The Australian Army has launched an investigation into what it says is inappropriate and unacceptable material posted on Facebook by soldiers in Afghanistan while the Defence Minister issues an apology to his Afghan counterpart.
The Seven network has shown videos in which soldiers refer to Afghans as “sand coons” and “smelly locals”.
Another is referred to as a “raghead.”
When a local man was shown running away from an explosion, a soldier was heard to say that the blast “scared the f*** out of that mufti.”
A number of soldiers list their employer as a “f***ing ranga”, a reference to Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Defence Minister apologises to Aghan counterpart
Defence Minister Stephen Smith has personally apologised to his Afghan counterpart for the offensive comments.
Mr Smith described as “appalling” the conduct of a small number of soldiers who now face disciplinary action and the prospect of being sent back to Australia.
“I apologised to him on behalf of Australia,” he said of his call to Abdul Rahim Wardak.
“I made the point to him that the chief of the defence force and the chief of army were investigating this matter and in all likelihood disciplinary proceedings would follow.”
Mr Smith said Mr Wardak responded by saying that he did not believe the incident would diminish the standing of Australian troops in Afghanistan.
“He appreciated very much and respected very much the way that Australian soldiers conduct themselves,” he said.
That conduct covered sticking to “sensible rules of engagement” and engaging with the local people.
And when things go wrong, “fessing up to them” and taking remedial action.
The Acting Chief of Army Paul Symon said the Army is appalled by the behaviour.
“It is totally unacceptable and does not represent Army values of courage, initiative and teamwork,” Major-General Symon said in a statement.
“The material posted by these soldiers discredits the overwhelmingly positive culture demonstrated throughout our deployments in Afghanistan over the last decade.”
The ABC reports that Australia Defence Association’s executive director Neil James says the Facebook posts will hurt Australia’s standing in Afghanistan.
“Not only are they unprofessional and disgraceful in themselves, but in the counter insurgency war it is very important to carry the local population with you,” the ABC quotes him as saying.
“What they’ve in effect done is give the enemy propaganda to use against us in the worst possible way.”