A Queensland coroner has found the Australian defence force’s failure to pass down key orders may have contributed to the deaths of three soldiers in , and recommended it review its communication processes.
Deputy coroner John Lock on Tuesday handed down findings from an inquest into the deaths of Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, 40, Sapper James Martin, 21, and Private Robert Poate, 23, in an insider attack in Uruzgan province in August 2012.
Lock found an order from headquarters to increase security at patrol bases was not passed down to troops on the ground, and may have prevented the soldiers’ deaths.
Lock said in 2012 there had been a significant spike in insider attacks in Afghanistan.
This promoted the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force to release an order on 13 August that emphasised security, including the separation of Afghan soldiers from mentoring troops and the employment of armoured guards.
But Lock found when Milosevic, Martin and Poate were shot while relaxing at their patrol base north of Tarin Kowt, the security recommendations had not been implemented.
The Afghans had been allowed to mingle with the Australians, there was just one Australian guard on duty and the Australian platoon was dressed in gym gear rather than uniforms and body armour.
He said the deadly attack by Afghan army sergeant Hekmatullah may not have happened if the ISAF orders had been implemented by the platoon’s commander.
“Would that have stopped Hekmatullah? I don’t know and no one can know,” Lock said.
“But what we do know is he would have seen a quite different defensive set up and posture compared to the relaxed state of affairs that had been seen … that may very well have deterred him from attacking then.”