Defence Chief trusts special forces '100 per cent', after questions on threatening letter

 abc.net.au  6/14/2018 11:03:03 PM   political correspondent Louise Yaxley

Updated June 15, 2018 14:50:02

The Defence Force Chief has no concerns about rogue elements in the special forces.

Key points:

  • Defence Force chief Mark Binskin says he trusts the special forces "100 per cent"
  • It comes amid reports of several incidents of possible unlawful killings by special forces soldiers in Afghanistan
  • Air Chief Marshal Binskin also confirmed a threatening letter was sent to one SAS member about their appearance before an inquiry

The Inspector-General of the Defence Force (IGADF) is conducting a sweeping inquiry into Australia's elite troops, including possible breaches of the Geneva convention.

The two-year-long investigation has uncovered numerous concerns about the conduct of Australian special forces in Afghanistan, including several incidents of possible unlawful killings.

The report into the claims of illegal actions committed by members of the Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment and commando units during the 12-year conflict is expected to be released by the end of the year.

Defence Force Chief Mark Binskin insisted today he had no concerns about the SAS when asked whether there were rogue elements.

"I trust the special forces 100 per cent," he said.

But as he backed the SAS, he also confirmed that a threatening letter was sent to a member of the regiment about their appearance before the IGADF's inquiry.

He said it was "absolutely disgusting that a disaffected person thought that they could threaten a witness and then look to influence the inquiry".

"That is a criminal act and it will be handled appropriately," Air Chief Marshal Binskin said.

The Defence Force has asked federal police to investigate the threat.

Defence Minister Marise Payne confirmed that the letter had been received and subsequently referred to the Australian Federal Police for investigation.

"Any action of that nature is of course concerning and I will let the federal police investigation take its course," she said.

Politicians find threat 'deeply concerning'

The letter was mailed to the special forces soldier, but the names of witnesses to the inquiry are not revealed and hearings are conducted in private.

Defence points out that witnesses are protected by law from intimidation and from liability for what they tell the inquiry.

Liberal backbencher Andrew Hastie is a former member of the SAS who served in Afghanistan.

He called the threat, "disgraceful and deeply concerning".

Mr Hastie said he would be seeking an assurance from the Defence Minister that the inquiry had the resources and protection it needed to continue unhindered.

Labor's defence spokesman, Richard Marles, said it was "alarming to hear that people doing their duty in Defence's investigation of these incidents are being harassed".

"There's no place for that in our society or Defence — full stop," Mr Marles said.

The Inspector-General has been advertising in local newspapers in Afghanistan for people to come forward.

Topics: army, government-and-politics, unrest-conflict-and-war, defence-forces, defence-and-national-security, security-intelligence, australia, afghanistan

First posted June 15, 2018 08:11:56

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