Operation Burnham: NZ Defence Force chief 'deeply sorry' after damning report into deadly Afghanistan raid

The chief of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is "deeply sorry" after a damning report into Operation Burnham found civilians were likely killed during a raid in Afghanistan, and that officials covered it up for seven years.

It comes after the findings from a two-year investigation into Operation Burnham were released in a 400-page report on Friday morning.

The inquiry found it was "likely" a civilian child was killed during the August 2010 operation and at least six more civilians were injured. Seven men were killed during the raid, three of whom were identified as insurgents.

At a press conference from Defence House in Wellington on Friday afternoon, Air Marshal Kevin Short admitted the NZDF "fell well short of the standards we demand of our service men and women".

"The operations were lawful, justified, and were planned meticulously. Our forces operated professionally, and to the high standards we expect of our personnel," he said.

"However, this Inquiry Report demonstrates that we let our frontline service people down through a series of organisational and administrative failings that saw incorrect information provided to Ministers and the New Zealand public.

"For that, I am deeply sorry."

Air Marshal Short said while the report concludes it's likely there were civilian casualties during Operation Burnham, it "also confirms New Zealand forces were not involved".

However he admitted the NZDF should be held accountable for its briefings about the operation, as well its administrative systems and processes.

The Operation Burnham inquiry report found that while the inquiry acknowledged NZDF did not know during the operation that civilian casualties had occurred, it realised within a matter of days it was possible.

However it did not effectively investigate the allegations, instead issuing a series of incorrect statements which claimed the possibility of casualties had been investigated but were baseless.

The report found false claims stemmed from an email sent by Senior National Officer in Afghanistan Chris Parsons to Director of Special Operations Peter Kelly.

"The errors resulted in a number of mistakes over several years and saw inaccurate information about the possibility of civilian casualties given to Ministers and New Zealanders," he said.

"The mistakes were compounded when the inaccuracies were repeated... NZDF acknowledges and regrets these mistakes. If we are to maintain the trust and confidence of the people we serve, we must be accountable.

"We must be better at the way we record, store and retrieve information, and then subsequently present that information to Ministers and the public. I will ensure this happens."