Historic inquiry into NZDF raids in Afghanistan underway

A historic inquiry into a controversial 2010 New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) raid in Afghanistan has begun in Wellington today.

The amount of highly classified information under the microscope is expected make it one the most complex in New Zealand's history.

It centres on events that took place nearly nine years ago in a remote part of Afghanistan.

It's the first time that the NZDF's actions overseas have been under such a public microscope.

Counsel assisting the inquiry, Kirsty McDonald, says it will be hugely complicated.

"It will involve highly classified information which, if wrongly disclosed, could seriously harm New Zealand's security and international relations."

Journalist Nicky Hager's book Hit and Run last year claimed NZDF personnel had participated in war crimes in Afghanistan in 2010.

It alleged that six civilians were killed and 15 others injured during a revenge raid on two villages.

"NZDF is extremely reluctant to admit that anything went wrong, and I believe only a very rigorous process will get beyond their denials," says Mr Hager.

The NZDF has flat-out rejected the claims, saying it acted honourably and instead killed nine insurgents. Lawyer for the Afghan villagers, Deborah Manning, says the issue of deaths should be a priority.

The NZDF and government agencies are pushing for secrecy around the raids.

Today will be one of the few open and public hearings held by the inquiry, as it grapples with what information should be made public and what should be kept secret.

"It is not an exaggeration to say that the Government's ability to deal with hostile international forces would be seriously harmed by the loss of intelligence information from the country's partners, and New Zealanders put at risk," says Ms McDonald.

After public hearings on Wednesday and Thursday, inquiry chairs Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Sir Terence Arnold will read over thousands of documents and listen to accounts of those involved.

They're expected to report back to the Government by April.