NZ Defence Force admits Battle of Baghak video was edited

The New Zealand Defence Force has admitted it manipulated video taken during the Battle of Baghak.

In a 34-page statement released to Fairfax, the Defence Force confessed that the video clip released to the public had been edited.

The statement was a response to the Stuff Circuit documentary series, The Valley, which explores New Zealand's involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

The Battle of Baghak was a firefight that took place in the Shikari Valley, Bamyan Province on August 4, 2012. Two New Zealand and four Afghan soldiers died.

Kiwi soldiers filmed the battle using personal devices and cameras. 

The Defence Force showed journalists a three and a half minute clip of the footage at a June 2013 press conference about the findings of a Military Court of Inquiry into the incident. 

The clip was then played on several news websites and was the leading item in the day's news bulletins.

When the video was released in 2013, Major General Dave Gawn, Chief of the Army, told reporters he wanted the public to understand the fight terrain, the "uncertainty of ascertaining exactly what is going on when you're in a situation like that" and how loud it was during the battle.

He also told them, "You'll be able to identify with the junior commander who is quite calmly laying out the dispositions of his patrol." 

Jonathan Coleman, Defence Minister at the time, said "What you see on that video, that is the reality of Afghanistan."

Stuff Circuit reporters obtained the raw footage of the battle, and found the clip released to the public had been edited.

A significant amount of the soldiers' dialogue had been removed, which the Defence Force's statement said they did because one of the soldiers swore throughout the battle.

"This difference comes about because Defence Public Affairs staff thought they were doing a decent thing, sparing embarrassment for one of the soldiers who was, literally, swearing like a trooper. So NZDF communications staff did remove the soldier's expletive-laden remarks."

However the original footage reveals that much of the removed dialogue, which indicates the soldiers' confusion during the battle, contained no swearing at all.

The edited video also contains added audio not present in the original footage. A soldier's voice was added as well as gunfire, which covered sections of the footage where the soldiers' conversations had been cut.

This contradicts the Defence Force's statement which claimed the audio was only altered "in one regard".

Stuff said the Defence Force deliberately edited the video to downplay the confusion of the battle and present a calmer version of events.

One of The Valley's revelations was that radio communications were faulty on the day of the battle.

In its statement last week, the Defence Force said "With the benefit of hindsight, in the future the NZDF will be clearer about when it is edited [sic] a video, even when trying to do the right thing by one of its people."