Mark Nichol for The Mail on Sunday has interviewed a former SAS soldier who claims that illegal killings were an unwritten rule of the job. The source claims that, in direct contravention of the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC), unarmed Afghans were routinely killed but only after high-level intelligence confirmed their identity as Taliban commanders rather than civilians. ‘We went in hard and I admit the tactics do sound gruesome, but these were bad men. We hunted them down only after their guilt had been established by a network of local informants as well as our various high-tech assets.’
Meanwhile in the Sunday Times, Dr Mike Martin a former British army officer has revealed how he expressed severe misgivings about “flawed” intelligence used to justify the raids during top secret “board meetings” in which SAS targets were identified. ‘The special forces night raids set our campaign back massively because they killed so many of the wrong people. They acted on very poor intelligence even when they knew it was poor.’
So which account is correct? To my mind it hardly matters. Both clearly indicate that basic principles governing the use of force were deliberately ignored.
As I have said elsewhere, ‘British forces worked under very very strict rules of engagement but it seemed to me that special forces did not have to apply the same rules in quite the same way.’ .
The Mail on Sunday’s informant clearly believes that these actions were justified and that ultimately they saved British lives, but I take a different view. If British soldiers were targeted in their homes and killed, unarmed in front of their families we would all, rightly, be outraged at such wicked and cowardly tactics. The murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby springs to mind. Even in war soldiers are not above the law.