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New head of British Army expresses full support for Special Forces Afghanistan Inquiry

The new head of the British Army has expressed his “full co-operation and support” for the inquiry into unlawful actions carried out by British Special Forces personnel in Afghanistan.

British Army, Special Forces, Afghanistan Inquiry, Transparency, Accountability, General Sir Roly Walker, Ministry of Defence
Major General Sir Roly Walker

The inquiry will examine whether a special forces unit, known to the probe as UKSF1, had a policy of executing males of fighting age who posed no threat in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2013. Afghan families have accused UK special forces of conducting a “campaign of murder” against civilians.

Concerns have been raised about the transparency of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) regarding this matter. Ministerial orders have been issued to hand over the names involved in the Special Forces inquiry, with potential legal consequences for non-compliance. The inquiry chair has explicitly told the Minister that refusal to disclose names could lead to prison terms.

General Sir Roly Walker, the new head of the British Army, has penned an open letter to “Officers, Soldiers and Veterans of the British Army,” echoing the sentiments of his predecessor. In his letter, General Sir Roly stated his commitment to transparency and accountability: “Given the importance of the subject matter, I want you to be clear that I share the views expressed by my predecessor in that this inquiry has my full co-operation and support,” he wrote. “And I expect all levels of the Chain of Command to continue to take the same approach.”

He emphasized the necessity of investigating these allegations fully and considering whether there are further lessons to be learned: “Whilst this is a difficult and emotive issue, it is right that these allegations are fully investigated and that we consider whether there are further lessons to be learnt to help us continue to fight and win wars in the future.”

General Sir Roly stressed that the inquiry is about maintaining the highest standards of transparency, trust, and accountability, and it should not diminish the service and sacrifice of the majority who served in Afghanistan with distinction: “This is about transparency, trust, accountability and maintaining the very highest standards – it should not be construed as diminishing the service, sacrifice and commitment displayed by the vast majority who served with great distinction in Afghanistan.”

He called on anyone with information or material that might assist the inquiry to come forward and reassured them that there is legal support available for those involved: “I am committed to ensuring we support our people through this process, which may be challenging for those involved. Notably, individuals who require it are entitled to legal support at public expense if facing allegations that relate to actions taken during the individual’s service when performing operational duties.”

The letter concludes with General Sir Roly thanking those who have engaged with the inquiry and those providing support to British Army personnel. He acknowledged the contributions of the former head of the British Army, General Sir Patrick Sanders, who had also urged personnel with relevant information to assist the inquiry.

Johnny Mercer, a former Army officer and now Minister for Defence People and Veterans, told the inquiry he felt “something stinks” over alleged cover-ups of Special Forces killings. It has also been reported that senior officers and personnel at the MoD “sought to prevent adequate investigation.”

General Sir Roly Walker’s public commitment marks a significant step towards addressing these serious allegations and ensuring the integrity of the British Army remains intact amidst the ongoing investigation.