A breakthrough in decoding brain signals could be the first step towards soldiers communicating without having to speak aloud during military operations.
New research has “successfully” separated brain signals that influence behaviour and actions from those that do not, according to the publication C4ISRNET, which covers emerging trends in military warfare technology.
Funded by the US Army Research Office, the study used an algorithm and complex mathematics to identify which brain signals were directing movement, or behaviour-relevant signals, and then were able to remove those signals from the other more stagnant brain signals unrelated to behaviour.
In the experiment, researchers monitored a monkey’s brain signals as it was repeatedly reaching for a ball.
“Here we’re not only measuring signals, but we’re interpreting them,” Hamid Krim, a programme manager from the Army Research Office, told the outlet.
Researchers are keen to further develop their findings to the point a machine could provide feedback to soldier’s brains, giving them the opportunity to take “corrective action” before something happens – a feature that could one day protect the health of service people.
One example of this is the machine calculating whether a soldier’s brain is stressed or tired – before the brain sends the signals that makes them aware that they are, so they can take a break without overtiring.
Mr Krim said that the only limit to the possibilities “is the imagination”.
He added that, building on the findings, another potential benefit to the military could be that the brain and computers communicate through the brain signals – allowing soldiers to silently talk through their brainwaves while in the field.
Mr Krim said that, in the field, you could have two people talking to each other without “even whispering a word”.
He said: “So you and I are out there in the theatre and we have to… talk about something that we’re confronting.
“I basically talked to my computer – your computer can be in your pocket, it can be your mobile phone or whatever – and that computer talks to… your teammate’s computer.
“And then his or her computer is going to talk to your teammate.”
However, Mr Krim said he thought the development was “likely decades away”.
Eggs and Soldiers – Soft boiled eggs (dippy eggs) with buttered toast fingers.
Eggs and soldiers is a name given to soft-boiled eggs, served in an egg cup, with strips of buttered toast for dunking in the yolk. It is a much-loved breakfast for kids and adults alike.
What’s to Love about Eggs and Soldiers
FUN – The name, the egg cup, getting to cut the top off the egg and of course, dipping.
NUTRITIONAL – Eggs are an excellent source of iron and are a nutritious source of protein, fat, Vitamins A, D, E, B12 and choline. (1) Served with a mix of toast and vegetable soldiers it is a very balanced breakfast.
VERSATILE – Perfect for breakfast but equally good for lunch or a quick weeknight dinner.
Are Soft Boiled Eggs Safe for Children?
It is possible for eggs to become contaminated by the food poisoning bacteria Salmonella. Anyone can be affected by Salmonella, but certain people are at greater risk of severe illness including pregnant women and young children (under 5 years).
Salmonella is killed instantly at 74oC so eggs become safe by cooking them properly but raw and undercooked eggs can be a risk. Guidelines differ from country to country. For this reason, you are best to follow the advice from where you live.
The NHS (UK) state that eggs are safe for young children, even if only lightly cooked, as long as the eggs are hens’ eggs and they have a red lion stamped on them, or you see a red lion with the words “British Lion Quality” on the box.
Australian Eggs mention that eggs should be cooked until the white is set and the yolk begins to thicken. Soft-boiled eggs are fine as long as the yolk isn’t completely runny.
The USDA recommend that eggs be cooked until yolks are firm and that soft-cooked eggs with runny yolks are not safe for children to consume.
How to Make Perfect Soft Boiled Eggs
A boiled egg is so simple, yet so easy to get wrong. It’s a science, with many variables that can change the end result. (Egg size, no of eggs in the pan, pan size, type of cooktop, altitude…etc).
For eggs and soldiers, you want to cook the egg just long enough to give firm whites but soft yolks. I find this takes four minutes of simmering but this time may differ slightly depending on the variables above. Here is how I make perfect dippy eggs every time…
PLACE EGGS IN COLD WATER: Add your eggs before you start boiling. Avoid overcrowding the pan, you want to make sure the eggs fit in the saucepan in a single layer.
BRING TO A BOIL: Do not start the timer until the water is at a full boil. A timer is crucial to get consistent eggs every time. Don’t just glance at the clock
SIMMER: After the water comes to a boil, reduce to a light simmer and simmer for 4 mins.
RUN UNDER COLD WATER: To stop the cooking process. Add to egg cup and serve straight away.
If you are making eggs all the time or can’t get the timings quite right then I recommend using an egg cooker (it does all the hard work for you.) This is probably the most used appliance in my house.
Buttered toast fingers are traditional “soldiers” but mixing it up can add variety (and some extra veggie goodness). Why not try…
Bell Pepper (Capsicum) Strips
Sugar Snap Peas
Roasted Sweet Potato Strips
Mashed avocado on toast fingers
Frequently Asked Questions
What if you don’t have egg cups?
1) A shot glass can work in place of an egg cup. 2) Fill a ramekin with a few tablespoons of rice and nestle the egg inside.
Can you use any bread to make soldiers?
Yes, any bread will work. Just toast and cut into fingers.
Do you need to add anything to the water when you boil eggs?
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Eggs and Soldiers
Soft boiled eggs with buttered toast fingers (or vegetable alternatives).
Prep Time: 4minutes
Cook Time: 6minutes
Total Time: 10minutes
Hover over “serves” value to reveal recipe scaler
Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water.
Place the pan over medium/high heat and when the water reaches a boil, start the timer so you can precisely time the cooking process.
Reduce to a gentle simmer and cook the eggs in the saucepan for 4 mins, this will produce an egg where the white is fully set and the yolk is thick and runny. (Cook for longer if you prefer a firmer yolk 5-8 mins (8 mins being hard boiled)
As the eggs are cooking, toast the bread, butter and cut into strips.
Use a large slotted spoon to remove the eggs from the water and run under cool water to stop them from cooking.
Set the egg into an egg cup. To remove the top, use the edge of a knife to gently tap all the way around the top of the egg. Pull the top off
Do not start the timer until the water has come to a proper boil.
If cooking more than two eggs, make sure your eggs fit in the saucepan in a single layer
Want to up your child’s veggie content? Why not try serving carrot sticks, asparagus spears, sugar snap peas, cucumber fingers or roasted sweet potato fingers as “soldiers”.
Egg size, pan size, no of eggs, cooker type and altitude may affect the cooking times, you may find you need to cook for slightly longer / shorter time than suggested.
Don’t have an egg cup? Why not try a shot glass or nestling your egg in a ramekin filled with rice.
NOTE: Salmonella is killed instantly at 74oC so eggs become safe by cooking them properly but soft eggs can be a risk. Guidelines differ from country to country. For this reason, you are best to follow the advice from where you live (see above post for more information on UK, AUS & USA)
Make It Dairy Free: Skip the butter or use a dairy-free spread
Make It Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free bread or one of the soldier alternatives.
Nutritional information is a ROUGH guide only, calculated using an online nutrition calculator.
Eggs and Soldiers
Amount Per Serving
Calories 259 Calories from Fat 144
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 7g35%
Vitamin A 675IU14%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Kirwan Police officer-in-charge Senior Sergeant Devon Cupitt said police searched nine homes at Cranbrook, Kirwan, Upper Ross and Yabulu on November 12 and 13.Police found multiple marijuana plants, methamphetamine, drug utensils, synthetic marijuana and a safe police allege was taken from a Townsville ADF member.Sen-Sgt Cupitt said the soldier’s entire safe had allegedly been taken from his home, but he had no idea his valuables were missing until police knocked at his door.The contents include multiple ADF service medals and jewellery.Police also found an allegedly stolen motorbike and suspected stolen property.They charged 10 people on 32 charges, which include mostly drug-related offences, who will face court at a later date.Sen-Sgt Cupitt said the raid was a good result over the two days.He said police do not believe the drug seizures was connected to a larger ring.Sen-Sgt Cupitt said police relied on tip offs from the public, and encouraged anyone with information to contact Crime Stopper on 1800 333 000.Investigations are ongoing.
It was known as the “Stirrer’s Parade”. Held to celebrate the birthday of the elite Special Air Service Regiment (SAS), Stirrer’s was a rare opportunity for all three of its so-called “sabre” squadrons to get together. It was part send-up, part piss-up. Stirrer’s had been a fixture of the SAS social calendar for decades.
Like everything involving the alpha males of the SAS, Stirrer’s was competitive and often combative. Skits were performed. Members were mocked. Even training mishaps that left soldiers badly injured became the subject of black-humoured sketches.
Sometimes Stirrer’s was also an opportunity to settle scores, and to reinforce where the true power of the regiment lay — with the so-called “NCO Mafia”. These were the non-commissioned officers, battle-hardened veterans of multiple tours to places like Afghanistan and Iraq.
“They’ve got all the war-fighting experience,” says one former SAS operator. “[They have] massive street cred, massive experience.”
Not only do the diggers look up to these sergeants, but the junior officers above them respect them too. Even fear them.
In 2010, a cabal of sergeants used Stirrer’s to humiliate a junior officer who had demonstrated the audacity to question their power.
In the large Stirrer’s audience that day were some serious brass, including at least one general. The squadrons were doing their best to out-skit each other. Everyone was having a laugh, even if some of the “humour” was as dark as the Afghan night, and just as lethal.
Then the sergeants took to the stage. They had an announcement to make about a junior officer.
The junior officer was also a veteran of the Afghanistan war. He was clever and competent, though some found him a little pedantic and prickly. He had refused to bow to the NCO Mafia.
In Afghanistan he had pushed back against the sergeants, complaining to Special Operations commanders about what was going on out on the patrols. The junior officer was also unhappy about the often heavy drinking among the SAS on base at Tarin Kowt. He had blown the whistle, and to the mafia, this was all an unforgiveable betrayal.
At Stirrer’s they had the perfect opportunity to put the knife in.
There, in front of hundreds of his colleagues and superiors, they announced that the junior officer had won the “Cock of the Year Award”. It was not a prize for the most endowed SAS soldier. Far from it. The crowd roared with laughter, including the brass.
This wasn’t a knifing, said one SAS veteran, it was a decapitation.
It was the ultimate humiliation for an officer who was part of the most elite and revered fighting force in this country. A while later, he would quit the SAS.
In the crowd, this whole tawdry episode had been watched by both NCOs and junior officers alike. What message did it send?
To the average trooper, it said the sergeants were the real power of the SAS. It said even the top brass thinks it is OK to pull the piss out of those wet-behind-the-ears junior officers.
To the junior officers, it said that if you go along with the sergeants, you’ll be left alone. If you push back, your life will become a living hell. Oh, and don’t expect those above you to have your back.
The SAS junior officer wasn’t the only one to leave the regiment after being crowned Cock of the Year. So too did a respected 20-year veteran, a winner of the Distinguished Service Cross for his leadership in Afghanistan.
The disgust with Stirrer’s reached the highest levels of Special Operations Command, prompting its then-head, Major General Jeff Sengelman, to issue a directive about soldiers’ behaviour at the annual event.
Defence documents obtained by ABC Investigations under Freedom of Information laws reveal that Sengelman slammed the conduct of some SAS soldiers, saying: “Stirrer’s had become “less about light-hearted fun and more about grinding axes and settling perceived scores”.
“Most critically, it damaged the reputation and dishonoured the service of quality people, often leaders, within the unit,” he wrote in one minute in July 2016.
Another Defence document condemned the Cock of the Year award as a “morally bankrupt and gutless attack with no intent except to humiliate through a mob mentality”, adding it was no longer humorous and was “becoming poisonous and divisive” and “cowardly”.
“Who here would be happy to be pulled up in from of the [regiment] as Cock of the Year and humiliated?” it asked.
Defence has told the ABC that it did investigate the 2010 Cock of the Year award, adding that the Stirrer’s Parade was suspended in 2017, and hasn’t been held since.
But, put simply, the Stirrer’s Parade was largely emblematic of what had gone wrong with the SAS, at home and in Afghanistan.
“We had some good sergeants and not so good sergeants,” says another former SAS operator. “The not so good sergeants were the ones who were able to shape and influence and be those cancerous individuals that led [the SAS] down that path.”
That path led to a more than four-year inquiry by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF).
Headed by New South Wales Supreme Court judge and Army Reserve Major General Paul Brereton, the inquiry was sparked by “vague rumours of special forces soldiers’ very serious wrongdoing over a period of more than 10 years”. The most important report in the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) recent history, the military brass is preparing for the bombshell when it is publicly released tomorrow.
Resistance to interrogation
Among the inquiry’s biggest challenges has been to lift the veil of secrecy on which the special forces community relies, to gain the trust of sceptical and sometimes frightened witnesses, and to corroborate the often nebulous “rumours” of war crimes on distant battlefields.
This was never going to go to script, like a TV crime show in which the guilty crack and confess. The SAS operators being interviewed by the inquiry team have all done “resistance to interrogation” training. These are hard men who have been taught how to endure torture, beatings and sleep deprivation in a bid to break them.
The driving force behind the inquiry has been Paul Brereton himself, a highly respected jurist and no-nonsense inquisitor.
Over the course of the inquiry, Brereton and his team have heard shocking allegations of the cold-blooded killings of civilians, the summary execution of detainees, bashings, the planting of weapons on bodies, and the “blooding” of special forces soldiers involving superiors ordering them to shoot people.
These allegations involve some of our most elite soldiers, revered for their courage and celebrated for their honour. The special forces who shouldered the load in Afghanistan constitute just 5 per cent of our military personnel, yet they made up half of the casualties in that conflict. The men of the SAS and commandos have been held up as heroes and role models by our political leaders, and some have been showered with awards and decorations. Yet, here were some of them — a small minority, it has to be said — being accused of the most heinous of crimes, including the murder of innocents.
The secret database
For the past 14 months I have been travelling the country talking to former special forces soldiers and support staffers who have served in Afghanistan.
They are a naturally reticent, even secretive bunch. They work in the shadows and the vast majority don’t seek the limelight. The media is to be shunned. We are almost worse than the Taliban. For many, what happened years ago in the valleys, mountains and mud compounds of Afghanistan should stay there.
These veterans have also seen what happens when the media gets involved in reporting allegations of war crimes. Few would forget AFP officers swarming the lobby of the ABC’s Ultimo office in June last year, searching the broadcaster’s database for evidence linked to the 2017 Afghan Files series. Former military lawyer David McBride has been charged with leaking classified documents, breaching the Defence Act, and stealing Commonwealth property.
Following the ground-breaking work of Nine Newspapers’ Nick McKenzie and Chris Masters, and the ABC’s Dan Oakes, Andrew Greene and Sam Clark, I found there were veterans who did want to talk about some of the things they saw. Incidents that haunted them. They believed that these crimes needed to be exposed, the perpetrators punished, and the regiment’s honour restored.
One told me of a secret database. It was a trove of photos and videos shot by 3 Squadron SAS members, to be shared only among their tight-knit circle. The material was all collected on “Rotation 17”, the special forces deployment to Afghanistan between February and July 2012. This was the year, I was told, when a lot of bad things happened. Some said it was the worst year for special forces crimes and misdemeanours during the whole Afghan conflict.
It took a lot of leg work, but within weeks I had the vast bulk of the photos and video from the database. There were hundreds of images and more than 10 hours of footage to trawl through.
Much of it began with the men of the SAS in Black Hawk helicopters flying over the stunning landscape of Afghanistan. Another day, another target, another raid. One video showed a fierce firefight between the SAS and some Taliban holed up in a mud bunker. One of the Afghan soldiers attached to the SAS patrol was killed. His bleeding body lay in front of the bunker as SAS soldiers fought valiantly to kill the enemy and to reach him. This was the courage and valour we expect from our special forces.
Other footage showed prisoners being rounded up, plasticuffed and loaded onto helicopters.
But there were also more disturbing scenes. The burning of a compound, an Afghan’s motorcycle thrown off a cliff by laughing soldiers, and a troubling conversation between two SAS operators about one of their comrades.
SAS SOLDIER 1: Kill a kid, oh well, just keep shooting c***s.
SAS SOLDIER 2: Exactly.
SAS SOLDIER 1: Bash more c***s. Shoot a kid. Execute someone in front of f***in’ support staff.
SAS SOLDIER 2: Went into the office yesterday, one of the engineers went, ‘Yeah it happened, he just took him around the corner and f***ing shot him…’
SAS SOLDIER 1: You can’t do it in front of anyone but a f***in’ operator.
SAS SOLDIER 2: You can’t do it in front of anyone. You don’t do it front of anyone … it’s so wrong on so many levels.
SAS SOLDIER 1: No, we’re definitely not trying to win the war any more.
It was clear these men had seen things that had broken the laws of war. These were crimes committed by their comrades in arms. The soldier had a point. Some of his mates were no longer trying to win the war. They had gone rogue.
The killing field
One video out of the trove would cause a sensation when it was broadcast on Four Corners.
It showed what appeared to be the cold-blooded killing of an unarmed Afghan man in a wheatfield by an SAS operator.
It sent chills through me when I first watched it. Like others it began with the SAS patrol in a chopper. It ended with the operator looming over the prone and frightened Afghan, who has just been mauled by an SAS combat dog. In his hand, he is clutching a set of red prayer beads.
“Do you want me to drop this c***?”
The operator has turned and is talking to the dog handler. There’s a hesitation, as though this question has stunned the dog handler.
“I don’t know mate. Hit ***** up.”
The patrol scout swivels around the other way, again taking his eyes off the Afghan. It’s clear he doesn’t see the young man as much of a threat.
“*****, you want me to drop this c***?”
There doesn’t appear to be any response. So the patrol scout asks a third time.
I am transfixed. Surely, he’s not going to shoot this guy.
I can’t hear a response to this life or death question. If there is an answer, it must come quick, because the first shot has already left the patrol scout’s rifle.
The Afghan on the ground shudders. Then two more bullets tear into him. The young man is still, and the patrol scout walks off through the wheat.
When it went to air, the Four Corners story Killing Field shocked the military establishment. As well as the shooting of the unarmed Afghan, it featured an interview with former SAS electronic warfare officer Braden Chapman, who was on the deployment when the Afghan man was killed.
Speaking on camera, fully identified, was risky. SAS members don’t speak out. But Chapman was haunted by what he’d seen — the execution of a bound prisoner, the killing of another Afghan who’d had his hands in the air, a wounded farmer taken away by an SAS soldier and later found beaten to death.
As one senior officer in Defence would later tell me, the program “rocked” the military. Finally, the “rumours” of war crimes had a visual focal point. It was a young, unarmed Afghan cowering on the ground in a wheatfield holding nothing but a set of red prayer beads, an Australian SAS operator looming above him asking for permission to kill. And the soldier (as well as others accused of crimes in the program) was still in the ADF. This potential murder was not on the radar of the IGADF until Four Corners unearthed the video.
“They’ll throw us under the bus, wait and see,” a former SAS operator told me.
Like many in his patrol, he had witnessed terrible crimes in Afghanistan. Crimes committed by his comrades.
The former operator had watched Killing Field and wasn’t surprised by what the footage showed. He was more surprised that it had got out. The SAS brotherhood was starting to fracture.
“The leadership knew. This went beyond the patrols. This was known up the chain,” he told me.
So, did the leadership really know what was happening out in the compounds, in the nomadic camps, and along the green belts of Afghanistan? Did it know that some of its soldiers — again, a small minority — had committed war crimes?
The common wisdom is that a 2016 report by Canberra-based sociologist Samantha Crompvoets first raised red flags about the conduct of Australian special forces in Afghanistan. Based on interviews with special forces soldiers and Defence Force personnel, it found our elite troops may have used “unsanctioned and illegal application of violence on operations” that included a “disregard for human life and dignity”. But Crompvoets was also told of the manipulation of target lists, cover-ups, unlawful killings, blood lust, competition killing, and the killing of so-called squirters — people suspected of being combatants, who ran away from special forces patrols.
The report was commissioned by Special Operations Commander Jeff Sengelman, who had grown concerned about the impact years of high-intensity deployments were having on the SAS and commandos. Sengelman was hearing stories that Crompvoets’ report would confirm.
In 2018, Nine Newspapers reported that Major General Sengelman had briefed Chief of Defence Angus Campbell about his concerns two years earlier. He had written that many of the “issues” from Afghanistan that had come to light could “be linked back to weak leadership and a lack of accountability”.
Sengelman’s concerns, and the subsequent Crompvoets report, would spark the long-running IGADF inquiry.
But some say the senior leadership of special forces knew for years about many allegations of unlawful behaviour. Last month, I received an email from a former SAS patrol commander who witnessed the killing of two Afghans, shootings he said clearly breached the Rules of Engagement. The incident was reported all the way up the special forces chain of command but dismissed. The reason? The former patrol commander says he was told by a senior officer that “the regiment is bigger than an individual and the integrity of the regiment must come first … he informed me the regiment will handle this internally.”
The former SAS patrol commander had one message for me about alleged war crimes. “EVERYONE KNEW,” he wrote.
Just weeks after Four Corners aired Killing Field, the commander of Australia’s special forces, Adam Findlay, called a meeting of dozens of SAS soldiers at their barracks in Perth. According to a detailed report by Nine Newspapers, he blamed the war crimes on “one common cause”.
“It is poor leadership. In fact, it is poor moral leadership.”
Conflicts of interest?
The IGADF inquiry report will go to the Chief of the Australian Defence Force, Angus Campbell. In 2011, he was the commander of Joint Task Forces 633 , which was responsible for all forces in the Middle East, including Afghanistan. Campbell is also a former SAS troop and squadron commander.
The Chief of the Army, Rick Burr, is another with a special forces background, having been the commander of the SAS and the head of a contingent of special forces in Afghanistan in 2008.
So do the Chief of the ADF and the head of the Army, men who boast a special forces pedigree, have a potential conflict of interest when it comes to the IGADF report?
Some think they should declare a conflict of interest. They will be key to implementing its recommendations and in moving ahead with possible charges against special forces soldiers.
But the ABC has been told that Campbell has been nothing but supportive of the IGADF inquiry, and respectful of its independence.
Defence did not answer specific questions the ABC put to it about whether or not Angus Campbell and Rick Burr should declare any possible conflicts of interest.
“The Inquiry is being conducted at arm’s length from the ADF chain of command and Government to ensure the independence and integrity of the process,” said a Defence spokesman. “Defence strongly supports the IGADF Afghanistan Inquiry and respects the integrity and independence of the process.”
The Australian Federal Police is already investigating two alleged incidents involving Victoria Cross winner and former SAS operator, Ben Roberts-Smith, as well as “Soldier C”, the SAS operator featured in the Four Corners Killing Field story shooting the unarmed Afghan.
Those cases, and others arising from the Brereton report, will now be passed to, and investigated by, a newly established Office of the Special Investigator. Set up by the Federal Government, its job will be to prosecute allegations of Australian war crimes in Afghanistan. It will have to interview witnesses, gather evidence, and prepare briefs for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).
The CDPP will then have to decide whether to proceed with charges.
After more than four years of waiting for the Brereton report, another decade may pass before any prosecutions are finalised.
‘Carrying all that shit’
For some, the IGADF report offers hope of vindication. For others, it could provide a possible release from years of torment.
The tragedy of this war spans continents and years.
Its victims were not just left lying in the fields, valleys or compounds of Afghanistan.
Its victims also came home to Australia.
Among them were special forces personnel who saw their comrades kill indiscriminately, who felt compromised and corrupted by what they witnessed, and who were morally and psychologically torn by feelings that they were part of the cover up.
To them, their silence was complicity.
“After the IGADF, when I gave all my evidence, it was like someone had stood off from my chest,” said one former SAS operator. “Because you’re carrying all that shit around where you know what had occurred was wrong.”
For eight years this former operator had carried around that shit, in his case the horrific memory of a comrade shooting an unarmed, disabled man in the head as the Afghan ran away in fear of the helicopter and the SAS soldiers it disgorged. To this fleeing man these strangers could have been from another planet, with their savage dogs, suppressed weapons and painted faces. This indiscriminate and brutal killing not only haunted the SAS operator’s dreams, but his waking hours too.
He had been honoured to have been selected for the SAS, only for his experiences in Afghanistan to make him question himself, and everything the regiment supposedly stood for.
The unvarnished truth
The IGADF inquiry doesn’t just touch on the uncomfortable issue of Australian war crimes. It also offers up a mirror to Australia as a nation — how we hold up our special forces as heroes, yet send them on relentless deployments lacking an achievable objective; how governments and the military employ operational secrecy that stifles transparency; how that secrecy corrupted the special forces culture by allowing some to go rogue; and how any questioning of our military heroes is waved away or denounced as the work of “traitors” or “unpatriotic swill”.
For one former special forces officer, the IGADF report should not be seen as a cure-all, but rather a time for all of us to reflect — soldier and civilian alike.
“How did the very best of us deviate so much for so long? How did we refuse to see the truth and evidence for what it was? How did the culture struggle and fail in the face of this test? And finally, as a society, are we honest and courageous enough to look at this in its unvarnished truth so that we can learn and ensure we emerge from this better?”
Srinagar: At least eight Pakistan Army soldiers, including 2-3 Pakistan Army Special Service Group (SSG) commandoes were killed in retaliatory firing by the Indian Army in response to ceasefire violations from across the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir.
“The list of Pakistan Army soldiers killed includes 2-3 Pakistan Army Special Service Group (SSG) commandoes,” Indian Army sources said.
“10-12 Pakistan Army soldiers injured in the Indian Army firing in which a large number of Pakistan Army bunkers, fuel dumps, and launch pads have also been destroyed,” the sources added.
Earlier, three Indian Army soldiers were killed in two separate locations in Jammu and Kashmir while foiling infiltration bids by Pakistan-backed terrorists and ceasefire violations by the troops of the neighboring country.
Two soldiers were killed in the Uri sector while one was killed in the Gurez sector, Army sources informed.
Meanwhile, three civilians were killed and several other sustained injuries as Pakistan Army carried out unprovoked ceasefire violations in multiple sectors from Uri to Gurez along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian Army said. The injured have been admitted to the hospital.
Pakistan initiated unprovoked ceasefire violation along the LoC spread across multiple sectors to include Dawar, Keran, Uri and Naugam.
The Indian Army retaliated strongly causing substantial damage to Pakistan Army’s ammunition dumps, FOL dumps and multiple terrorist launch pads, officials said.
Special forces sources who are not authorised to speak publicly have confirmed that the inquiry heard a number of confessions from soldiers. This poses a potentially significant but not insurmountable challenge for investigators seeking to turn Justice Brereton’s findings into evidence that can be admitted to court in a criminal prosecution. Confessions obtained during compulsory questioning, and evidence derived from these confessions, cannot be used to prosecute the confessor in Australian law, but witness testimony can be used in future trials.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday that the government would appoint a special investigator to work with police and prosecutors overseeing the cases to be referred by Justice Brereton. The appointment acknowledges the limitations of evidence collected by the Inspector-General.
Mr Morrison also said any soldiers subject to the allegations needed to face the consequences, and it was also important to hold those accountable up the chain of command who had “responsibility for the environment in which those Australians served”.
Mr Morrison said Australian Defence Force personnel had a lot to be proud of and it was important all members were not tarnished by the report. But he said the high standards and respect for the ADF “requires us to deal with honest and brutal truths”. Mr Morrison said Australia needed to have a “deep respect for justice and the rule of law”.
In 2018, then chief of the Defence Force Mark Binskin referred Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith for investigation by the federal police, which recently submitted a brief of evidence to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. The DPP is assessing whether the war hero should be charged.
On Thursday evening, Mr Roberts-Smith released a statement that falsely asserted that a “member of the media” triggered the police taskforces into his alleged war crimes. In fact, Air Chief Marshal Binskin referred Mr Roberts-Smith to the AFP following an earlier referral the Defence chief received about the VC’s recipient’s alleged criminal conduct from Justice Brereton.
Mr Roberts-Smith’s statement also sought to dismiss Justice Brereton’s inquiry as founded in “rumours”, despite the senior judge conducting more than 350 interviews on oath and examining thousands of classified documents. He welcomed the announcement by Mr Morrison and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, saying it was “heartening” that the matters would be examined by a special investigator’s office.
Defence sources said most of the alleged war crimes probed by Justice Brereton involved the Perth-based SAS – most notably a small number of soldiers from the 2nd and 3rd squadrons – and not the Sydney-based commandos. One former SAS source said most of the small number of culprits had passed through the elite water operators section of the regiment, which specialises in maritime combat insertion.
Another telling aspect of the evidence gathered, Defence sources said, was that it involved allegations of war crimes carried out and covered up by senior and junior soldiers, not by officers. However, officers and Defence Force leadership had come under fierce scrutiny for enabling a culture in which allegedly criminal acts were normalised, the sources said.
The debate about how responsibility for alleged war crimes should be apportioned is already dividing the special forces. Former and serving members are variously blaming the cliques of soldiers who allegedly committed them, the officers who failed to act on warning signs or encouraged a cultural malaise, as well as Defence and political leaders who oversaw the military coalition’s “capture and kill” strategy even as the prospect of victory in Afghanistan disappeared.
Mr Morrison and Senator Reynolds did not rule out disbanding the SAS, but senior Defence officials, including the recent head of special forces, Major General Adam Findlay, have signalled strongly that this will not occur. The rationale for reforming rather than disbanding the SAS lies partly in the fact that it was SAS whistleblowers, including multiple Afghan-war veterans, who exposed the wrongdoing to the Inspector-General.
General Campbell is mid-way through implementing reforms predicated on the retention of the elite regiment.
Mr Morrison said Justice Brereton’s report would be “difficult and hard news for Australians”.
In anticipation, Mr Morrison will appoint either a senior counsel or retired judge as the nation’s war crimes special investigator. The investigator will be based in the Department of Home Affairs, be joined by lawyers and state and federal detectives and will oversee ongoing investigations and the referral of criminal briefs to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
The government has also announced the establishment of a new independent oversight panel to drive cultural change within the ADF and implement the Brereton report’s recommendations.
Senator Reynolds said the oversight panel was being established so that there was “accountability and transparency that sits outside of the ADF chain of command and outside of government”.
The panel will include former inspector-general of intelligence and security Dr Vivienne Thom, former Attorney-General’s Department secretary Robert Cornall and University of Tasmania vice-chancellor and ethicist Rufus Black.
In a separate press conference on Thursday, media mogul Kerry Stokes was asked why he was supporting Mr Roberts-Smith, who he employed in 2015 as a senior Channel Seven executive. “Mr Roberts-Smith is a very valued executive and performed excellently in Queensland, and achieved outstanding results for which we’re all proud,” Mr Stokes said.
“He has a defamation case against various media outlets. It’s not my job to make any comment on that. And the fact that he was awarded recognition … I don’t think that’s in question.”
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Nick McKenzie is an investigative reporter for The Age. He’s won nine Walkley awards and covers politics, business, foreign affairs and defence, human rights issues, the criminal justice system and social affairs.
Gold Walkley award-winning journalist and author. He was the first Australian journalist to be embedded with special forces in Afghanistan,
Anthony is foreign affairs and national security correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
The government will appoint a special investigator to probe allegations of war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan and prosecute any criminal misconduct, following a four-year inquiry into possible breaches of law between 2005 and 2016.
Announcing the new investigation, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it would “go for an indeterminate amount of time” and address the criminal matters raised in the inspector general’s report.
“The Office of the Special Investigator will … investigate those allegations, gather evidence and, where appropriate, refer briefs to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“There is a significant number of incidents or issues to be investigated further and that investigation will be inherently complex.”
Mr Morrison said a redacted version of the inquiry’s report would be released next week, flagging it would include some “brutal truths” and “difficult and hard news”.
PM confirms CDF will release report into alleged war crimes next week and the appointment of a Special Investigator within Home Affairs: “This will be difficult and hard news for Australians to hear, I can assure you” #auspol@SBSNews
The Office of the Special Investigator will be housed within the Department of Home Affairs and staffed with investigators from the Australian Federal Police, legal counsel, and support personnel. It is expected to be fully established by next year, if not sooner, Mr Morrison said.
A separate oversight panel – called the Afghanistan Inquiry Implementation Oversight Panel – will also be established to oversee the investigation and provide quarterly reports directly to Defence Minister Linda Reynolds.
“There is some disturbing content here, but we cannot then take that and apply it to everyone who has pulled on a uniform and if we did this, that would be grossly unjust,” Mr Morrison said.
“We all share a deep respect for our defence forces, but we also share a deep respect for justice.”
Major General Paul Brereton, who is also an NSW Supreme Court judge, began probing allegations of unlawful killings and other possible breaches of the law of armed conflict in 2016.
Australian Greens Peace and Disarmament spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John said any Australian SAS soldiers found guilty of war crimes as part of the IGADF Afghanistan Inquiry must be prosecuted to the full extent of domestic and international law.
Senator Steele-John also reiterated calls for the full report to be made public by Chief of the Defence General Angus Campbell.
“It is not good enough for the ADF to simply strip medals from SAS soldiers who are found guilty of committing heinous crimes; that is the very least the Chief of the Defence can do in response to these incredibly serious allegations,” Steele-John said.
“General Campbell must make public the IGADF report – which he now has on his desk – so that the public can assess its findings in full.
“It is alleged on the public record that innocent people lost their lives; the individuals responsible must lose more than just their medals and the Australian people must know to what extent those allegations are true.
“Australians deserve to know what our defence force personnel are doing in overseas conflict zones in our name.”
Fox’s Chris Wallace has set off another row with Donald Trump supporters by likening Republicans who back the president’s claims of election fraud to Japanese soldiers who thought World War II was going on long after it had ended.
Wallace suggested Sunday that Ted Cruz and other Republican senators who are echoing the Trump campaign’s allegations of fraud in the Nov. 3 election “are like the Japanese soldiers who come out 30 years after the end of the war, out of the jungle, and say, ‘Is the fight still going on?'” He contrasted the staunch Trump loyalists to senators such as Mitt Romney and Pat Toomey who have called to “damp down the rhetoric” over Democrat Joe Biden’s apparent victory.
The comments raised the ire of conservatives, who were already stung by Wallace’s allegedly biased moderating of the Sept. 29 presidential debate. Some labeled his performance there a “disgrace.” Radio host Mark Levin called the comparison to Japanese soldiers “way out of line.” “Keep your politics to yourself, Mr. Journalist,” Levin tweeted. “You’re not just showing ankle. You’ve completely undressed yourself.”
This is way out of line. Keep your politics to yourself, Mr. Journalist. You’re not just showing ankle, you’ve undressed yourself.https://t.co/W4KOcRrgPe
Cruz argued that “urging that we follow the law and that election recounts be actually completed is not somehow undermining democracy.” Taking aim at Wallace, he invoked the debate controversy, accusing the Fox News veteran of “partisanship.”“Chris Wallace, who beclowned himself with a shamefully biased debate performance – universally panned – continues to demonstrate his rank partisanship.”
Chris Wallace, who beclowned himself with a shamefully biased debate performance—universally panned—continues to demonstrate his rank partisanship.Urging that we follow the law & that election recounts be actually completed is not somehow undermining democracy. https://t.co/vLVUpe23OT
Wallace took heat from both sides of the aisle for his handling of the first presidential debate. Democrats criticized him for failing to take control of the debate, while Republicans accused him of showing favoritism to Biden. Those critiques were revisited after NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker was praised for her strong handling of the Oct. 22 Trump-Biden debate, and her performance was contrasted with that of Wallace.
CNN and other mainstream-media outlets called the election for Biden on Saturday, but Trump has vowed legal challenges over alleged voting fraud in Michigan, Pennsylvania and other states. Trump has clashed this year with traditionally pro-Republican Fox News, and Wallace specifically, saying in April that “it’s a whole new ballgame over there.”
Responding to Wallace’s latest remarks about Cruz, Trump campaign adviser Mark Serano tore into the cable news channel for what he argued was betraying their core audience and their brand. “Oh, the conflicts Fox News has waded into because they abandoned their brand and their base audience,” Serano said.
Oh, the conflicts @FoxNews has waded into because they abandoned their brand and their base audience!