When Braden Chapman got news of spreading it to Afghanistan with the Special Air Services Regiment (SAS), the Signals Intelligence officer was elated.. He will serve with the most elite force in the Australian Army.
“I really put them on a pedestal because there is a legend about them – they’re the perfect soldier,” Chapman said.. “They are the best soldiers you want to deploy with them.
But by the end of the four months he spent with the Special Forces in Afghanistan, Chapman’s view of the U.S. Special Forces had changed completely.. He was disgusted by what he saw.
There has long been talk of violations of international rules of armed conflict by Australian Special Forces soldiers in Afghanistan, but the possibility of criminal charges being brought is not entirely clear..
While deployed, he said he witnessed the unlawful killing of Afghans and the consequences of another incident in which a wounded man was allegedly beaten to death.
« I think these people should go to prison, » Chapman said of his former Special Forces colleagues who he said were involved in the killings..
Chapman is one of a handful of brave Australians who introduced themselves while talking about what they had witnessed in Afghanistan..
On March’s Four Corners’ Killing Field Show, he talked about the events that haunted him: a bound prisoner who was taken away, forced to kneel, and a SAS operator ordered an Afghan soldier to shoot him. He claimed that the same worker later killed a man who raised his hands to surrender.
The story also broadcast an unprecedented clip of one of Chapman’s comrades in the Special Air Service shooting an unarmed Afghan hiding in a wheat field, a killing carried out at close range.
The program astonished the Australian Defense Force and resulted in the disqualification of the SAS operator – known as Soldier C – and his referral to the Australian Federal Police by the Morrison government.
But the former SAS member believes the culture has been shaped by the constant grinding of post-deployment, the leadership that turns a blind eye, and by the futility of their mission in Afghanistan.
“We were returning people and handing them over to the Afghan authorities. After three days they were released again to do what they were doing, even if they were a certain target. « .
“I think they believed . . . Either we don’t go out at all, or we just shoot these guys. So why do we risk our lives?
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After getting out of the army, Chapman is ashamed of the behavior of the Australian Special Forces in Afghanistan.
SAS soldiers are considered heroes, but very few are accused of the most heinous crimes, including the killing of innocents, writes Mark Willacy.
Why did the signal intelligence officer not report the events he witnessed at that time? Why did it take him eight years for him to speak?
“I was a very young member of the [SAS] support team,” he said. It wasn’t until I sat down later and really thought about what happened and thought about it.
Chapman says the toxic culture of some in his squadron was not limited to operations in the field.
“There was a very large drinking culture during our deployment,” he said. “There were many parties where it wasn’t just your regular sitting down for a drink and having some conversations. It was very severe. There were attacks.
ABC Investigations spoke to three other SAS members who were in the same deployment as Chapman and they each confirmed that there was at least one attack and a number of threats of violence directed against Special Forces support personnel..
Talk about Afghanistan’s SAS bar, Fat Lady’s Arms, where homemade spirits were served with abandoned playing high-stakes poker games.
“I was only threatened when people were drunk, so I knew there was a violent element. It’s one of those environments where you really don’t want to get off the line, Chapman said..
Chapman is one of hundreds of witnesses who have provided evidence to the IGADF Inspector General’s investigation into rumors and allegations of war crimes committed by Special Forces in Afghanistan..
He is not permitted to disclose what he said to IGADF, but is supportive of the investigation and its objectives.
“I think [the investigation] just needs to put everything in there, and let people decide . . . We basically supported, you know, these wars on the basis of lies and cover-up.
“I’m glad we have to tell our stories, and people are already listening to them. I’m not really trying to think about the end result, the end result. I’m glad I’ll tell my story and then try to move forward.
Moving forward might be Chapman’s biggest challenge. What he witnessed in Afghanistan took enormous personal and psychological losses.
“I don’t think they’re going far,” Chapman said, when I asked him how long the photos of the murders he saw with him would remain.
The IGADF report will spark controversy over the future of SAS, and whether this proud regiment should be dissolved, reformed, or merged with commandos.
Despite his experience with SAS in Afghanistan, Chapman argues that the SAS should not be dissolved.
“I think they will have to clean the house just to save the unit,” he said.
“[SAS] still serves a purpose… if they get back to where they were, focusing on their original purpose will be more helpful than the direct action role they’ve been doing for 18 years.
« If we have an army, special operations are required. I just think if they brought in more transparency it would make things a lot better.
This story is not over for former Special Forces soldiers like Chapman, whose testimony before IGADF was crucial. He and many others will likely be called in to testify in any criminal trials that result from current and anticipated police investigations..
“I feel nervous about facing some of these [accused], but [I] am ready to come forward and testify..
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Australia, War Crimes, Afghanistan, Paul Breriton
World News – African Union – Braden says there was a « toxic culture » in Afghanistan, where support personnel like himself were beaten by SAS Soldiers
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