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The Afghan Files

The Afghan Files refers to hundreds of pages of secret defence force documents which were leaked to the ABC by the former-soldier, David McBride. The documents included reports of Australia Special Forces personnel in Afghanistan allegedly committing war crimes such as the killing of unarmed Afghani civilians. The ABC published 7 stories on the Afghan Files in July of 2017, written by Dan Oakes and Sam Clark. As a result of these publications the ABC's headquarters were raided by Australian Federal Police in June of 2019.

A soldier, whose face is blurred, aiming their rifle at a person lying in a grass field. The text "The Afghan Files" is foregrounded.

The Afghan Files contain multiple reports of unarmed civilians being killed by Australian soldiers. One incident detailed in the documents, dated to the 2nd of April 2009, involved three Afghani men being killed by Australian soldiers who were described as being in a "firing position." No weapons were found at the scene.


Another incident, dated the 27th of March 2011, involved Australian soldiers being fired upon from a concealed location. The Australians returned fire before moving to the location from where the original shots were fired. Here the soldiers discovered a dead man and a fatally injured child. They tested the man's hands and found traces of nitrate, seemingly proving that the man had handled explosives and was therefore an insurgent. This was later disproved as nitrates are commonly found within fertilisers in Afghanistan. Furthermore, Afghani locals had reported to the soldiers that the man was the child's nephew, who were returning together from a medical clinic. Bags containing medication were found at the scene.


One of the most 'notorious' reports from the Afghan Files referred to an Australian soldier cutting the hands off killed enemy combatants. After an engagement where four insurgents were killed, an SAS corporal "severed a single hand of the EKIA (enemy killed in action) with a scalpel.” The corporal then proceeded to cut off the right hands of two more of the dead insurgents. The report then describes a sergeant arriving at the scene and, having seen the two hands on the ground, exclaimed something to the effect of:

"What the f*** are you doing?"

While Australian soldiers were required to collect, when possible to do so, eye scans and fingerprints of every killed Taliban fighter, the mistreatment or mutilation of a body constitutes a violation of the laws of war.

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