Australia’s defence force chief looks set to backflip on his decision to strip 3,000 Australian soldiers, some posthumously, of a citation for meritorious service in Afghanistan.
General Angus Campbell is expected to release a statement early this week saying no definite decision had been made about stripping the honours following public backlash.
The declaration was made by General Campbell after the Brereton Report into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan recommended removing honours for those who served in the Special Operations Task Group.
Private Gregory Michael Sher was killed in a rocket attack in Oruzgan, Afghanistan (pictured with wife Karen)
Former 2nd Commando Regiment commander Heston Russell (pictured) has said the citations being revoked would leave families of veterans distraught
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, prime minister Scott Morrison said the great majority of soldiers serving in Afghanistan deserved their honours.
‘The actions of a few, whether in command or those on the ground, do not reflect on the many thousands of others who served today and have served before,’ the Prime Minister said.
‘Our defence forces have earned this, they have earned the rights that they now call upon and they have earned the respect for which we all rightly afford them, and there can be no taking away from that, and that is certainly my view and the government’s view.’
That was a far cry from General Campbell’s statement on November 19 when he announced the revoking of the citations.
Private Luke Worsley (pictured left) was killed in Afghanistan, while Benjamin Chuck, from the 2nd Commando Regiment who was one of three killed when their helicopter crashed in Afghanistan in the early hours of Monday, June 21, 2010 while on a mission in Kandahar Province
‘I have accepted the Inspector-General’s recommendation and will again write to the Governor-General, requesting he revoke the Meritorious Unit Citation awarded to Special Operations Task Group rotations serving in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013,’ General Campbell said.
Public backlash has grown since that statement, particularly from the families of fallen soldiers whose citations would be removed posthumously.
‘If General Campbell has not felt the bitch-slap from all those millions of Australians out there, he needs to pull his head out of his arse,’ Senator Jacqui Lambie said on Monday.
A petition not to remove the citations has already amassed more than 55,000 signatures in just a few days.
‘Where is our moral responsibility with the way in which these families are being exposed to tearing open these scars,’ Former 2nd Commando Regiment commander Heston Russell told The Daily Telegraph.
‘They are hurting so badly. Where is the moral responsibility of the government to do what is in the best interest of our people, especially those who have already suffered through the ultimate sacrifice of one of their family members.’
Sergeant Matthew Locke (pictured) was killed on a tour of Afghanistan serving with special operations
A number of serving members of the Special Air Service Regiment have been asked to show why they should not be sacked following the release of a damning report into alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan.
A four-year investigation by Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force, Justice Paul Brereton, uncovered credible evidence of 39 unlawful killings and two cases of torture by Australian troops in Afghanistan.
The ABC reported that at least 10 members of the SAS’s second and third squadrons were subject to the ‘administrative action’.
But they were not considered to be among the 19 personnel who Justice Brereton recommended be referred to the Australian Federal Police.
Private Timothy Alpin (pictured) was killed in a Blackhawk helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2010
‘Defence can confirm it has initiated administrative action against a number of serving Australian Defence Force personnel in accordance with legislation and Defence policy,’ a Defence spokesman told the ABC.
‘As the Chief of the Defence Force said publicly last week, findings by the (Brereton inquiry) … of alleged negligence by individuals in the performance of their duties have been accepted by the CDF, and allegations will be managed through the ADF’s administrative and disciplinary processes.’
They have been given 14 days to respond to the action.
Second squadron was disbanded following the release of the Brereton report.