Henare is grilled over NZDF’s evacuation mission but the numbers left in Afghanistan are still being counted

Defence  Minister  Peeni  Henare in  Parliament  yesterday stoutly  defended the  government’s actions  in Afghanistan — even though an  estimated 375 people were left behind when evacuation flights  were   halted.

Critics  contend that if Cabinet hadn’t taken the weekend off, many of those 375 might  have  been  airlifted  out.

Henare  brushed  aside  questions about why  the Immigration  Department  had  turned  down  resettlement applications  in  July.   

He  did  claim, however,  there had been “an exceptionally fast response”  on August 19 when  he  and a ministerial colleague approved the deployment of an NZDF C-130 Hercules aircraft and up to 80 NZDF personnel, some to operate on the ground at the Kabul airport and the remainder to be based out of an airbase in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Continue reading “Henare is grilled over NZDF’s evacuation mission but the numbers left in Afghanistan are still being counted”

Biden’s credibility goes down with Afghanistan’s collapse – and the NZDF scrambles to bring back Kiwi contractors

Afghanistan collapsed quicker than the Wallabies’ scrum and President Joe Biden now looks set to pay the price politically.

Kabul surrendered without a shot while the US departure from the benighted country’s capital was described by the Wall Street Journal as “Saigon on steroids.”

The New Zealand Defence Force has had to scramble to secure an RNZAF Hercules which will head to the United Arab Emirates tomorrow to help the allied evacuation.

There are as many as 40 New Zealanders in Afghanistan, all believed to be working as contractors, including security.

The last NZDF forces departed in April.

Biden defends the withdrawal of US forces as a policy set in train by former president Donald Trump. After 20 years, he says, this was enough.

But the US military has been forced to send in 6000 soldiers and marines to protect departing US nationals. Continue reading “Biden’s credibility goes down with Afghanistan’s collapse – and the NZDF scrambles to bring back Kiwi contractors”

Medicinal cannabis regulations are extended while the NZDF fixes its sights on Covid-19 and DOC aims to eradicate pests

Our Beehive Bulletin

While Point of Order was preparing its previous post on medicinal cannabis, Health Minister Andrew Little was announcing transitional medicinal cannabis regulations are to be extended by six months to 30 September.

He brought COVID-19 into considerations, explaining that restrictions to deal with the pandemic have limited the abilities of companies to apply under the regulations.  This has affected global supply chains and added challenges to suppliers seeking to have products assessed.

Meanwhile the New Zealand Defence Force has set its gun sights on the virus and gone on the offensive.

For a raft of reasons set out in a press statement, Defence Minister Peeni Henare says it makes sense to vaccinate the whole uniformed force, numbering about 9500 personnel.

Conservation Minister Kiri Allan brought Covid-19 into considerations, too, when announcing a project to restore nature and sustain jobs in South Westland

But let’s get back to the extension of the transitional medicinal cannabis regulations.

Continue reading “Medicinal cannabis regulations are extended while the NZDF fixes its sights on Covid-19 and DOC aims to eradicate pests”

Parker doubles up on his response to court ruling but the PM has yet to post news of jobs for Simpson and Roche

Latest from the Beehive

It’s there now,  up on the Beehive website – the official pronouncement that the Government is increasing the number of defence force personnel supporting the Managed Isolation and Quarantine System and maritime border.

The statement sits alongside –

  • A typical spending statement from Shane Jones (the Government will invest $14.6 million in upgrades to Route 52 between Central Hawke’s Bay and Tararua District);
  • News from Damien O’Connor that the Government is investing $6.8 million to help upgrade the main road through Motueka;  and
  • News from Winston Peters and Ron Mark (New Zealand will deploy additional personnel to the Republic of Korea, increasing the size of the New Zealand Defence Force deployment there from six to nine personnel).

Around 500 more defence personnel are being deployed closer to home as the government hastens to buttress the Managed Isolation and Quarantine System and more firmly secure the maritime border. This lifts the total to about 990 defence personnel at managed isolation facilities and will bring the total Defence Force personnel supporting the Covid-19 response to around 1200 (the largest military contingent since Timor-Leste, the government wants us to know).

But we can find no official written record of something else announced yesterday:  Helen Clark’s former top adviser, Heather Simpson, is being brought in to lead a new group that will support the Ministry of Health as it ramps up testing at the border. Continue reading “Parker doubles up on his response to court ruling but the PM has yet to post news of jobs for Simpson and Roche”

The SAS, its role and its place within the NZDF – or who controls the chicken stranglers?

We seek the indulgence of readers of a delicate disposition to bear with us for a moment as we dip into what some call crude soldiery and examine some important aspects revealed in the Arnold-Palmer report into Operation Burnham. We know this concerned the NZ Special Air Service in actions in Afghanistan and drew the attention of writers Jon Stephenson and Nicky Hager.

In certain parts of the Army, the Special Air Service is known as the “chicken stranglers”. Some believe there is a connection with SAS training .  Others maintain this is simply vulgar and far from the refined reality of the service.

In their deliberations on issues raised in the Stephenson-Hager book, Sir Terence and Sir Geoffrey considered the role of the SAS and where it sat within the New Zealand Defence Force hierarchy and its accountability.

This raises a bigger question: the role of the SAS and how its persuasive proponents over the years have persuaded successive ministers.

There’s nothing like a brisk exercise at SAS HQ when the gallant warriors break into a mock hostage confinement and spring the witnesses to safety in an impressive son et lumiere performance. More funding for special facilities? No problem.

Sir Geoffrey and Sir Arnold pointed to a structural problem which played some part in the way that the Operation Burnham saga unfolded. This was the place of the SAS within the NZDF organisational setup.

The Directorate of Special Operations was located in NZDF Headquarters rather than with the Joint Forces Command at Trentham, and operated to a large extent within a silo.

“It appears that the Director of Special Operations regularly briefed the Minister of Defence directly (rather than through the Chief of Defence Force) and, as a practical matter, seems to have had direct access to the Prime Minister and other ministers, particularly the Minister of Foreign Affairs, when he thought it necessary.”

The report records an exchange between Kristy McDonald QC, counsel assisting the inquiry, and former Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General (Retired) Tim Keating, who was asked:

 And you were then Chief of Staff to the CDF when the Operation Burnham unfolded, so you knew about the Operation presumably at the time?

He replied:

 “Not necessarily in my role, Chief of Staff to the CDF was more administrative. So various operations throughout that time were compartmentalised for security reasons and matters, operations of that nature were sometimes need to know and only certain people in the Defence Force were included in the briefings.”

Then vice chief of defence force, Air Marshal Kevin Short, made a similar point. Matters involving the NZSAS were held tightly by CDF, the Directorate of Special Operations, and the Commanding Officer of the NZSAS. That closed command structure was well entrenched, having been in place for decades, he said.

“These observations reflect a culture of exclusivity and secrecy associated with the NZSAS as an elite special operations force. This culture resulted in NZDF overly compartmenting information.”

Operational command was delegated to the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand. That was a stronger command authority and responsibility than the technical control assigned to the Director of Special Operations.

“Yet it is apparent that information about NZSAS operations in Afghanistan went through the Director of Special Operations, and that he had effective decision-making responsibility.

“The performance of the Directorate of Special Operations was one of the problems highlighted by Dr Jonathan Coleman (former defence minister) in June/July 2014, when the Incident Assessment Team Executive Summary came to light and the Minister expressed his displeasure at NZDF’s record-keeping failures.”

In further evidence, Lt Gen Keating said he changed the existing organisational structure in an effort to address the problems that had emerged. He moved all special forces operations to the control of the Commander Joint Forces, who was located at Trentham rather than at NZDF Headquarters.

He considered that running such operations out of NZDF Headquarters was inappropriate because there were no systems there to handle the wealth of documentation that came in.

On occasion, the NZSAS are called on to carry out dangerous operations in hostile conflict areas. Being too open about their activities may place them in danger. Much of what they do depends on the element of surprise and the conditions in which they operate are challenging, with the constant prospect of casualties, Sir Geoffrey and Sir Terence wrote.

Despite the need for some security constraints, however, it seems possible that a policy of greater openness with regard to information about NZDF’s activities could be adopted, including as to the activities of the NZSAS.

“The special tactics, techniques and procedures that provide the NZSAS with an operational edge must be protected. Yet when they are deployed in New Zealand’s name because of policy choices made by the Government, there must be some transparency concerning their actions.

“The NZSAS are the forces of New Zealand. What they do engages New Zealand’s cultural, legal and reputational interests and will be relevant to all New Zealanders. The tasks they perform must accord with New Zealand public opinion as to what is appropriate for our forces operating abroad.”

So, it appears that the NZSAS is coming under closer operational scrutiny from within the overall joint command structure, although Sir Terence and Sir Geoffrey agree it will be the task of the current minister to ensure this happens.




Operation Burnham report finds “Hit & Run” served society by holding important people to account

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”

Watchdog is proposed to keep a check on NZDF – but ‘Hit & Run’ authors take a drubbing, too

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”

We await official buzz from the Beehive on how NZ will respond after Trump’s killer drone stings the Iranians

Because ministers are still on holiday while tensions mount in the Middle East and Donald Trump threatens to emulate the Teleban by destroying Iranian cultural centres, the question of whether New Zealand will hasten the withdrawal of around 45 troops still in Iraq has yet to be unambiguously answered. 

More critically, how the Ardern government will balance foreign policy interests that have become conflicted is open to conjecture, too. 

Perhaps our leaders think everything will be sorted out by the time they get back to their desks in Wellington.

The Beehive website tells us nothing about the government’s position on the crisis, which suggests our leaders have not met to discuss this country’s policy response.

The most recent official post – on January 5 – records Defence Minister Ron Mark announcing three Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 helicopters and crew, two NZ Army Combat Engineer Sections and “a command element” are being sent to support the Australian Defence Force efforts in tackling the Australian fires. Continue reading “We await official buzz from the Beehive on how NZ will respond after Trump’s killer drone stings the Iranians”

Bell promotes its UH-1Y as a chopper to replace RNZN’s Seasprite

Might the trusty Bell Iroquois return to service in the NZ Defence Force? Bell Helicopters thinks it might – as a replacement for the RNZN’s Kaman Seasprites serving aboard the frigates.

Bell is to offer its latest “Huey”, the UH-1Y, but it is a very different beast from the Iroquois which spent 49 years in hard service with the RNZAF between 1966 and 2015.

Currently in service with the US Marines, it remains in production but represents a major advance with two General Electric T700 engines as opposed to one in the original Iroquois, a glass cockpit, modern fuselage construction and composite rotor blades much resistant to damage and deterioration.

Bell says the new model is completely “marinized” during construction, preparing it for operations at sea. The rotors can be folded within minutes for storage aboard ships. A special bracket is used to secure the blades in place in high winds.  It can carry a range of weapons and missiles.

With sales already concluded with Bahrain and the Czech Republic, Bell identifies Asia-Pacific as a potential market with opportunities in South Korea, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand. It also believes that the UH-1Y is suitable to replace the Seasprites due for retirement in the mid-decade.