SAS gets ‘command and control’ overhaul after war crimes allegations in Afghanistan

SAS gets ‘command and control’ overhaul after war crimes allegations in Afghanistan

Australia’s most elite military unit is being overhauled, with a senior officer soon to take command of the Perth-based SAS to prepare for a “challenging decade” ahead.

Nine months after the release of the devastating war crimes investigation in Afghanistan, the regiment’s leadership is elevated to colonel to ensure “sufficient capacity and appropriate oversight” for future complex missions.

In November, the A Brereton report recommends that 19 special forces soldiers be investigated by police for the “murder” of 39 Afghan prisoners and civilians.

Currently, the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR), which is part of the Australian Army’s Special Operations Command, is led by a Lieutenant Colonel.

Defense Secretary Peter Dutton says “historic” changes to the 57-year-old regiment will enhance its responsibility as Australia braces for more complex “grey zone” war missions.

“We have seen the skill and courage of the SAS in the past week from the work they have done in Afghanistan. Those men and women who serve in the SAS are an incredible asset to our country.”

On Tuesday, Assistant Secretary of Defense and former SAS Captain Andrew Hastie visited the regiment’s Campbell Barracks headquarters to discuss changes to serving members.

“These are significant and historic changes that will ensure that regimental leadership is mature, experienced and better qualified to lead sensitive strategic missions,” Hastie said.

“The reform of the SASR command will modernize the regiment for the demanding strategic challenges of the coming decade,” added the Afghan war veteran.

A soldier wearing a camouflage while holding a gun looks out the side of a helicopter on a brown mountainous area
Hastie served in Afghanistan in 2013.(

Delivered: Andrew Hastie

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Last year the ABC revealed that the Special Operations Commander for Australia (SOCAUST) would be a commando officer who had never been a member of the rival SAS.

Army chief praises SAS role in Afghanistan, avoids reporting Brereton investigation

Via video link, Army Chief Lieutenant General Rick Burr also addressed the elite unit about the historic changes, praising his dangerous work in Afghanistan during this month’s war and evacuation.

“As our operations in Afghanistan come to an end and the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, I would like to begin by specifically recognizing the contribution of the SAS to the defense of Australia over the past two decades,” said Lieutenant General burr.

“I know all too well that this has been a difficult time for many people. I recognize the toll on individuals and families and thank you all for supporting each other.”

Without mentioning last year’s Brereton report, the army chief said the overhaul “would ensure that the SAS’s operating model is assured and future-proof”.

“These arrangements recognize the magnitude of the organization’s responsibility and the sensitive nature of its capabilities,” he said.

“This does not mean that the SAS regiment will be more independent or self-contained – quite the contrary.”

“As more expected, these improvements recognize geographic location and make the SAS more connected, more enabled and more accountable as part of Special Operations Command’s suite of capabilities.”

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