The UK Chief of Defense Staff said the inquiry into the alleged killings of special forces personnel in Afghanistan will be an “emotional and uncomfortable process for some”.
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin told the inquiry chairman that the inquiry should not “take away from the effort and commitment of many thousands” of UK soldiers who served in the war-torn nation.
The defense chief said it was “right that allegations of illegal activity are thoroughly investigated” and said the MoD's involvement was about “vindicating our reputation”.
The inquiry will examine whether special forces had a policy of executing men of “combat age” who did not pose a threat in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2013.
Afghan families have accused UK special forces of conducting a “killing campaign” against civilians, while senior officers and staff at the Ministry of Defense “attempted to prevent an adequate investigation”.
Concluding his evidence to the inquiry on Tuesday, Admiral Sir Tony said: “I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate the support of the Ministry of Defense to this inquiry.
“We recognize that this investigation focuses on the conduct of deliberate detention operations over a very specific period of three years and the subsequent response by the Ministry of Defence.
“It should not detract from the effort and commitment of many thousands of British personnel who have been deployed to Afghanistan over a period of more than two decades, and who … have risked their lives, and many of whom have been killed and also injured.”
The defense chief continued: “We are also very clear that this involves vindicating our reputation and maintaining public trust now and into the future – and it is right that allegations of illegal activity are thoroughly investigated, and it is right that we look at the H response by the Ministry of Development to consider whether further lessons need to be learned.
“That is why the Government has set up this independent inquiry and that is why the inquiry has the full support of both me and the permanent secretary and also the full support of the heads of departments.
“We recognize that this will be an emotional and uncomfortable process for some, but the Foreign Office is committed to supporting our people throughout this operation.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank our servicemen and women for their understanding and cooperation, and I am grateful to them for their support of this investigation.”
The inquiry will examine allegations that “multiple” murders took place, as well as an alleged cover-up of illegal activity and inadequate investigations by the Royal Military Police (RMP).
Two RMP investigations, codenamed Operation Northmoor and Operation Cestro, will be scrutinized by the inquiry.
No charges were laid as part of Operation Northmoor – a £10m inquiry set up in 2014 to look into allegations of executions by special forces, including those of children.
Three soldiers were referred to the Public Prosecution Service in Operation Cestro, but none of them were prosecuted.
The inquiry will now hear submissions from the families of 33 people, including eight children, who were allegedly killed by special forces.
The investigation continues.