Defence has deferred its decision to disband a Special Forces squadron alleged to have been involved in war crimes perpetrated in Afghanistan, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has confirmed.
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Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, has delayed the removal of the SAS 2 Squadron from the order of battle, amid reports that Special Forces personnel have threatened to quit if the squadron is disbanded.
But according to Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds, the decision has been deferred in accordance with GEN Campbell’s formal response to the recommendations handed down by Inspector-General of the ADF (IGADF) Paul Brereton in his Afghanistan Inquiry report, in which personnel from 2 Squadron were alleged to have perpetrated war crimes.
Minister Reynolds stressed that 2 Squadron would still be disbanded upon the application of due process.
“My understanding from the Chief of Defence Force is that [the disbanding] will proceed for the reasons that the Chief of Army and the Chief of Defence Force has said and given the gravity, given the gravity of the circumstances that have led to that, I fully support that,” Minister Reynolds told the media.
“But my understanding is that the commemoration for that has been delayed, not cancelled.
“[The] CDF has asked for all actions that are in response to the Brereton report be done under his implementation plan, so my understanding is that it has been delayed to be part of the implementation plan.”
Minister Reynolds added: “[The] CDF quite rightly is wrapping up all of these actions into a single implementation plan, which, given the gravity of the issues and the issues that will play out for many years, I think that is entirely appropriate action.”
The Chief of the Defence Force has noted that given the complexity and sensitivity of the issues raised in the report, Defence’s response would “take extensive and considered deliberation”.
GEN Campbell added he would update the public on the progress of the implementation program as new developments emerge, noting the importance of transparency in the process.
Meanwhile, Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, has already sent administrative action notices to 13 special forces soldiers identified in the report.
Such individuals will now be given the opportunity to plead their case by providing a written response within 14 days of receipt of the notice.
An administrator will then consider their written response before determining whether to dismiss the individual, with each matter considered on a case-by-case basis.
ADF members and their families can contact the Defence All-hours Support Line, a confidential telephone service available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by calling 1800 628 036. Defence families can also contact the Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608.
Safe Zone Support (1800 142 072) is also available as a free and anonymous counselling line for current and former ADF personnel and their families. The service is available 24/7 and provides access to specialised counsellors with an understanding of military culture and experience.
Defence personnel, veterans and their families can also access free and confidential counselling 24/7 through Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling Service (1800 011 046) or online at www.openarms.gov.au.