Hit and Run vs the Defence Force: What you need to know

  • 30/03/2017
A New Zealand Defence Force soldier in Iraq (NZDF / Facebook)

The New Zealand Defence Force and authors Jon Stephenson and Nicky Hager in their book Hit and Run make a number of varying claims about what happened during Operation Burnham in Afghanistan in August 2010.

What was the raid called and when did it happen?

  • Both the NZDF and the book say the raid Operation Burnham was carried out in Afghanistan on August 22, 2010

Where did it take place?

  • The NZDF says the raid took place in the village of Tirgiran in Baghlan Province
  • The book alleges the raids occurred 2km north in the villages of Naik and Khak Khuday Dad
  • Hager and Stephenson have since conceded the NZDF might be right about the location of the raids, but claim the village names are correct

What was the basis?

  • Both the NZDF and the book say the raid targeted Taliban insurgent leaders responsible for the death of Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell, who was killed by a roadside bomb in nearby Bamyan Province
  • The NZDF says it was based on sound intelligence
  • The book claims forces were not sure the intelligence was reliable

Was it revenge?

  • The New Zealand Defence Force says the raid was not revenge
  • The book claims the raid was in retaliation for Lt O'Donnell's death

Who was involved?

  • SAS ground forces were supported by coalition air forces, under the command of a New Zealand SAS commander
  • The book claims SAS ground forces were supported by local Afghan forces and two US Apache helicopter helicopters, under the command of the SAS

Were insurgents killed?

  • The NZDF says nine insurgents were killed
  • The book claims no insurgents were killed

Were civilians killed?

  • The NZDF admits there may have been civilian casualties when a gun misfired, shots fell short and hit a building where there were known insurgents and possible civilians
  • Locals told an Afghan governor six civilians had been killed - four adult males, an adult female and a six-year-old girl
  • The book claims six civilians were killed - five men and a three-year-old girl. It also says 15 were wounded

How did the deaths occur?

  • The NZDF says ground forces fired two single rounds, both hitting and killing one insurgent. Air forces targeted insurgents on the ground, killing eight
  • The book claims four civilians were killed by aircraft fire and two were killed by NZ SAS ground forces

How were homes destroyed in the raids?

  • The NZDF says two dwellings caught fire while weapons and ammunition including rocket propelled grenades found during a search were being destroyed outside
  • The book claims the houses were deliberately destroyed, including being targeted by rockets

How is the operation outcome regarded?

  • Defence Force Chief Lieutenant General Tim Keating says the conduct of Kiwi forces was "exemplary"
  • The book claims then defence minister Wayne Mapp described the operation to a friend as a "fiasco"
  • Dr Mapp has not denied the comment, later saying "one of the disasters of war is these terrible things can happen"

Does there need to be an inquiry?

  • Lt-Gen Keating says he has no personal problem with an inquiry but "legally it would be a bit of a challenge" to convince people to give evidence
  • The book claims a full and independent inquiry is necessary to determine exactly what occurred and the extent of any cover-up
  • Demand for an inquiry has been supported by Deborah Manning - a lawyer representing the Afghan villagers
  • Prime Minister Bill English says he won't be rushed into an inquiry
  • Dr Mapp says there does not necessarily need to be an independent inquiry.