NZDF had ‘moral’ responsibility to clear firing range before blast killed Afghan children - expert

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) hired a contractor to clean up a New Zealand firing range in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, where seven children were killed a year later by a device which was allegedly left behind.

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Military expert Paul Buchanan discussed the ethical ramifications of the explosion with TVNZ1’s Breakfast. Source: Breakfast

The United Nations is calling on the NZDF to take responsibility for the deaths, and military expert Paul Buchanan says the "moral and ethical responsibility" to clean the firing range lay with NZDF, instead of a contractor.

“The NZDF left Bamiyan in June of 2013, the range was supposed to have been cleared in October of 2013 by a contractor,” said Mr Buchanan.

“In 2014 the children picked up what was obviously a high explosive, brought it back to the village and it killed seven of them.

He said the NZDF left in a hurry in 2013 which meant they didn’t have time to do the full clearance themselves, which is why a contractor was hired.

“Once you start going to third parties to do things that are basically your responsibility to begin with, then that’s the slippery slope," he said.

“I think its incumbent of the NZDF to tell us more about the contracting process. These clearly were not UN personnel because now the UN is stepping in and they’re not happy.

“No country as far as I know has legal responsibility for cleaning up a firing range. You do have a moral and ethical responsibility."

However, he said as it was an Afghan government-approved operation, he believes the NZDF did what it could given the circumstances.

The Defence Force has set aside $10 million to do another sweep of the firing range, and is in talks with the Afghan government.

"I think in their heart of hearts the NZDF believe that it does have some responsibility for these civilian casualties."