The NZSAS stopped 15 "spectacular" terror attacks in Kabul, according to a newly released document which reveals the most detail ever of the elite special forces group's operations in Afghanistan's capital.
The documents also detail NZDF's concern over allegations of civilian casualties from a 2010 NZSAS raid and how it was considering not reporting the claims.
The details have emerged in the latest batch of documents released by the Inquiry into Operation Burnham. The documents included those previously withheld by NZDF, with the support of the Chief Ombudsman. They have been freshly scrutinised by the Inquiry's own specialists and deemed safe to release.
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The inquiry aims to "get to the truth" of allegations in the book Hit & Run that an NZSAS raid in Baghlan province in 2010 led to civilian casualties which were then covered up by NZDF.
NZDF initially denied then conceded the possibility of civilian casualties, with evidence since emerging of malfunctioning weapons aboard a US helicopter hitting a building which may have contained civilians.
The inquiry has led to an unprecedented release of information about the secret elite unit, including the document summarising NZSAS operations while the unit was based in Kabul, apparently mentoring the Afghan Crisis Response Unit.
Summarising the NZSAS efforts, it stated the special operations task force had "defeated or disrupted 32 attacks on Kabul" and had "physically responded to and resolved 15 spectacular attacks".
"Spectacular" attacks are high-profile events carried out by terrorists intending to cause large-scale loss of life and property.
The document does refer to the training mission, saying it "supported many high risk arrests with its partner force who were trained and mentored to a high standard".
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But it puts a different cast on the CRU mentoring role, describing those responsible as the "Shadow" force.
It also lists other operations carried out by the NZSAS, including "direct action tasks against insurgent networks". A "direct action" mission is one in which the NZSAS are the instigators of an assault.
The NZSAS also carried out "special reconnaissance in Kabul and adjacent provinces to identify and detect insurgent forces and improvised explosive device networks".
It includes support missions to Bamiyan, where New Zealand's provincial reconstruction team was under increasing pressure from Taliban-linked insurgents.
The documents show the NZSAS offered intelligence and tactical advice, and also carried out reconnaissance missions to try and identify local militants with links to Kabul, where the elite group was authorised to operate.
It included "ground-based reconnaissance" against one identified target who was on the coalition Joint Prioritised Effects List - those who had been identified as priorities to capture or kill.
In the case of that particular target, said to have been involved in the fatal 2010 ambush which claimed the life of Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell, the NZSAS appeared to have intelligence showing the individual had left Pakistan, where he was largely safe from coalition forces, to hold meetings in Kabul and occasionally Bamiyan.
The movement brought the target squarely into the operational area of the NZSAS - Kabul and its six surrounding provinces - where the elite group had "isolated the link [the individual] was meeting in KBL [Kabul]". The reconnaissance, said the document, was to find where they were meeting so the target "could be uplifted".
The limitations of the NZSAS operations were also spelled out, including a ban against poppy eradication and a requirement for Chief of Defence approval for counter-narcotics operations.
The briefing suggests this occurred, with the report stating a link between the Taliban and the drug trade and "other criminal behaviour" and requests for the NZSAS to "undertake specific operations against Taliban or installations involved in the supply or manufacture of narcotics".
Among the other documents is a call for calm from the senior NZSAS officer in the country as claims of civilian casualties were made.
An email sent the day after the raid showed how high the stakes were for the elite unit, with the commander of United States forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, briefed on the operation that morning.
The briefing came as intelligence reports carried claims of civilian casualties which Taliban publicity claimed saw 20 houses burned and 20 people killed.
The NZSAS officer said "early reporting" was likely to "get some people excited about the conduct of the operation and the outcomes".
He said it was especially the case when claims of civilian casualties contradicted the assertion all those fired on were insurgents.
The senior officer asked his headquarters contact to "provide a sanity check and level of realism to any reactions from NZ at this early stage" while he investigated the claims.
A week later, the senior officer again emailed headquarters to say the investigation showed there was "no case to answer" for the NZSAS.
"One of the AH64s [a US helicopter gunship] had a gun that was not firing true and if any [civilian casualties] has occurred, it is here that any blame will probably lie."
Another email in the chain suggests NZDF considered not reporting either the attack nor claims of civilian casualties, saying there were "a number of good reasons" not to do so. Those include the security threat "if Kiwis are linked in any way to the Burnham job".
The headquarters' officer responded, saying a briefing would be prepared for the Chief of Defence and possibly also for the Minister of Defence, Wayne Mapp. He said he would wait on orders from Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mataparae - the chief of defence - as to whether Mapp should receive an interim update or wait on a final report.
Mapp was confronted over the NZSAS raid during a television interview the following year, in which he ruled out the possibility of any civilian casualties.
The inquiry ordered a week-long public hearing in September to hear testimony from NZDF over apparent contradictions between what it knew and what Mapp and the Prime Minister were told.
That included a briefing in which Sir John Key and Mapp were told there was "no way that civilian casualties could have occurred".
The Inquiry said NZDF "made firm statements publicly that no civilian casualties occurred" and went on to support ministers making similar statements.
"These actions were taken despite the repeated allegations of civilian casualties in the media and elsewhere from immediately after the operation until the present.
"Given that the statements of NZDF and ministers were made publicly, the inquiry considers that they should be explained publicly."