Monday, September 5th at 8.30pm on ABC1
This week on Four Corners, “In Their Sights”. The story behind the controversial strategy Coalition forces are using in Afghanistan to kill or capture the Taliban leadership.
A Four Corners team investigates both the merits and the risks of the “kill-capture” campaign.
Its proponents claim that the strategy has been successful in killing enemy commanders, but several missions involving elite Australian soldiers have gone horribly wrong, killing “friendly” local leaders and civilians.
Ask most Australians what the “strategy” in Afghanistan is and they would tell you it’s about winning the hearts and minds of the population.
The Government talks about the need to improve security, protect the population, build schools and hospitals and a lasting stable government.
But running parallel with this “hearts and minds” approach is another far more contentious and highly secretive strategy – it’s called “killcapture”. Using mostly Special Forces, the Coalition has been hunting down Taliban commanders one by one.
The program is massive and increasing. In the last year an estimated 11,000 insurgents and their leaders have been killed or captured. The strategy is to disrupt, dismantle and demoralise the insurgents, forcing them to the negotiating table.
But for all its perceived success, some are questioning the strategy and the unintended consequences it’s delivering. First, experts say, killing the established leadership has led to a new generation of younger even more radical insurgents. The second problem comes when the raids go wrong.
Each raid is only as good as the intelligence it’s based on. Evidence shows that in a number of cases the intelligence is not reliable and in others it appears Coalition forces have been manipulated by their Afghan allies into settling old scores and killing tribal rivals.
As a result, families are divided and devastated, local populations become alienated and angry, leading some into the arms of the Taliban.
This week a Four Corners team reports on how the “kill-capture” strategy developed, how it’s being implemented and expanded and finally examines the fall-out when things go wrong.
The program gets access to the families and eye witnesses who were present when elite Australian troops undertook “killcapture” missions.
The program investigates three incidents, revealing why, in two cases, it appears the wrong people were killed and in another a suspect already detained was shot dead at close range.
After a decade of war in Afghanistan, is the “kill-capture” strategy doing more harm than good?
“In Their Sights”, presented by Kerry O’Brien goes to air on Monday 5th September at 8.30 pm on ABC 1. It is replayed on Tuesday 6th September at 11.35 pm. The program can also be seen each Saturday at 8.00pm on ABC News 24, on iview or at: www.abc.net.au/4corners/