Afghan Raid: Soldiers Should Be Exonerated, Former Army Chief

They should be commended, he said.

30/05/2016 12:56 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
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Former Chief of the Australian Army Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie pictured at a welcome home parade in Townsville for troops returned worldwide service in 2010

The former chief of the Australian army supports exonerating a two soldiers involved in a highly controversial and fatal raid in Afghanistan.

Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie made the comments in relation to the case of two reservists charged with manslaughter after a horrific night raid by commandos in 2009, which left five Afghan children dead.

"I think there is an opportunity for those people [the soldiers] to be brought in and spoken to by the Chief of the Defence Force and others, if that's what's needed for them to get on with their lives," he told the ABC.

In the programme Australian Story, which airs on Monday night, Gillespie said that when the case was dismissed he should have thought more about a "formal acknowledgement of their innocence" in his capacity as head of the army.

"Unfortunately narratives were allowed to exist that said we'd just murdered those children," Gillespie said.

He is reported to have said that if it had been found the soldiers had no case to answer, they should be commended.

"I think anybody who puts on a uniform for our country and goes to places like Afghanistan and confronts all of the uncertainty and risk that comes operating there ... is worthy of commendation. Including them," he said.

Last week a former lance corporal, known as Dave, spoke to Australian Story for the first time about the raid.

Dave and another soldier were charged with manslaughter over the 2009 deaths of the children during a raid at the family compound, during which the soldiers came under fire from a gunman.

The charges were dropped in 2011.

"From the moment I realised there were dead children, I was horrified, numb, just struggling to grasp," Dave said last week.

"When you realise you've killed children, devastating doesn't even begin to describe it, and I feel like I can't fix it and I can't atone for it. I can't do anything to undo the damage that was done."

A spokesperson for the Afghan family whose children has called for a detailed explanation of the incident, the ABC reports.

Australian Story: Into the Fog Of War continues on Monday night on the ABC.

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