They blew authors Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson out of the water for several claims in the book Hit & Run on SAS operations in Afghanistan. They gave a harsh serve to the NZ Defence Force, several senior officers and a minister.
But what did Sir Terence Arnold and Sir Geoffrey Palmer, who conducted the inquiry into Operation Burnham, think of the book?
“Hit & Run is a collaboration between two investigative journalists, of whom one, Mr Jon Stephenson, provided most of the sources and the other, Mr Nicky Hager, did most of the writing. The authors relied on a variety of sources from both New Zealand and Afghanistan,” they reported.
“Although the authors succeeded in uncovering a considerable amount of factual material, they inevitably fell into error, especially in relation to the operation at the heart of the book: Operation Burnham. This is not surprising as the authors had to place heavy reliance on leaks and did not have access to the extensive intelligence, planning and operational material relating to the operation.
“The book does not attempt to present a dispassionate account of what happened on Operation Burnham or the other operations it discusses. It makes serious allegations about the conduct of NZSAS personnel, claiming that they were out to seek revenge on the operations and deliberately and without justification destroyed houses in the villages of Khak Khuday Dad and Naik. Continue reading “Operation Burnham report finds “Hit & Run” served society by holding important people to account”
Like the proverbial All Black test match, the nearly 400-page Arnold-Palmer report into the Special Air Services actions in Afghanistan, is very much a game of two halves.
In the first half, Sir Terence Arnold and Sir Geoffrey Palmer literally blow authors Jon Stephenson and Nicky Hager out of the water for their claims in their book Hit & Run about the SAS conduct of the raids. In the second they rightly chastise the NZ Defence Force over what can best be described as muddied, incompetent maladministration and misleading briefings to ministers.
For the first half, take this example:
” … the principal allegations in Hit & Run about the conduct of TF81 personnel (the SAS troopers) on Operations Burnham and Nova are not accurate.
“First, the operations were not revenge operations; nor were they ‘ill-conceived’.
“There were legitimate reasons for them—there was reliable intelligence indicating there were insurgents in the villages who had been conducting attacks in Bamyan province (where the NZ provincial reconstruct team was based) and who were planning further attacks on the NZPRT and Afghan security forces. The operations aimed to disrupt the insurgent network and improve security in Bamyan province. Continue reading “Watchdog is proposed to keep a check on NZDF – but ‘Hit & Run’ authors take a drubbing, too”
So what is going on with the inquiry which the government decided should be held into Operation Burnham and related events?
Operation Burnham, you will recall, happened nearly nine years ago – to be precise, in August 21-22, 2010, in Tirgiran Valley in Afghanistan. It was an action by soldiers of NZ’s elite SAS, operating as a part of the International Security Assistance Force.
Reviews of what occurred by two former defence ministers as well as by a former prime minister found that Operation Burnham was conducted with the highest level of professionalism. Over-riding this, the Wellbeing Government decided to hold an inquiry, “bearing in mind the need for the public to have confidence in the NZDF”.
This followed the controversy stirred up by the publication in “Hit and Run”, a book written by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, of allegations that six civilians were killed and 15 injured in a raid on villages by the NZ SAS. Continue reading ““Hit and Run” – so who is keeping score of the mounting costs of an inquiry to maintain confidence in our Defence Force?”