World

Defence misled public over NZ Afghan raid

By AAP Newswire

A long-awaited inquiry into the conduct of New Zealand SAS troops in Afghanistan has found Defence Force chiefs and one defence minister deflected and failed to disclose the truth regarding civilian casualties during a 2010 raid on a village.

However, the damning report has suggested a number of deaths, including one of a civilian child, were justified under international law.

On Friday, Attorney-General David Parker released a 402-page report into 'Operation Burnham', the conclusion of a $NZ7 million ($A6.5 million) probe into the raid.

The inquiry stemmed from the investigative journalism of Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, who published a book in 2017 titled "Hit and Run", detailing the operation and alleging serious wrongdoing.

There are few concrete findings on the killings during the raid, amid the blurred landscape of wartime Afghanistan, with the report unable to determine whether some deaths were of civilians or insurgents.

However, the report confirms Kiwi soldiers handed over a captured insurgent to Afghani intelligence, failing to act within their obligations when they learned he was likely being tortured.

It also criticises the behaviour of Defence Force leaders and former defence minister Wayne Mapp for failing to disclose what they knew about the raid for years after the fact.

Mr Parker said SAS agents acted "lawfully and professionally".

"The inquiry finds that the book 'Hit and Run' contains many errors and impugns the integrity and professionalism of the NZSAS personnel involved," he said, before offering a pardon of sorts to the authors.

"Without the book, the findings of the report and its important recommendations would not have been possible.

"Given this, it is right to acknowledge ... the book has performed a valuable public service."

Among four key recommendations, accepted by the government, is the creation of an independent Inspector-General of Defence.