2 Sep 2011

Book claims Defence misled Govt over war activities

5:42 am on 2 September 2011

A new book on New Zealand's involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars claims the Defence Force deliberately misled government ministers about some of its activities.

Nicky Hager says his book Other People's Wars is based on thousands of leaked military and intelligence documents, as well as interviews with former and current defence staff.

The 439-page book includes claims the Navy and the Air Force were involved in escorting and protecting the Iraq invasion force, despite an explicit order by then-Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark to stay out of the conflict.

Mr Hager says peacekeeping troops meant to be in Afghanistan were actually sent to Oman and Pakistan to load CIA helicopters and explosives for British troops.

He says the Defence Force ignored the specific directions of the Government.

"The way that they dealt with that contradiction, which was a reasonably reluctant Labour Government at that time and a gung-ho Defence Force that wanted to improve its relation with the United States, was they just kept things secret and they misled the ministers."

His book also suggests the New Zealand base in Bamiyan province houses a secret CIA operation, which is not under the control of either the New Zealand or US military.

Mr Hager also claims New Zealand intelligence officers based at the Bagram air base have helped identify targets for US drones in Afghanistan as part of Operation Kiwi Cracker.

He says an American book, which was pulped before it could go on sale, says the New Zealanders did the same for targets in Pakistan.

Mr Hager says the book also reveals that aid efforts of New Zealand's Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan have been poor.

PM dismisses claims

Prime Minister John Key says he has not heard anything about a supposed CIA operation at the Bamiyan base, nor claims that the Defence Force misled ministers about activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Key says the Provincial Reconstruction Team works co-operatively with other nations, including Malaysia and the US. When asked whether he was aware of any links with CIA, Mr Key replied he was not.

Mr Key says much of what Mr Hager is talking about took place before National came to power in 2008.

Labour Party leader Phil Goff was Defence Minister in the last term of the previous government and says it would be surprising if there was not an intelligence presence at the Bamiyan base.

"I think it would be shock, horror, surprise if you didn't have intelligence facilities designed to keep New Zealand Defence Force personnel safe in an area of deployment."

Mr Goff says he has not seen Mr Hager's book.

A security academic says it is inconceivable that New Zealand's defence and intelligence agencies would set out to deliberately deceive government ministers.

Lance Beath, a senior lecturer in strategic studies at Victoria University with 30 years' experience in defence and foreign affairs, says the Defence Force is completely open and transparent in everything it does.