Canberra, May 24 (IANS) Angus Campbell, chief of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), has asked the Minister for Defence to terminate decorations awarded to some soldiers who served in Afghanistan following allegations of war crimes, the local media reported on Wednesday.
Before Kabul’s fall to the Taliban in August 2021, Australia maintained an operation of around 400 soldiers in Afghanistan, reports Xinhua news agency.
It comes as the ADF continues to deal with the fallout of the allegations.
A landmark inquiry found credible evidence that soldiers from the Australian special forces murdered 39 Afghan prisoners and civilians between 2005 and 2016.
In a letter to several current and former ADF members, Campbell informed them that their medals for distinguished and conspicuous service could soon be rescinded.
“It is then for the minister to independently determine whether he accepts the assessment in my letter after considering the relevant information including your response,” he wrote, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
“If he is of the view that your award should be cancelled, the minister will make a recommendation to the governor-general. The governor-general will then make a decision.”
Following the release of the Afghan war crimes inquiry report in 2020, Campbell accepted a recommendation to strip the meritorious unit citation from the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG).
However, the decision was overturned by Peter Dutton, who was Defence Minister at the time and is now leader of the Opposition.
The inquiry report had blamed the murders of “prisoners, farmers or civilians” in 2009-13 on an unchecked “warrior culture” among some soldiers.
It said 25 special forces soldiers had taken part in unlawful killings directly or as “accessories”, across 23 separate incidents.
It recommended that 36 incidents in total be investigated by federal police.
The renewed push to terminate decorations has been met with anger by some veterans.