The news is out: [SYDNEY —Australian special forces soldiers, mainly from the elite Special Air Service (SAS) regiment, executed 39 prisoners, farmers and other civilians during the Afghanistan war, the chief of the Australian defense forces, Gen. Angus Campbell, said Thursday.
Gen. Campbell said a culture of “toxic competitiveness” that took hold of the SAS and another unit, the Second Commando Regiment, fueled a breakdown in discipline that led to the extrajudicial killings, including a practice of “blooding” where new soldiers who had never killed anyone in combat were pressured to execute prisoners.
The findings implicated 25 Australian soldiers in unlawful killings of Afghans, and recommended prosecutions against 19 of them. Some of the victims were adolescents, Gen. Campbell said. None of the killings took place during the heat of battle.
The allegations were greeted with shock in Australia, which joined the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan shortly after the terrorist attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. The SAS, which is equivalent to the U.S. Army’s Delta Force, is the most prestigious unit of the Australian Army.]