By Tom Hyland, The Age
AS AUSTRALIAN commandos await news on whether they will face charges over civilian deaths in Afghanistan, the army is reviewing records to see if Australian forces were involved in separate incidents involving civilian casualties.
The Director of Military Prosecutions, Brigadier Lyn McDade, is expected to announce this week what action she will take over a commando raid in February 2009 in which six civilians were killed. The killings happened during a night-time raid by members of the First Commando Regiment, many of them reservists, targeting a Taliban leader.
The separate review of civilian casualties, also dating back to early 2009, has been prompted by a request from the International Security Assistance Force, in which Australian troops serve.
Last month ISAF asked the ADF to review its records to see if Australian troops were involved in civilian casualty incidents in and around Oruzgan province. In response to the request, the Chief of Joint Operations Command, Lieutenant-General Mark Evans, set up an inquiry, a spokesman for Defence Minister John Faulkner told The Sunday Age.
The spokesman said the review was part of an ISAF audit of reports relating to incidents during military operations in early 2009.
The imminent announcement by Brigadier McDade, meanwhile, has triggered intense speculation in army ranks, particularly among reservist commandos, who feel they have been singled out for unfair criticism.
Sources close to the commandos said senior special forces officers had since expressed confidence in the men of the regiment, whose deployment to Afghanistan in 2008-2009 was the first time a reservist unit had been sent into combat since the Second World War.