Hit & Run: Inquiry not needed into Afghanistan raid - Defence Minister Wayne Mapp

Former Defence Minister Wayne Mapp says an independent inquiry into whether the New Zealand SAS killed civilians in Afghan village raids may not be necessary.

Dr Mapp was interviewed for Hit & Run by investigative journalist Jon Stephenson who co-authored the book with Nicky Hager. After the book came out, he confirmed the claims that civilians were killed in the 2010 Afghanistan raid.

The book says Dr Mapp told a friend the operation was New Zealand's "biggest and most disastrous operation - a fiasco".

On Thursday, in an opinion piece for pundit.co.nz, Dr Mapp said Kiwis "owe it to ourselves to find out, to the extent reasonably possible, if civilian causalities did occur, and if they did, to properly acknowledge that".

But he says that does not necessarily mean having an independent inquiry as the lawyer representing that affected Afghani villagers Deborah Manning wants.

He believes it is "most likely" that kind of information could come through diplomatic approaches to the Afghan government or NGOs operating on the ground.

"It is part of Afghan culture that compensation is made in recognition of loss. This is a process of restorative justice, rather than determining liability."

He says he has no doubt New Zealand soldiers act to the highest ethical standards.

"That is why it has always been clear to me that the actions of our soldiers on the operation were done with honest intent and professionally.

"As in all guerrilla war, it is often a case of villagers by day and insurgents by night. It was a reasonable and appropriate decision to engage them as they looked to be attacking the New Zealand soldiers on the ground.

"In such a case we have an absolute right to defend ourselves."