The "Independent Inquiry relating to Afghanistan," tasked with investigating alleged unlawful killings by British soldiers, has uncovered disturbing evidence of war crimes and the deliberate erasure of incriminating evidence, as well as efforts to downplay the incidents through internal investigations.
Launched on October 9 at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, this inquiry delves into the allegations of extrajudicial killings attributed to the Special Air Service (SAS), the primary special forces unit of the British Army. Lord Justice Haddon Cave, the chairman and presiding judge, stressed the gravity of the situation in his opening statement. He highlighted three key points: first, the occurrence of numerous extrajudicial killings by British Special Forces in Afghanistan between mid-2010 and mid-2013; second, the cover-up of these events at all levels over the past decade; and third, the inadequacy of the five-year inquiry conducted by the Royal Military Police.
Throughout the UK's military involvement in the US-led occupation of Afghanistan from 2001 to 2021, the SAS, much like the elite special forces of other NATO countries, carried out numerous deliberate detention operations (DDOs) or night raids. These operations often resulted in scores of unlawful killings and were predominantly executed in the rural regions of Helmand province. Their purpose was to intimidate and subdue the Afghan population as an insurgency grew across the nation, opposing the US-backed government of Hamid Karzai, seen as corrupt by many.