Australian military bans alcohol after Afghan war crimes inquiry

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The Australian military has banned alcohol on operations and exercises following an inquiry that linked consumption to war crimes during the country’s involvement in Afghanistan, The Times reported on Wednesday.

A long-running inquiry into war crimes allegedly committed by special forces operatives released its report in 2020, finding that a secret pub at the unit’s base in Afghanistan led to frequent drinking.

New rules imposed by defense chiefs will see a total ban on alcohol consumption on overseas deployments, an update to earlier guidance that was ignored by members of Australia’s SAS.

The unit is accused of carrying out 39 murders over a series of deployments to Afghanistan, with a new task force said to be gathering information to be used in prosecutions.

The 2020 report by Judge Paul Brereton for the inspector general of the Australian Defence Force revealed the existence of an informal pub located at the SAS base in Afghanistan.

Operatives used the site to drink and host parties, with one soldier telling the judge that the pub allowed the SAS “to do certain stuff, but we’re not going to get caught and it’s not going to be regarded as misconduct because that’s who we are and that’s what we do.”

The report described the pub’s existence as proof of “organizational blindness” and “compromised ethical leadership.”

Under the new rules, military authorities may provide approval for personnel to drink a maximum of two alcoholic beverages on “non-warlike operations,” including Australia Day, Anzac Day and Christmas. But a risk assessment must be provided 21 days before an event.

Operational commanders have also been instructed to carry out random breath testing of personnel.

“A member who fails to maintain a zero (blood alcohol level) through random testing will have administrative action commenced against them resulting in potential removal from the operation, exercise or activity,” the rules say.

Personnel who refuse breath tests will be “removed from the workplace immediately and be banned from access to weapons and ammunition, and access to vehicles.”

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