Defence statement to ABC Four Corners program In Their Sights, 5 September 2011
6 September 2011
The ADF takes the issue of civilian casualties very seriously. ADF personnel operate under a strict set of Australian Rules of Engagement designed to minimise the risk of civilian casualties. The Rules of Engagement also act to ensure that the actions of Australian forces are consistent with our obligations under Australian and International law.
Australian soldiers also have the right of self defence when attacked, in accordance with our Rules of Engagement. Moreover, the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (COMISAF) has issued a Tactical Directive detailing an ‘ISAF wide’ set of procedures to be observed to avoid civilian casualties or damage to civilian property. This Directive continues the long-standing ISAF focus on protecting civilians and operating in a manner that is respectful of Afghan culture. ADF force elements comply with the COMISAF Tactical Directive.
1. In total, how many insurgents have been killed, and how many captured by ADF forces in Afghanistan as a result of "targeted" operations for specific insurgents?
Australian troops are regularly in contact with insurgents, either indirectly through improvised explosive devices, or directly through gunfire. The Australian Defence Force does not release information pertaining to the overall number of enemy forces killed in action in Afghanistan. The number of insurgents killed is not an effective measure of success for counter-insurgency operations and as such is not used by ISAF or the ADF.
The ADF does not disclose the specific number of detainees captured in ‘targeted’ operations, however, it does release aggregated figures. The total for all operations over the period 1 August 2010 (when the US/AUS Combined Team - Uruzgan arrangement commenced) to 26 August 2011 is 899 detainees.
Defence does release information about the effective targeting of influential or key insurgent commanders who play a significant role in facilitating insurgent actions against the local population, Afghan and ISAF troops. Over the last year, Defence has issued media releases on the following dates to highlight the effective targeting of such Commanders:
30 Apr 2011: http://www.defence.gov.au/media/DepartmentalTpl.cfm?CurrentId=11738
15 Apr 2011: http://www.defence.gov.au/media/DepartmentalTpl.cfm?CurrentId=11694
05 Apr 2011: http://www.defence.gov.au/media/DepartmentalTpl.cfm?CurrentId=11659
29 Dec 2010: http://www.defence.gov.au/media/DepartmentalTpl.cfm?CurrentId=11242
08 Nov 2010: http://www.defence.gov.au/media/DepartmentalTpl.cfm?CurrentId=11043
05 Nov 2010: http://www.defence.gov.au/media/DepartmentalTpl.cfm?CurrentId=11027
02 Aug 2010: http://www.defence.gov.au/media/DepartmentalTpl.cfm?CurrentId=10669
17 May 2010: http://www.defence.gov.au/media/DepartmentalTpl.cfm?CurrentId=10303
07 May 2010: http://www.defence.gov.au/media/DepartmentalTpl.cfm?CurrentId=10253
2. How critical does the ADF believe these operations are to the success of its mission in Afghanistan?
Security is the first step toward achieving stability in Afghanistan and to ensure it does not again become a breeding ground for terrorist organisations to train or operate from. One of the measures undertaken to achieve security is for the ANSF and partner coalition militaries to conduct deliberate, targeted operations against the insurgency and its key leadership.
The ADF conducts operations in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces to remove insurgent leaders and commanders and disrupt insurgent operations in Uruzgan Province. They do this by targeting insurgent logistics nodes and command and control networks, which has a substantial effect on its ability to operate – with corresponding force protection benefits.
ISAF operations are conducted to improve security in Afghanistan, and to provide an environment conducive to the growth of good governance and socio-economic development, which in turn is conducive to sustainable stability.
02 April 2009 incident at Chenartu:
3. Why is the location of this incident redacted from the ADF report, when there were a large number of Afghan witnesses to the event?
The specific locations of Coalition/ADF operations are redacted as a matter of course from the publicly released reports in order to protect local Afghans from possible Taliban retribution and/or to prevent patterns of Coalition/ADF operations being established by the enemy.
4. With considerably fewer resources than the ADF, 4 Corners was able to both visit the site of this incident and identify the victims, something which the ADF report states was not possible. Is the ADF satisfied that it made every reasonable effort to investigate this incident as fully as possible?
At the time of the investigation conducted in May 2009, it was determined that the security threat environment at the location of the incident did not permit the Inquiry Officer visiting the scene. The Inquiry Officer was satisfied that the maps and other imagery of the site allowed him to make accurate assessments and judgements.
5. According to both the ADF report and Afghan eye-witnesses interviewed by 4 corners, three unarmed civilians were shot dead during this attack. Eyewitnesses have told 4 corners that the victims were not connected to the insurgency. The ADF report states that:
“no changes are necessary to the methodology for assessing the risk of civilian casualties in operations of this kind”; and
“no remedial action is necessary to further minimize the risk of civilian casualties in future operations of this kind, including TTPs”;
Does the ADF stand by that claim in the report?
In 2009, the then Chief of the Defence Force directed a thorough review of the ADF's Rules of Engagement in response to civilian casualty issues. This review confirmed our Rules of Engagement were being applied appropriately. Defence also reviewed its tactics, techniques and procedures in line with the former COMISAF's Tactical Directive. In line with that Directive, Defence conducts operations in Uruzgan in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces, entry into compounds are Afghan-led and ADF personnel understand the need to demonstrate respect for Afghans, their culture, customs and religion. As briefed to the media at that time, the ADF never stands still on this issue. We keep our procedures under constant review in order to do everything we can to minimise loss of life and the impact on civilians.
6. Eyewitnesses have told 4 corners that one of the men killed in this incident was wounded by ADF soldiers, then checked for weapons, and left to die at the scene, which he did some 30 minutes after the ADF left. Can the ADF confirm this account, and does it have any comment regarding this?
ADF practice is for wounded combatants to be evacuated to medical facilities for treatment by coalition medical staff, as has occurred regularly over the last few years.
The inquiry did not reveal that any action as described took place and Defence has no evidence to substantiate this claim.
7. Eyewitnesses have told 4 Corners that just prior to the attack, an extended family gathering was underway for a mourning ceremony of a recently deceased grand-daughter. The ADF report states that:
Reliable intelligence [REDACTED] indicated the presence of OBJ [REDACTED] in the vicinity of the compound of interest (COI) near [REDACTED]. This was confirmed by a [REDACTED] that also indicated the presence of approximately 10 FAM near the COI, consistent with a senior INS personal security detachment (PSD). The decision to execute the mission was taken as a result of the [REDACTED] very reliable intelligence [REDACTED].
Did the ADF consider the possibility that the "Senior Insurgent PSD" could have been a gathering of adult men for a family funeral, especially considering the lack of weapons found at the site of the attack?
As with all operations, the ADF operated within its Rules of Engagement. As outlined in the Inquiry report, the SOTG decision to launch this operation was based on reliable intelligence and the presence and disposition of civilians is always taken into account, noting that Australia’s Rules of Engagement are designed to minimise the risk of civilian casualties.
8. Does the ADF have any concerns about the practice of referring to Afghan males as “Fighting Age Males (FAM)”, regardless of whether they are armed or not, or known to be civilians or not?
The term “Fighting Aged Males (FAM)” is military terminology which is used by itself as a very broad categorisation of a group of individuals, as a component of the identification process. As a broad categorisation this term does not in itself presume that they are insurgents, nor is it a trigger for an operation.
9. What is the relationship between Matiullah Khan and the ADF SOTG?
As part of ISAF efforts to help stabilise Afghanistan, Australian forces regularly engage with a wide range of tribal and community leaders in Uruzgan in an inclusive and impartial way. In this setting, Matiullah Khan is one of many influential figures that Australians have engaged. Australia works with such individuals in a way to ensure that their influence is used positively, in support of governance and security in Uruzgan.
In the time that the ADF has worked in Uruzgan, Matiullah Khan has headed the Kandak Amniante Uruzgan (KAU), a private security organisation which provides contracted security in some parts of Uruzgan for the Ministry of Interior.
On 7 August 2011, the Afghan Ministry of Interior announced that Matiullah Khan was appointed Uruzgan Provincial Chief of Police. Since his appointment to this position, Australian officials have engaged Matiullah Khan in his official capacity, including the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) which mentors Uruzgan’s Afghan National Police Provincial Response Company – Urzugan (the PRC-U).
The PRC-U, established in early May 2009, undertakes routine community policing and specific missions as directed by the Provincial Chief of Police.
10. Is the ADF still training and paying Afghan security forces controlled by Matiullah Khan and, does it plan to bring any more of these forces to Australia for training?
As the Afghan National Police PRC-U’s partner force, the ADF provides it with a range of enabling support functions (including some financial support to enable it to operate with the SOTG).
In line with the Afghan Government’s direction, Australian forces operate with an Afghan partner. Under ISAF guidance, any entry into an Afghan house should always be accomplished by ANSF, with the support of local authorities, and account for the unique cultural sensitivities surrounding local women. For this reason, the ADF works closely with the Afghan National Police Force to ensure that Australia meets both the Afghan Government and ISAF’s direction.
At this stage, Defence has no plans to bring out any additional Afghan National Police Force officers to Australia.
11. Does the ADF have any concerns over Matiullah Khan's conduct in Uruzgan, and is it satisfied with the intelligence his forces provide the ADF and Coalition forces?
As the Uruzgan Chief of Police, our expectation is that Matiullah Khan acts in an impartial and professional manner and continues to be a positive influence for security in the province.
Appointments to Afghan Government positions, such as the Uruzgan Chief of Police, are the responsibility of the Afghan Government.
As a result of the SOTG’s mentoring, the PRC-U’s capabilities are continuing to expand. PRC-U personnel continue to provide the ADF with an important source of local knowledge.
Killing of Hayat Ustad, 29th April 2011 in Tarin Kowt:
12. Eyewitnesses to the operation have told Four Corners that Hayat Ustad was unarmed, which contradicts the ADF statement of 30 April 2011 that he "draw a pistol and attempted to shot members of the Australian Special Forces” … does the ADF stand by its statement of 30th April?
13. Is the ADF aware of claims by both the Governor of Uruzgan and an Uruzgan member of the Afghan parliament that Hayat Ustad was not involved in the insurgency, but that a business rival had fed false intelligence to Coalition forces stating he was ? If so, have these claims been investigated by the ADF?
The SOTG and their Afghan partners engaged and killed Hayat Ustad in self defence during a mission authorised by the Afghanistan Government. The joint mission in which Hayat Ustad was killed was launched following the promulgation of a warrant for his detention by the appropriate Afghan Government Authorities. When faced with detention Hayat Ustad chose to resist by drawing a pistol and presenting a clear threat to the detention force. His death was lawful under Australian, ISAF and Afghan National Security Forces rules of engagement.
1. Four Corners has been told by a number of sources that Matiullah Khan is manipulating SOTG operations to his benefit by providing misleading intelligence... These allegations include that he nominates his rivals for elimination. What is your response to this?
No ADF operation in Afghanistan may be launched against an individual, or group of individuals, based on single-source or uncorroborated intelligence.
Since the commencement of the ADF’s commitment to Afghanistan, the ADF has built a very good understanding of the tribal dynamics, familial associations and insurgent propaganda in Uruzgan. Allegations against prominent individuals are common place.
2. It has been alleged to Four Corners that false intelligence provided by associates of Matiullah Khan played a part in the death of Rozi Khan ... What is the ADF response to this allegation?
As the Inquiry Officer report into this incident identifies, Rozi Khan’s movement to the incident site occurred during a SOTG operation. His appearance in the vicinity of the contact site, and subsequent death was described by the then Commander of ISAF’s Regional Command - South as a result of “his unfortunate intervention into a complex situation, albeit with altruistic motives.”
This operation was launched against an identified insurgent on 17 September 2008, who had been identified through multiple intelligence sources to be in the vicinity of a certain compound. The SOTG force was manoeuvring to this compound of interest when the series of engagements that ultimately led to the deaths of two Afghans and the injury to five others occurred. This narrative is clear in the redacted Inquiry Officer’s report.
The Inquiry Officer highlighted that the village in which the incident occurred was at a heightened state of alert as a result of significant insurgent action in the preceding days. To assert that an individual manipulated the security situation in a village which may or may not have been linked to the infiltration route selected for the operation is highly speculative and not supported by the inquiry into the incident.
3. What assessments or inquiries did the ADF make into the circumstances of the death of Hayat Ustad? Are any of these inquiries or assessments still underway? Will any findings be made public?
Information and intelligence was compiled and corroborated over a long period of time. This indicated that Hayat Ustad was a highly influential insurgent and key logistician with links to the senior insurgent leadership in southern Afghanistan. He was responsible for arms smuggling, transporting weapons and fighters and Improvised Explosive Device construction. He was also heavily involved in the coordination, direction and planning of suicide bomb attacks.
The partnered operation in which Hayat Ustad was killed was authorised by the appropriate ISAF and Afghan Government authorities.
Defence has determined that during this mission Hayat Ustad was killed when he drew a pistol and posed an immediate threat. His shooting was lawful in accordance with Australian, ISAF and Afghan National Security Force Rules of Engagement. As Hayad Ustad was a prominent Uruzgan insurgent and displayed hostile intent, this is not a civilian casualty matter. Defence considers there is no requirement to undertake a further inquiry into this matter.