On 20 November, General Angus Campbell, Australia’s Chief of Defence Force, set an example for all militaries to follow in upholding human rights. On Twitter, he apologised to the people of Afghanistan and Australia for the human rights violations committed by the Australian Special Forces during their deployment in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2016.
In a 21-minute televised address, Campbell said, “To the people of Afghanistan, on behalf of the Australian Defence Force, I sincerely and unreservedly apologise for any wrongdoing by Australian soldiers. I have spoken directly to my Afghan counterpart, General Zia, to convey this message…..And to the people of Australia, I am sincerely sorry for any wrongdoing by members of Australian Defence Force.
You’re right to expect that your Defence Force will defend our nation and its interests in a manner that accords with our nation’s values and laws.” He further said that apart from the personnel who committed the alleged acts, the chain of command would also be held accountable and liable for disciplinary action for complicity or moral failure, in case they remained ignorant. A redacted version of the inquiry report has been put in public domain.
What the Chief of Defence did was a course correction, as for nearly a decade the Australian media had been reposting about the alleged human rights violations. A combination of public, media and political pressure forced the military to course correct. In a sharp contrast, President Trump granted pardon to soldiers accused of human rights violations, much against the advice of his military and media outrage.
Ten days earlier, on 10 November, the Chairman of the United States’ Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said, “We are unique among armies, we are unique among militaries.