Green Party Foreign Affairs spokesperson Keith Locke has criticised the government for denying the public information about our SAS troops in Afghanistan that is readily available on the internet.
“The day after Defence Minister Mark Burton replied ‘no comment’ to my written questions on what the SAS was dong in Afghanistan, I received precisely the information I wanted from two American web-sites,” said Mr Locke.
“One web-site summarised a public briefing on July 5 by Captain Bob Harward, the American commanding officer of Joint Special Operations Task Force – South (JSOTF – South), who lists the numbers in each unit under his command, including 40 for the New Zealand SAS.
“Harward goes on to detail several of the JSOTF – South’s operations in south and east Afghanistan. He provides statistics on the missions engaged in, air strikes, prisoners of war, and casualties among both the both enemy and the task force,” he said.
“If it is good enough for the American in overall charge of our SAS troops in Afghanistan to spill the beans on what they are doing there, how can our government still justify keeping everything under wraps?
“New Zealanders have a right to know what is being done in their name in Afghanistan. For example, if our troops are involved in some of the missions where innocent civilians have died, shouldn’t we be told about it? We know that US-led forces have bombed villages and strafed a wedding party in southern Afghanistan. Were any New Zealand forces in the vicinity?” asked Mr Locke.
“We shouldn’t accept a secret war in Afghanistan, any more than we would have accepted it in Vietnam, or during the Second World War. I have not asked for confidential information on operations about to be launched.
“The questions the government refused to comment on simply asked ‘in which regions of Afghanistan has the New Zealand SAS been conducting operations since it arrived in Afghanistan?’ and whether the SAS conducted joint operations with Australian, American and British special forces, respectively.
“The American JSOTF – South commander Captain Bob Harward, in his July 5 briefing, answered both questions.
“The details from Captain Harward (on
) are independently verified by details on another web-site, the Centre for Defense Information (
). The second web-site has some information on the operations of JSOTF- South, the New Zealand SAS involvement in it, and the fact that it is commanded by Bob Harward.”