SAS Afghanistan mission: What went on

It was the death of a New Zealand soldier in Afghanistan that set in motion the complex web of events that's culminated in allegations of suspected war crimes.

Nicky Hager's and Jon Stephenson's book, Hit & Run, released on Tuesday evening, describes the events - however the Defence Force account of what happened differs from that of the authors.

Tim O'Donnell was a young decorated soldier - our first to die in Afghanistan.

He was killed after his patrol vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.

Mr Hager and Mr Stephenson say after Mr O'Donnell's death the mood at the SAS Kabul base was "raw".

Even before his funeral they were hunting his killers, using what the authors describe as "flimsy" intelligence and cellphone tracking.

The New Zealanders successfully lobbied for their suspects to be added to the US military kill-list.

Just 18 days after Mr O'Donnell's death, a Chinook helicopter carrying up to 70 SAS soldiers set off to Tirgiran valley in search of their prey.

Then-Defence Minister Wayne Mapp and Defence Force chief Sir Jerry Mateparae were in Kabul when the operation went live.

Prime Minister John Key gave it the green light - by phone. Mr Mateparae watched it unfold on a live feed.

The snipers landed first,  the main troops shortly after - gunfire came from above them. But the authors say "hell broke loose" below them.

An Apache helicopter flown by US troops but allegedly commanded by SAS soldiers unleashed with cannons, rockets and missiles firing repeatedly.

The authors are adamant that zero insurgents were killed.

The SAS moved onto a second village - where empty buildings were bombed and torched.

The book's authors say it was there an Apache chopper hunted down and killed two innocent villagers.

On August 23 an official press release came out claiming 12 insurgents were dead and no civilians harmed.

Mr Hager and Mr Stephenson say the death toll is six civilians.

The Defence Force stands by the statements  of no civilians killed and the revised insurgent death toll of nine. Nine people who have never been named.

Now, Mr Mapp has conceded that civilians were killed, and Hit & Run alleges he told a friend the operation was New Zealand's "biggest and most disastrous operation - a fiasco".