried to sow doubt about the rest of the book. Keating said the “central premise” of the book was incorrect; that there were “major inaccuracies – the main one being the location”. But the location is a minor detail, difficult to establish in mountains with no roads or detailed maps (there are no known maps of the valley that include the locations and names of the villages along it). Contrary to what Keating said, the central premise of the book is that the actions of the SAS and its allies in the villages of Naik and Khak Khuday Dad led to civilian deaths and injuries, destruction of houses, neglect of wounded people and then a cover up – and none of that has changed.

      The NZDF has now replied to the allegations in the book: INCORRECT

      The defence force has not replied to most allegations in the book. Most strikingly, Keating’s presentation did not address the deaths and injuries suffered by children, mothers and elderly people who were obviously not insurgents – which are the most important allegations in the book.

      The allegations that the defence force has avoided or answered inadequately to date are:

      * SAS-controlled attack helicopters fired at civilians in Khak Khuday Dad village with many casualties, including the three-year-old child Fatima

      * SAS snipers appear to have shot at least one civilian, a recently graduated school teacher home on holiday

      * SAS-controlled attack helicopters pursued two farmers who opposed the Taliban along the valley and killed them

      * Twelve houses were destroyed despite there being no military necessity to do so

      * No assistance was given to the wounded at the time, including in houses that Defence now says it knew might have contained civilians

      * Nor did the SAS go back to render assistance later, despite knowing that civilians were likely to have been injured

      * The SAS returned for a second raid on the village Naik and blew up a house or houses

      * A bound and blindfolded prisoner was beaten by an SAS trooper while his colleagues looked on and did nothing

      * The prisoner was then handed over to the Afghan secret police who were known to have a notorious reputation for torturing prisoners

      * That prisoner was then tortured by the Afghan secret police and when the defence force learned about this it kept it secret

      * The SAS arranged the extra-judicial killing of some other insurgent suspects

      * The NZDF repeatedly denied and covered up what the SAS have done, and continue to do so to this day.

      An ISAF investigation has already occurred, there is no need for another inquiry: A WEAK SELF-SERVING ARGUMENT

      First it is important to explain about the investigation done in August 2010 by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition headquarters, which was cited repeatedly during the NZDF press conference. In 2010 the subject of civilian deaths was very sensitive in Afghanistan and so ISAF was attempting to investigate all suspected cases of civilians being killed by ISAF forces. But these “assessments” were very far from being full or independent.

      The ISAF investigation into the 22 August 2010 raid was completed in less than a week and did not involve anyone going to the area or talking to the affected villagers. It included a review of attack helicopter weapons system video and concluded that several “errant rounds”, caused by a gun sight malfunction, “may have resulted in civilian casualties”. However reports from SAS members and local people interviewed for the book describe multiple heavy attacks that wounded and killed civilians in different locations. Thus the hastily-conducted ISAF review appears far from being adequate. It is silent on most of the allegations in the book.

      There is no need for New Zealand to rely on the brief and inadequate ISAF review. Most of the information needed to confirm whether or not the allegations in the book are correct is located here in New Zealand, in the SAS files. The best option is an independent inquiry where this information can be gathered and assessed.

      Keating said the insurgents may have used civilians as human shields; aircraft video showed insurgents were killed; the conduct of the New Zealand ground forces was “exemplary”; and so on: UNSUBSTANTIATED CLAIMS AND SELECTIVE INFORMATION

      Much of Keating’s presentation was unsubstantiated assertions. This does not help the public find the truth since the defence force has an obvious interest in avoiding bad news about itself. He also said that the book claimed the SAS “deliberately killed civilians”, which we did not say. If we are correct that bad things are being covered up, we cannot expect the people at the heart of the cover up to provide impartial information. Once again, this means that the only acceptable option is a full and independent inquiry.

      Lieutenant General Tim Keating told the press conference: “The ground force commander was an NZSAS Officer who controlled both the ground activities and provided clearance, after the appropriate criteria had been met, for any involvement of the aircraft. These elements were co-ordinated by an air controller in his location.” CORRECT AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION

      This statement contradicts earlier statements by the government (in 2014) where ministers suggested that if there had been any civilian deaths they were the responsibility of the US pilots, not the New Zealand SAS. It confirms what we said in the book: that the SAS commanders in charge of the raid have responsibility for deaths and injuries caused by the US attack helicopters, which they controlled and had requested to be part of the raid.

      Finally, Keating told the press that there were legal complications for having an inquiry: INCORRECT

      This is not correct. We are not proposing an inquiry by the defence force about itself. The government has the power to launch a full and independent inquiry at any time. 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.