The UK minister has stated that he is unable to refute allegations that unlawful killings of Afghans may have occurred.

The UK minister has stated that he is unable to refute allegations that unlawful killings of Afghans may have occurred.

The UK’s minister responsible for veterans, Johnny Mercer, acknowledged during a public inquiry that he believed soldiers from the SAS were responsible for numerous unlawful killings of Afghan civilians from 2010 to 2013.

The former army officer, who is now a Conservative MP, expressed reluctance in accepting reports that the highly trained British soldiers had killed sleeping Afghans or carried out executions during night raids. However, after conducting his own investigation, he was unable to find evidence to disprove these claims.

According to Mercer, he had personal connections with members of the SAS during that time, specifically friends who were killed in operations and others who were deeply affected by their experiences in Afghanistan.

However, during his testimony on Tuesday, the minister stated, “I do not want to accept it, but I have thoroughly searched for evidence to contradict these accusations and have been unable to find anything.”

Mercer was set to testify for the entire day, discussing his knowledge from his last deployment in Afghanistan in 2010 up until his two terms as minister for veterans affairs from 2019 to 2021, and once again starting in July of this year.

During his testimony, the most difficult moment for him was when he admitted to receiving two warnings from military acquaintances regarding the gravity of the accusations in 2017. At the time, he was a Member of Parliament and was working to stop a surge of mostly unfounded allegations of misconduct by British soldiers in Iraq.

A high-ranking officer cautioned him about the extent of the official inquiry into SAS summary killings. Another soldier, who served alongside him in the past, disclosed that he was instructed to carry a “planted weapon” to create false proof of an assault on the elite troops. This would justify the summary killings of innocent Afghan civilians during night raids in Helmand province.

The lawyer, Oliver Glasgow KC, continuously requested Mercer to disclose the identities of the two individuals who had given him warnings either publicly or in writing. However, the minister stubbornly refused to comply during prolonged discussions.

Mercer stated that this has been a prolonged story for them spanning several years. They also expressed their lack of confidence in the system’s ability to thoroughly investigate such matters.

The attorney argued that not disclosing the identities of those who shared the information would greatly hinder the investigation. However, Mercer stated that one’s integrity is paramount and he will stand by these individuals.

He stated, “At this point, I am not willing to destroy them. This is because, in my opinion, you are already in communication with individuals who possess much more understanding of the situation.”

The judge in charge, Sir Charles Haddon-Cave, requested that Mercer reconsider his decision to withhold their names and expressed hope that the minister would have a change of heart in the future. He also noted that the inquiry was completely separate from the government and was experienced in handling confidential information.

The investigation heard that the Ministry of Defence refused to confirm or deny the specifics of Mercer’s testimony. Despite his previous role as a junior minister in the department from 2019 to 2021 and his current position in the Cabinet Office overseeing veterans’ affairs, his evidence was not acknowledged.