An army officer in charge of an Australian mentoring mission in Afghanistan has conceded a warning should have been passed on to prevent an insider attack.
An Australian army officer who led a mentoring mission in Afghanistan concedes there was a “communication issue” prior to the deaths of three soldiers in an insider attack.
A coronial inquest into the deaths of Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Private Robert Poate entered its second week on Monday.
The soldiers were gunned down by an Afghan National Army sergeant in August 2012 at a patrol base 20km north of Tarin Kowt, in Oruzgan province.
The Brisbane inquest has already heard that shortly before the attack, an intelligence officer escalated the threat level at the Afghan-controlled patrol base, but the warning wasn’t passed on.
Relevant information about the unique layout of the Wahab base, where the Australian camp was dangerously close to the Afghan soldiers’ camp, was also not passed on.
On Monday the former commander of the dead soldiers’ unit, Major Travis Gordon, conceded there had been a “communication issue”.
However, he denied the 24-man Australian platoon was under strength and said prior to the night of the attack there was no reason to suspect danger.
“The risk of insider attack had been assessed across the board, there was no specific threat at Wahab,” Major Gordon told the inquest.
Under cross-examination he agreed that Wahab’s layout made it more exposed to so-called green on blue attacks and that the lack of documentation about the remote base was a failure in the system.
The platoon was led by Lieutenant Dominic Lopez, who radioed Major Gordon on arrival to say the base was secure.
He didn’t mention that Australian and Afghan National Army forces couldn’t be separated due to the layout of the base.
Major Gordon said he hadn’t asked for a thorough brief from his lieutenant because “I had other things that I was dealing with that were of a higher priority”.
“You recognised in hindsight that you should have asked a lot more of Lopez then you did, don’t you?” asked Peter Bodor QC, for Pte Poate’s family.
“Yeah well of course. Three soldiers were killed,” Major Gordon replied.
The inquest continues.