Patrick Gower: Wayne Mapp's openness shames Government's stonewalling

OPINION: Former Defence Minister Wayne Mapp has done what the Defence Force and the Government have refused to do.

He has broken the silence, and admitted that a tragedy occurred in August 2010, a tragedy that may have killed a three-year-old girl.

Instead of stonewalling like the Government and decrying journalists Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, he's conceded that they're on to something.

Dr Mapp is a credible former Minister and current law commissioner.

He was the Defence Minister on the ground in Afghanistan when the "hit and run" raid was ordered.

When the raid first became public in 2011, he categorically denied civilians were killed.

But since then, everything has changed.

And today, no more denials from him - instead a concession that civilians died.

"One of the disasters of war is that these things can happen," he told Newshub today.

The book Hit and Run claims that six civilians were killed, including three-year-old Fatima.

"I'm sure everyone was remorseful about that," he said. "At the time of the attack they thought they were getting attacked by insurgents."

Dr Mapp is a crucial figure in the Afghan raid controversy.

He's quoted in the book as telling a friend the raid was "Our biggest and most disastrous operation - a fiasco."

"The Defence Force was doing too much I didn't know about".

When asked about that quote today, he didn't back away - there was no denial.

"At the time the raid took place the soldiers thought they were engaging with insurgents, that's how people were acting, that's what the report was at the time," he said.

Asked a second time about the quotes in the book, again there was no denial, rather an admission that the raid failed to get the insurgent targets.

"We didn't achieve the objective we sought, which was the capture of a named group of people."

Dr Mapp was in Afghanistan with then chief of defence Defence Force Lieutenant-General Jerry Mateparae when the SAS came up with the plan to take out the insurgents who killed Tim O'Donnell.

Sir Mateparae told Newshub in a text today: "As far as I can see all that needs to be said has been said and anything further should be addressed by the people in New Zealand who have access to the relevant information."

The pair called John Key - who gave the final sign off.

But Dr Mapp says the former Prime Minister should not be criticised.

"Because he acted on proper advice. He, like myself, like Jerry Mateparae, act on the advice that we get. The soldiers involved act in accordance with the threat they are dealing with."

"You've got to remember this was at night, limited visibility, they thought they were being attacked, they did what a professional solider would be expected to do which is defend themselves."

The book says the SAS were backed up by US forces including Apache attack helicopters that opened fire on two villages.

Dr Mapp took no issue with this version.

"They have info, and the key point at the time the operation took place, people thought they were under attack that's why the firing took place."

The Government and Defence Force were resolute today that New Zealand's SAS troops did not kill any civilians - but weren't ruling out that forces from other countries did.

And Prime Minister Bill English is not keen on an inquiry.

"So far there doesn't appear to be new material to justify an inquiry," he said today.

Dr Mapp is now open about what happened - but not wanting to attribute blame.

"People acted with honest intent, and acted in the circumstances what they thought was right."

A former Defence Minister - doing what the Defence Force and the Government refuse to do. Being open.