There will be no inquiry into allegations about SAS raids after advice from the "independent" Chief of Defence Force and video footage backing that up, Prime Minister Bill English has announced.
That decision has been labelled "disappointing and concerning" by Nicky Hager, co-author of Hit & Run, who said it was the result of military pressure and would ensure the issue would "continue to boil and fester".
"Bill English is an experienced minister who knows the difference between being shown selective information by an interested party, as he has been by the defence force, and having an independent inquiry," Hager said.
After receiving Lieutenant General Tim Keating's advice that troops involved in the raids met the "benchmark" of acting according to the rules of engagement, English today watched video footage taken from aircraft involved in the 2010 raids in Afghanistan's Baghlan province.
The classified video he saw confirmed the "extensive steps, restraint and care" that forces took to minimise the chances of civilian casualties, English said.
He would not go into detail about what the footage showed and said it would not be publicly released.
He did not watch footage of the whole operation but was confident in what he saw.
"There are a number of different points of view from a number of different aircraft."
Asked how Keating - a former commanding officer of the NZSAS - was in any way independent, English said Keating was not involved in the raids, dubbed Operation Burnham.
"The CDF is independent. He wasn't involved in the operation. He has access to video of the actual operation itself, along with all the planning that went into it, the review afterwards by ISAF. We trust that process.
"There's not any real contest over the facts other than the book...which has got them wrong...it looks to be in some cases a wildly inaccurate piece of journalism."
English said he had become more convinced after reviewing material that Keating's conclusion that there was no misconduct was right.
He had not spoken to anybody outside the Defence Force in reaching that conclusion, but denied the NZDF had investigated itself, saying the raids had been investigated by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Hit & Run by journalists Jon Stephenson and Nicky Hager claims six civilians were killed and 15 were injured in the 2010 raids, and those facts have been covered up by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF).
The book said the raid was a revenge attack on insurgents who were believed to be responsible for the death of soldier Timothy O'Donnell, the first New Zealand combat death in Afghanistan.
Stephenson and Hager, Labour, the Green Party, New Zealand First and United Future have all called for an inquiry into the Hit & Run allegations, as have lawyers acting for Afghan villagers.
Tonight, Labour leader Andrew Little said an inquiry was needed, and English had allowed the fine reputation of New Zealand's troops to be undermined by a perception that the allegations were not independently investigated.
"The Prime Minister says he's viewed relevant parts of the video of the incident, rather than the entire video, and he's satisfied entirely with the recommendations of the Chief of Defence.
"The accounts depicted by the Defence Force and the writers of Hit & Run present two very different viewpoints. Somewhere in the middle is the truth, and for public confidence in the integrity of the investigation and the actions of our troops we must have an independent inquiry."
English said today there were ongoing inquiries into claims in the book that a man captured by the NZSAS after the raids and in January 2011 was badly beaten by an NZSAS member, and transferred to the National Directorate of Security in Kabul, where he was tortured.
"Inquiries are ongoing because they are still trying to establish exactly what happened. In that situation they don't have the benefits of the oversight and review and video which is automatically part of coalition operations in the field."
Deborah Manning, one of the lawyers acting for villagers, said the legal team would not be making comment tonight.
Keating and the NZDF say the book contains major inaccuracies, including the location of the villages where the raids took place, named in the book as Naik and Khak Khuday Dad.
Nine insurgents were killed in the raids and it was possible civilians died because of misfire from a US helicopter, Keating said last Monday, but this could not be established.
The NZDF has previously said investigations by ISAF after the raids determined allegations of civilian deaths were "unfounded". Asked if that was misleading, English said he understood it was a legal term.
Wayne Mapp, who as Defence Minister approved the "Operation Burnham" raids in 2010, outed himself as a source for the book on Friday and called for further investigation to find out if civilians died.
Despite Hager and Stephenson's admission after the book's release that the location given for the villages in the book was incorrect, Mapp said the accounts of the NZDF and the two journalists were reconcilable.
That was because NZDF had now recognised that civilian casualties may have occurred.