Afghanistan/Australien — Inquiry Officer Report into August 11, 2009 incident in Afghanistan released

Defence today released an Inquiry Offi­cer report into an inci­dent in Afghanistan where two Afghan men trav­el­ling on a motor­cy­cle were shot by Aus­tralian forces on 11 August 2009.

The two men were lat­er iden­ti­fied as Afghan Nation­al Police offi­cers.

The Inquiry Offi­cer con­clud­ed the engage­ment was con­duct­ed with­in the sol­diers’ Rules of Engage­ment.

On the day, a com­bat team from the Men­tor­ing and Recon­struc­tion Task Force (MRTF) was con­duct­ing a patrol to inves­ti­gate the pos­si­ble point of ori­gin of a rock­et attack. In order to fur­ther exam­ine the site and to con­trol entry, a road cor­don vehi­cle check point (VCP) was estab­lished.

The motor­cy­cle dri­ver was shot and killed when he failed to heed or under­stand ver­bal and visu­al sig­nals to stop when approach­ing the VCP. The pil­lion pas­sen­ger was wound­ed. He was giv­en first aid treat­ment and med­ical­ly evac­u­at­ed to the Tarin Kowt mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal for treat­ment.

The Inquiry Offi­cer found nei­ther offi­cer was wear­ing a uni­form at the time of the inci­dent. He said the pil­lion pas­sen­ger was wear­ing a blue shirt (which is con­sis­tent with the Afghan Nation­al Police uni­form) but this did not become evi­dent until after the casu­al­ties were attend­ed to fol­low­ing the inci­dent.

The Inquiry Offi­cer vis­it­ed the inci­dent site and found it may not have been pos­si­ble to see or hear the Aus­tralian sol­diers until the motor­cy­cle was rea­son­ably close to the check point.

Of note, pri­or to the motor­cy­cle approach­ing the VCP, three cars had obeyed visu­al sig­nals to stop before being allowed to pass through the VCP.

The Inquiry Offi­cer found a short­com­ing with the Task Force’s then esca­la­tion of force pro­ce­dures.

The Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force (ISAF) man­dates the use of cer­tain esca­la­tion of force pro­ce­dures, includ­ing the fir­ing of pen flares. This pro­vides a the­atre-wide stan­dard. In addi­tion, sol­diers should have been issued with cards detail­ing esca­la­tion of forces pro­ce­dures.

The Inquiry Offi­cer con­clud­ed that in this case, the sol­diers did not use pen flares because there was no aware­ness with­in the MRTF-2. Nor, on the face of it, were pre­vi­ous rota­tions, the wider Joint Task Force and those respon­si­ble for force prepa­ra­tion in Aus­tralia aware that the use of pen flares was man­dat­ed for esca­la­tion of force sit­u­a­tions.

He found that there was no evi­dence that con­tin­gents were briefed or trained on the ISAF esca­la­tion of force pro­ce­dures pri­or to deploy­ment. The sol­diers were also not in pos­ses­sion of a soldier’s card out­lin­ing the ISAF esca­la­tion of force pro­ce­dures.

The Inquiry Offi­cer stat­ed it was not pos­si­ble to con­clude, how­ev­er, whether the fir­ing of a pen flare as part of the esca­la­tion of force pro­ce­dures would have obvi­at­ed the need to use lethal force in this instance.

He also found the require­ment to avoid civil­ian casu­al­ties was well under­stood with­in the Men­tor­ing and Recon­struc­tion Task Force in Afghanistan.

The Inquiry Offi­cer found that the estab­lish­ment of a VCP had not been antic­i­pat­ed that day and that the VCP stores were insuf­fi­cient. He stat­ed that since the inci­dent, addi­tion­al VCP equip­ment and new signs have been ordered.

The Chief of Joint Oper­a­tions, Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al Mark Evans, has accept­ed the Inquiry Officer’s find­ings and is imple­ment­ing the report’s rec­om­men­da­tions.

In response to the rec­om­men­da­tions, ADF force ele­ments have reviewed esca­la­tion of force train­ing and pro­ce­dures, and new oper­a­tional instruc­tions have been issued which accord with the ISAF man­dat­ed require­ments.

In addi­tion, not­ing this short­com­ing, Defence has com­menced a nation­al com­mand audit of exist­ing ISAF oper­a­tional instruc­tions to ensure Aus­tralian forces are com­ply­ing with all ISAF manda­to­ry require­ments. Defence is also in the process of estab­lish­ing a nation­al com­mand sys­tem for the rou­tine review of new or amend­ed ISAF oper­a­tional instruc­tions.

Defence is now issu­ing the pre­scribed sol­diers’ card to assist ADF per­son­nel with their under­stand­ing and appli­ca­tion of ISAF esca­la­tion of force pro­ce­dures. Addi­tion­al esca­la­tion of force train­ing will be incor­po­rat­ed into pre-deploy­ment train­ing, includ­ing bet­ter prepar­ing legal offi­cers deploy­ing into the­atre.

The Inquiry Offi­cer rec­om­mend­ed no admin­is­tra­tive action be tak­en against any per­son involved in the inci­dent and that no con­duct war­rant­ed fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion by the Aus­tralian Defence Force Inves­tiga­tive Ser­vice.

Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al Evans has extend­ed con­do­lences to the fam­i­ly of man killed in the inci­dent and his wound­ed pas­sen­ger.

Com­pen­sa­tion was paid to the next of kin of the killed motor­cy­cle dri­ver and to the pil­lion pas­sen­ger in accor­dance with local cus­tom. Detail of the amount of the pay­ment will not be made pub­lic for pri­va­cy and cul­tur­al rea­sons.

Media note: The redact­ed report can be found at: http://www.defence.gov.au/coi/

Media con­tact: Defence Media Liai­son: (02) 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Aus­tralia