Australia Expects Afghan War Crimes Report Will Lead to Charges
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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he expects criminal charges will be laid against some special-force soldiers allegedly involved in “serious” misconduct while serving in Afghanistan, as part of the U.S.-led coalition against the Taliban.
A report from a four-year inquiry into theallegations of war crimes will be released next week, Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Thursday. He’s ordered the formation of an office to investigate the report’s findings and to refer criminal charges where appropriate.
The report will contain “difficult and hard news for Australians,” Morrison said. “Our responsibility is to ensure now that we deal with this in a way that accords with our Australian standards of justice.”
The probe was prompted by media reports alleging elite Australian forces were involved in dozens of illegal deaths in Afghanistan.
The country is the site of the longest war for both the U.S. and its close ally Australia, which was begun as retaliation against the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America.
The Taliban and the Afghan government are currently holding theirfirst direct peace talks in Doha, Qatar. According to the United Nations, terrorist attacks in Afghanistan dropped 30% in the first nine months of the year until the peace talks began, when a spurt of civilian casualties began due to a new wave of fatal strikes.
While U.S. defense officials have previously said they were looking to draw down American forces to between 4,000 and 5,000 by the end of November, U.S. President Donald Trumpin October said he’d like to withdraw all remaining American forces from war-torn Afghanistan by Christmas, much quicker than the time line laid out in a peace deal between the militant group and the U.S.
Morrison said the report’s finding would be difficult news for Australia’s defense partners. The process involving the Australian justice system should mitigate the possibility of the nation’s soldiers being called before the International Criminal Court, he said.
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