In 2016, Australia launched an inquiry into the conduct of its special forces personnel between 2005 and 2016 amid allegations by local media about the killing of unarmed men and children.
Campbell said that the killings are alleged to have occurred while the Afghan victims were detained or under Australian forces’ control, and that none of the alleged victims were soldiers.
“[The Inspector General] found there to be credible information to substantiate 23 incidents of alleged unlawful killing of 39 people by 25 Australian Special Forces personnel, predominantly from the Special Air Service Regiment”, Campbell said.
According to Campbell, the report found that there had been a “warrior culture” among some members of Australia’s special forces in Afghanistan. The report further specified that some patrol commanders, who were treated as “demigods”, required junior soldiers to shoot prisoners to achieve their first kill.
Australia’s defence force has recommended that the country’s federal police investigate 19 individuals from the special forces over 36 alleged war crimes, including murder and cruel treatment of non-combatants in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2013.
Campbell “sincerely and unreservedly” apologized to Afghanistan for the conduct alleged in the report. Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison called Afghan president Ashraf Ghani to express his “deepest sorrow” over the findings.