David Fisher

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Officer was 'too aggressive'

Craig Wilson. Photo / Getty Images
Craig Wilson. Photo / Getty Images

A senior army officer involved in a battle in which two soldiers died had been reported to commanders for being too aggressive before being sent to Afghanistan, the Herald has learned.

Major Craig Wilson was wounded in Baghak in August. Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer and Lance Corporal Rory Malone were killed in the battle.

The major was in Afghanistan with the provincial reconstruction team having served in the country before as an officer commanding the SAS detachment that included Victoria Cross winner Corporal Willie Apiata.

He was sent back to Afghanistan with the PRT in April 2012 when Bamiyan's security situation was at its most tense. He was injured and corporals Durrer and Malone killed in a battle on August 4 outside the village of Baghak.

Major Wilson had earlier been singled out in a report from a military intelligence mentor supervising pre-deployment training. The report, obtained by the Herald, warned commanders of an "aggressive, war-fighting posture" which stemmed from Major Wilson, the officer in command.

The report quoted one person as saying: "The OC wants to turn Bamiyan into a more war-fighting role." The report criticised training in the "bait and hook" technique - a tactic Major Wilson trained in while with the SAS - which uses a handful of soldiers to lure the enemy into an ambush by a larger force.

A military source said the special forces tactic was beyond the scope of conventional infantry.

Defence sources also said concerns about Major Wilson had been raised with one of the military's most senior officers, Land Component Commander Brigadier Mark Wheeler.

The Herald understands questions around leadership and the training for the deployment to Afghanistan are part of a Court of Inquiry investigation into the battle.

The Defence Force said in a statement: "Military personnel develop their own leadership styles and at various times leaders are assessed and mentored on their style. Major Wilson did receive some specific guidance ... from senior officers before the deployment. This is not unusual."

The Defence Force refused to answer questions about tactics, saying it would cause security problems to do so.

The battle at Baghak reveals the closely guarded proactive role of the Kiwi "reconstruction" team in Afghanistan.

The current deployment is the last - New Zealand is preparing to pull its troops out of Bamiyan after 10 years in the province.

- NZ Herald

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