SYDNEY (AA): The Australian defense forces chief on Tuesday faced tough questions following his move to remove the military honors of some soldiers who served in Afghanistan, over alleged war crimes, according to local media.
During a parliament hearing, a senator said Gen. Angus Campbell was not on the front line in Afghanistan, so he should “surrender” his own medal as well, ABC News reported.
“When you (Campbell) were granted the award, it was awarded for ‘in action’ — that’s how the Distinguished Service Cross came about,” the broadcaster quoted Senator Malcolm Roberts.
Campbell was earlier posted as the commander of the Australian forces in the Middle East.
“I would put it to you that this is demoralizing, and that it would be an honorable thing to do in charge of the Australian Defense Forces to actually surrender your medal,” Roberts added.
Last week, the broadcaster reported that Campbell warned of removing awards from some soldiers who held command positions in the Afghanistan war, following an investigation into the war crimes.
However, Campbell, without elaborating, said he sent the recommendations to Defense Minister Richard Marles and that the minister could decide about it.
Meanwhile, Senator Roberts, following Tuesday’s hearing, tweeted that Campbell “should be stepping down, before that he should be handing back the medals he’s trying to strip from people who were under his command.”
In 2020, 39 Australian soldiers were accused of unlawful killings of Afghan civilians or prisoners.
The Brereton report, commissioned by the Australian Defense Force’s Inspector-General Paul Brereton, found “credible information” that the Australian soldiers murdered civilians and prisoners in Afghanistan.
According to the report, 25 current or former personnel were involved in serious crimes, either carrying out the offenses or being “accessories” to them.
Following the report, Campbell offered an apology to Afghans as he shared the horrifying details of the investigation.
According to UN estimates, at least 100,000 Afghan civilians died after former US President George W. Bush authorized the offensive in Afghanistan in October 2001.