The Public Release of the Afghan War Crimes Report is the Tip of the Iceberg

The Australian Defence Force’s Afghanistan Inquiry was released Thursday and reported widely, notably by the ABC and The Guardian. Reports understandably highlighted the most shocking public findings, including the revelation that 36 Afghans were murdered in cold blood by Australian special forces troops.

What news readers may not realise, however, is how little of the report’s findings are yet to be publicly released. While the redactions have been mentioned in the press — and redactions have sadly become generally accepted as a cynical bureaucratic norm — the Afghanistan Inquiry takes it to the extreme.

The report contains three parts. Part 1 is titled, “The Inquiry.” Running for 324 of the report’s 531 pages, Part 1 contextualises the inquiry, its rationale and study methods, international humanitarian law, and the historical context of the occupation of Afghanistan. Part 3 is titled, “Strategic, Operational, Organisational and Cultural Issues”; it starts on page 325. 

What about Part 2, “Incidents and Issues of Interest”? It doesn’t exist in the public version. This is all we have of it, as taken from the Contents page.

Six volumes of “incidents” are entirely absent from the Afghan war crimes inquiry report.

Part 3 is little better. Aside from the fact that it is mostly redacted – with 102 pages either too redacted to be comprehensible, entirely blacked out, or removed from the report entirely – its role is to “summarise the strategic, operational, organisational and cultural factors which may have contributed to the conduct described in Part 2.” While it documents a culture of obstructionism, denialism and a “warrior ethos” of exceptionalism in the SAS, without Part 2 there is no ground against which to assess these failings.

Whistleblower David McBride, without whose bravery this inquiry would likely never have begun, is currently facing 50 years’ imprisonment. The full public reckoning he deserves, and which the government wants us to believe is now underway, depends on the inquiry’s full findings being made public.