dinsdag 12 juli 2022

Climate and the Collapse of World Order

 JULY 12, 2022

Climate and the Collapse of World Order

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Near Tehachapi, California. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

China rises while the U.S. recedes, along with the global order it created at the end of World War II. This has become a common narrative. Historian Alfred McCoy put it forward in his 2017 work, In the Shadows of the American Century.But, as McCoy points out in his latest work, China’s day in the sun may be brief, overwhelmed by cataclysmic climate disruption that could shatter world order itself as the century unfolds.

The first truly global order originated when Portugal began the European age of exploration around 1420. With the European invasion of the Western Hemisphere and opening of a sea route to Asia by the end of the century, “Europe’s overseas empires finally brought all the continents into sustained contact, allowing the formation of history’s first true world order,” McCoy writes in To Govern the Globe: World Orders & Catastrophic Change.  Together, Spain and Portugal created what McCoy describes as the Iberian order. It was to last beyond the height of their empires until the British world order succeeded it with the final defeat of Napoleon, consummated in the 1815 peace conference known as the Congress of Vienna.

The current U.S. world order began in 1945 when Britain passed the torch to its Anglo offspring on the western side of the Atlantic. In both his recent works, McCoy projects the U.S. order’s end date around 2030, though current global events may be accelerating that timetable.

Born of catastrophe

Empires come and go, but world orders imbue themselves deeply in culture, politics and economics, McCoy maintains. So though there have been 90 empires great and small over the past 500 years, it has taken deep and shaking events to crystallize a new order. “If we focus on the last five centuries, new world orders seem to rise when a maelstrom of death and destruction coincides with some slower, yet deeper, social transformation to sweep away the old order,” he writes. That is the “catastrophic change” in the subtitle.

The cataclysm that triggered the Iberian order was the Black Death, the plague that killed 60% of the population of Europe and China, “rupturing the constraints of the medieval social order.” The Napoleonic Wars lasting over a quarter century, combined with the emergence of the coal-fired industrial revolution, culminated in the British order. The ravages of World War II, killing 70 million in history’s greatest war to date, along with the emergence of oil as a dominant energy source, made the U.S. the shaper of the current global order.

McCoy’s focus on energy sources as a key element of global geopolitical orders provides To Govern the Globe an explanatory power all too often missing or downplayed in other global histories. The vital and ironic point to which the book draws is how the fossil energy sources that have marked the past two world orders are leading to catastrophic climate change that might end the unified world created over the past five centuries. It might bring a “Chinese century” to a premature close, and shatter that world into competing nations putting up walls against climate refugees from uninhabitable regions. McCoy notes that only around two million refugees from the drought-connected conditions in the Mideast and Central America have fed reactionary politics in Europe and the U.S. What will happen when there are hundreds of millions?

Sovereignty and rights

To Govern the Globe provides a deep exposition of the other two elements that McCoy posits have shaped global order, the evolution of concepts around sovereignty and human rights. I will touch on them briefly, and then return to his thinking on energy and climate, and how that influences my own, having focused on the issue since the 1990s.

The energy source that drove the Iberian order was two-fold, a revolution in the use of wind to drive ships, and the massed human muscle power they carried in the form of slaves. From the earliest Spanish invasion of Caribbean islands, native populations were enslaved to mine precious metals and grow crops in plantation settings. Superior sailing technology and cannons meanwhile enabled the Portuguese to dominate trade and native populations around the Indian Ocean, when the economies of Asia dwarfed those of Europe.

The division of the world into those two empires was confirmed by in the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas which gave Africa and most of Asia to Portugal and all of the Americas except Brazil to Spain. It was based on a decree by Pope Alexander VI, setting out “two central principles” that were to prevail throughout the Iberian age, even as France and Britain succeeded the original empires.

“First, imperial sovereignty would be boundless, capable of encompassing non-Christian lands by every sort of conquest and the world’s largest oceans by exploration,” McCoy writes. “More fundamentally, in the conquest of alien lands, a Christian monarch was morally and legally empowered, by papal authority, to enslave all peoples in perpetuity.”

The historian relates how Catholic clerics horrified at the impact of slavery on the indigenous of the Americas laid the foundation for western notions of human rights, while international law emerged in challenges by The Netherlands to Iberian control of the seas. The Dutch, succeeding Portugal in Asia, used their wealth to create a new form of secular and republican society, and created the essential institutions of capitalism, including the first stock market and the first corporation in the form of the Dutch East India Company.

With the triumph over France by 1815, Britain consolidated a global trading empire based on free trade and freedom of the seas. Moving from being the leading slave trading nation, Britain abolished the trade and became the main enforcer of a ban it sought to impose on other nations. But this shift away from human muscle power was only made possible by the growth of fossil power in the form of the coal-driven steam engine. Still, Britain and other European nations impressed labor. So their abolition of slavery was only a “halfway house.” McCoy cites Belgian King Leopold’s extermination of 10 million in the Congo.

The succeeding U.S. order, which McCoy says was consummated at the first United Nations conference in San Francisco in 1945, enshrined principles of national sovereignty and human rights. Imperialism as an ideology was discredited. Colonies were to be eliminated. But, as in the prior British order violated its own principles of freedom in its colonial practices, the U.S. organizer of its order often honored the order’s principles in the breach, intervening in 81 elections from 1945-2000 and staging around three dozen coups.

One who taught history at the University of Wisconsin earlier than McCoy, William Appleman Williams, maintained the consistent pattern of U.S. foreign policy was to create and keep an “open door” for U.S. capital investment, trade and resource exploitation throughout the globe. In the same way the Dutch leveraged concepts of international law against the Iberians to build their Asian empire, and the British used free trade to blow down barriers to its exports and investments, the U.S. employed ideas of sovereignty and human rights to open up formerly protected European colonies to its own corporations.

Oil and the U.S. world order

The modern oil age began in 1859 with oil well drilling in Pennsylvania. But coal remained dominant. At the start of World War II in 1939, even though the U.S. produced two-thirds of the world’s oil, it still represented only one-third of its energy consumption and only around 10% in Europe and Japan, McCoy notes. Even in 1950, oil still accounted for only around a quarter of fossil fuel use. By 2003, oil surpassed coal to supply 46% of U.S. energy, 60% in Western Europe and 73% in Japan.

Oil propelled a revolution in automobility and aviation, while coming to drive global shipping. The U.S., a nation that, for the first time in history, occupied dominant positions at the western and eastern ends of Eurasia, became the guardian of their prime energy source, the Middle East with two-thirds of the world’s conventional oil reserves. As McCoy points out, this generated an endless series of wars that have only made the region more unstable.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 seemed to bring an unparalleled era of unipolar dominion. That provided the U.S. with the opportunity to open the global door, bringing nations into the capitalist world order that had formerly been excluded. “At the start of the twenty-first century, Washington thus had the open, globalized economy it wanted,” McCoy writes. But at a cost. “By fraying social safety nets while eroding the structures that protected unionized workers and local businesses, American neoliberal reforms penetrated societies worldwide – reducing the quality of life for many, creating inequality on a staggering scale, and stoking a working-class reaction that would erupt, a generation later, in an angry right-wing populism.”

The rise of China

The global market order also unleashed a related force that would rise as the first challenger to western hegemony in 500 years. The World Trade Organization, created in 1995 to enshrine the neoliberal order, admitted China in 2001. Washington’s elites were confident Beijing would be a compliant player. McCoy writes, “There was almost no awareness of the massive geopolitical shifts that could occur when a full fifth of humanity joined the world system as an economic equal for the first time in three centuries.”

McCoy cites a series of statistics to document China’s dazzling growth, the greatest in world history. It is projected to become the largest economy by GDP before 2030. By the more realistic measure of Purchasing Power Parity, China leapt past the U.S. in 2014, and could be 40% larger by 2030. It is mounting technological challenges in computing, telecommunications and aerospace. By 2016 its patent applications more than doubled those of the U.S.

Becoming the world’s workshop, China accumulated trillions of dollars in reserves. With those in hand, Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 gathered 130 countries in Kazakhstan to announce the Belt and Road Initiative. BRI would lay down a network of highways, rail lines, ports, pipelines and power plants to link Eurasia from east to west. The projected $1.3 billion projected to be spent by 2027 is the largest investment in world history, 10 times greater than the Marshall Plan though which the U.S. rebuilt Western Europe at the end of World War II. McCoy likens the BRI speech to those three moments that crystallized previous world orders, Tordesillas, the Congress of Vienna, and the 1945 UN conference.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of the great architects of U.S. global policy, warned of the rise of a Eurasian competitor. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a recent speech said the U.S. must prevent the rise of a “Pan-Eurasian colossus,” with the arrogance and ignorance of another former officer in the Seventh Cavalry, George Armstrong Custer. With Russia, China and Iran being driven closer together by U.S. pressure, the colossus Brzezinski feared is on arrival, ironically being created by U.S. action to halt it. Trade wars have not stopped it, while a war with China many fear is on the horizon, and which the U.S. would likely lose, would snap supply chains in ways that make current difficulties seem a minor inconvenience.

A short “Chinese Century”

Much of the world proceeds with business as usual assumptions, largely ignoring the impact climate disruption will have incoming decades. McCoy does not make this mistake. His analysis of climate as a central factor in the global geopolitics of coming decades is a seminal contribution. The underlying social trend in which production is shifting to Asia, especially China, combined with intensifying climate change “has the potential to end Washington’s world order and allow the ascent of an alternative global system  . . .” “ . . . humanity is facing another cumulative, century-long catastrophe akin to the Black Death of 1350 to 1450 that could, once again, rupture a global order and set the world in motion.”

A Chinese order would be more diffuse than its U.S. predecessor, McCoy says, allowing the rise of regional hegemons such as Brazil, Iran, Turkey, India, Iran and Russia. Having less emphasis on proclaimed political standards than the U.S., and more on mutual economic benefit, the Chinese approach might seem particularly attractive in a world suffering increasing climate breakdowns.

McCoy spends the final pages of To Govern the Globe citing many projections of coming climate chaos, including “worst-case” sea level rise projections of 5.8 feet by 2100. Even at more moderate increases, 150 million people will be below high tide by 2050.  Uninhabitable hot zones will spread from the current one percent of the Earth’s land surface to 20% by 2070, “placing a third of the world’s population, or about 3.5 billion people, outside the narrow niche of temperatures that has sustained human life for the past six thousand years.”

China, no less than Britain or the U.S., has risen on fossil fuels. With 85% of its energy coming from fossil sources, while 85% also represents the portion of BRI investments that will be heavy climate polluters, according to a study cited by McCoy, China currently represents around one-third of world carbon emissions. Those will return home. Of all nations, China will be among the hardest hit by climate disruption.

Writes McCoy, “ . . . rising waters ‘threaten to consume the heart’ of Shanghai and its surrounding cities, crippling one of China’s main economic engines. Dredged from sea and swamp, much of Shanghai will, in little more than 30 years, return to the waters from whence it came.” Meanwhile, “increasing temperatures will devastate the North China Plain, a prime agricultural region between Beijing and Shanghai currently inhabited by four hundred million people, potentially making it the most lethal place on the planet.”

McCoy concludes, “A ‘Chinese century’ that begins around 2030 is unlikely to last long, ending perhaps around 2050, when the impact of global warming becomes unmanageable . . . China’s days as a global power will be numbered.”

What comes next?

“Beyond 2050, climate change, if not brought under some degree of control, threatens to create a new and eternally cataclysmic planet on which the very words, ‘world order’ may lose their normal meaning,” the historian writes. “Any world order, whether Washington’s or Beijing’s, that is based on the primacy of the nation state will probably prove incapable of coping with the political and economic crises likely to arise from the appearance of some 275 million climate change refugees by 2060 or 2070.”

“By 2050, if not earlier, the inability of individual nations, no matter how powerful, to cope with a crisis of the global commons should become blindingly apparent,” McCoy says. “. . . the community of nations might well agree on the need for a new kind of collective response and an empowered form of global governance.”

Seeking to envision a world order that might work, McCoy says the features that have defined world order for five centuries must be rebalanced. Human rights and the global commons would have to be privileged over national sovereignty. A supranational authority would need power to control emissions, resettle refugees and reconstruct environments. At this moment of intensifying international conflict, so much driven by the politics of fossil fuels, such an outcome might seem utopian. But sometimes, the logic of the situation drives towards solutions that, however out of reach they seem at the moment, are utterly necessary.

As someone who, as I have said, has focused on the climate issue since the 1990s, I have been continually struck with the gap between what is scientifically necessary and what seems politically feasible. That has driven me in a paradoxical direction, to address this greatest of global crises by acting at local, state and regional levels through journalism and political organizing. In the U.S., at least, this is where the most effective climate solutions have been implemented, from moving forward renewables with energy standards, to stopping fossil fuel infrastructure through grassroots action.

Around the world, even in nations considered advanced on climate, fossil fuel interests are still strong in national governments, as is evidenced by the response to the Ukraine War. Solutions reflecting democratic will are more easily implemented at local, state and regional levels. The leverage points are greater. Many of the key public policy levers to reduce climate pollution are in fact at local and state levels, from decisions on transportation networks and building codes, to utility regulation. The greatest barrier has been the relatively limited resources available to state and local governments compared to national governments.

World order begins at home 

Thus, correlating McCoy’s recommendations with my own experience, I believe we need to move on climate in a paradoxical way, to empower institutions at local, state and regional levels to act on climate, while using that increased power to generate political will for the kind of supranational authority which is obviously necessary. To move the in-between level, the nation-state, to take the necessary actions. The beginning or any world order that survives the climate crisis begins with action close to home.

We are, I have to admit, far behind the curve to avert the catastrophes that McCoy projects. It is going to take a level of political organizing and civil resistance beyond anything yet seen in my years working on the issue. I appreciate the spirit in which McCoy closes his book, which, as a member of the same generational cohort, reflects my own.

“Let me close on a personal note by apologizing, on behalf of my own baby-boom generation, for leaving today’s youth a climate crisis whose costs will be painfully evident by 2050 – when I am long dead and you are middle -aged, raising your own children and struggling to survive in an increasingly difficult environment  . . . Good luck and God bless. You will need both.”

This first appeared on The Raven.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/07/12/climate-and-the-collapse-of-world-order/

British War Crimes Leaked. SAS unit repeatedly killed Afghan detainees

SAS unit repeatedly killed Afghan detainees, BBC finds

By Hannah O'Grady and Joel Gunter

BBC Panorama

SAS squadrons conducted night raids in Afghanistan, aiming to kill or capture Taliban targets

SAS operatives in Afghanistan repeatedly killed detainees and unarmed men in suspicious circumstances, according to a BBC investigation.

Newly obtained military reports suggest that one unit may have unlawfully killed 54 people in one six-month tour.

The BBC found evidence suggesting the former head of special forces failed to pass on evidence to a murder inquiry.

The Ministry of Defence said British troops "served with courage and professionalism in Afghanistan".

The BBC understands that General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, the former head of UK Special Forces, was briefed about the alleged unlawful killings but did not pass on the evidence to the Royal Military Police, even after the RMP began a murder investigation into the SAS squadron. 

General Carleton-Smith, who went on to become head of the Army before stepping down last month, declined to comment for this story.

BBC Panorama analysed hundreds of pages of SAS operational accounts, including reports covering more than a dozen "kill or capture" raids carried out by one SAS squadron in Helmand in 2010/11.

Individuals who served with the SAS squadron on that deployment told the BBC they witnessed the SAS operatives kill unarmed people during night raids.

They also said they saw the operatives using so-called "drop weapons" - AK-47s planted at a scene to justify the killing of an unarmed person.

Several people who served with special forces said that SAS squadrons were competing with each other to get the most kills, and that the squadron scrutinised by the BBC was trying to achieve a higher body count than the one it had replaced.

Internal emails show that officers at the highest levels of special forces were aware there was concern over possible unlawful killings, but failed to report the suspicions to military police despite a legal obligation to do so.

The Ministry of Defence said it could not comment on specific allegations, but that declining to comment should not be taken as acceptance of the allegations' factual accuracy.

An MOD spokesperson said that British forces "served with courage and professionalism" in Afghanistan and were held to the "highest standards".

A pattern of suspicious killing

In 2019, the BBC and the Sunday Times investigated one SAS raid which led to a UK court case and an order to the UK defence minister to disclose documents outlining the government's handling of the case.

For this latest investigation, the BBC analysed newly obtained operational reports detailing the SAS's accounts of night raids. We found a pattern of strikingly similar reports of Afghan men being shot dead because they pulled AK-47 rifles or hand grenades from behind curtains or other furniture after having been detained.

  • On 29 November 2010, the squadron killed a man who had been detained and taken back inside a building, where he "attempted to engage the force with a grenade". 
  • On 15 January 2011, the squadron killed a man who had been detained and taken back inside a building, where he "reached behind a mattress, pulled out a hand grenade, and attempted to throw it".
  • On 7 February, the squadron killed a detainee who they said had "attempted to engage the patrol with a rifle". The same justification was given for the fatal shooting of detainees on 9 February and 13 February.
  • On 16 February, the squadron killed two detainees after one pulled a grenade "from behind the curtains" and the other "picked up an AK-47 from behind a table".
  • On 1 April, the squadron killed two detainees who had been sent back inside a building after one "raised an AK-47" and the other "tried to throw a grenade". 

The total death toll during the squadron's six-month tour was in the triple figures. No injuries to SAS operatives were reported across all the raids scrutinised by the BBC.

Special Forces 'First Impression Report' of incident, 16 Feb 2011

A senior officer who worked at UK Special Forces headquarters told the BBC there was "real concern" over the squadron's reports.

"Too many people were being killed on night raids and the explanations didn't make sense," he said. "Once somebody is detained, they shouldn't end up dead. For it to happen over and over again was causing alarm at HQ. It was clear at the time that something was wrong."

Internal emails from the time show that officers reacted with disbelief to the reports, describing them as "quite incredible" and referring to the squadron's "latest massacre". An operations officer emailed a colleague to say that "for what must be the 10th time in the last two weeks" the squadron had sent a detainee back into a building "and he reappeared with an AK".

"Then when they walked back in to a different A [building] with another B [fighting-age male] to open the curtains he grabbed a grenade from behind a curtain and threw it at the c/s [SAS assault team]. Fortunately, it didn't go off…. this is the 8th time this has happened... You couldn't MAKE IT UP!" 

As the concerns grew, one of the highest-ranking special forces officers in the country warned in a secret memo that there could be a "deliberate policy" of unlawful killing in operation. Senior leadership became so concerned that a rare formal review was commissioned of the squadron's tactics. But when a special forces officer was deployed to Afghanistan to interview personnel from the squadron, he appeared to take the SAS version of events at face value. 

The BBC understands that the officer did not visit any of the scenes of the raids or interview any witnesses outside the military. Court documents show that the final report was signed off by the commanding officer of the SAS unit responsible for the suspicious killings. 

Secret memo to Director Special Forces, 7 April 2011

None of the evidence was passed on to military police. The BBC discovered that statements containing the concerns were instead put into a restricted-access classified file for "Anecdotal information about extrajudicial killings", accessible only to a handful of senior special forces officers.

In 2012, General Carleton-Smith was appointed head of UK special forces. The BBC understands that he was briefed about the suspicious killings, but he allowed the squadron to return to Afghanistan for another six-month tour.

When the Royal Military Police launched a murder investigation in 2013 into one of the raids conducted on that tour, General Carleton-Smith did not disclose to the RMP any of the earlier concerns over unlawful killings, or the existence of the tactical review.

Colonel Oliver Lee, who was commander of the Royal Marines in Afghanistan in 2011, told the BBC that the allegations of misconduct raised by our investigation were "incredibly shocking" and merited a public inquiry. The apparent failure by special forces leadership to disclose evidence was "completely unacceptable", he said.

General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith was head of UK Special Forces when military police investigated the SAS in 2013IMAGE SOURCE, GETTY IMAGES
Image caption, 
General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith was head of UK Special Forces when military police investigated the SAS in 2013

Kill or capture

The BBC's investigation focused primarily on one six-month deployment by one SAS squadron that arrived in Afghanistan in November 2010. 

The squadron was operating largely in Helmand province, one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan, where Taliban ambushes and roadside bombs were common and Army losses were high.

The squadron's primary role was carrying out deliberate detention operations (DDOs) - also known as "kill or capture" raids - designed to detain Taliban commanders and disrupt bomb-making networks. 

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Several sources who were involved in selecting targets for special forces operations told the BBC that there were grave problems with the intelligence behind the selection process, meaning civilians could easily end up on a target list.

According to a British representative who was present during target selection in Helmand in 2011, "Intelligence guys were coming up with lists of people that they figured were Taliban. It would be put through a short process of discussion. That was then passed onto special forces who would be given a kill or capture order."

According to the source, the targeting was pressured and rushed. "It didn't necessarily translate into let's kill them all, but certainly there was a pressure to up the game, which basically meant passing out judgements on these people quickly," he said.

Sources told the BBC that the targeting process for night raids was often rushed and could mislabel innocent civilians
Image caption, 
Sources told the BBC that the targeting process for night raids was often rushed and could mislabel innocent civilians

During the raids, the SAS squadron used a recognised tactic in which they called everyone from inside a building out, searched and restrained them with cable-tie handcuffs, then took one male back inside to assist special forces operatives with a search.

But senior officers became concerned by the frequency with which the squadron's own accounts described detainees being taken back inside buildings and then grabbing for hidden weapons - an enemy tactic not reported by other British military forces operating in Afghanistan.

There were also concerns among officers that on a significant number of raids, there were more people killed than weapons reportedly recovered from the scene - suggesting the SAS was shooting unarmed people - and that SAS operatives might be falsifying evidence by dropping weapons at scenes after killing people.

After similar concerns were raised in Australia, a judge-led inquiry was commissioned and found "credible evidence" members of Australian Special Forces were responsible for the unlawful killing 39 people, and used 'drop weapons' in an attempt to justify shootings.

By April 2011, the concerns were so great in the UK that a senior special forces officer wrote to the director of special forces warning that there was evidence of "deliberate killing of individuals after they have been restrained" and "fabrication of evidence to suggest a lawful killing in self-defence".

Two days later, the UK Special Forces assistant chief of staff warned the director that the SAS could be operating a policy to "kill fighting-aged males on target even when they did not pose a threat." 

If the suspicions were true, he wrote, the SAS squadron had "strayed into indefensible ethical and legal behaviour".

Rural view in southern Afghanistan
Image caption, 
The SAS squadron operated in some of the most dangerous areas in southern Afghanistan, often raiding residential compounds in villages

The BBC visited several of the homes raided by the SAS squadron in 2010/11. At one, in a small village in Nad Ali in Helmand, there was a bricked up guesthouse where nine Afghan men including a teenager were killed in the early hours of 7 February 2011.

The SAS operatives arrived in helicopters under the cover of darkness and approached the house from a nearby field. According to their account, insurgents opened fire at them, prompting them to shoot back and kill everyone in the guesthouse. 

Only three AK-47s were recovered, according to the SAS account - one of at least six raids by the squadron on which the reported number of enemy weapons was fewer than the number of people killed.

Inside the guesthouse, what appeared to be bullet holes from the raid were clustered together on the walls low to the ground. The BBC showed photographs from the scene to ballistics experts, who said that the clusters suggested multiple rounds had been fired downward from above, and did not appear indicative of a firefight. 

Leigh Neville, an expert on weapons used by UK Special Forces, said the bullet patterns suggested that "targets were low to the ground, either prone or in a sitting or crouching position close to the wall - an unusual position if they were actively involved in a firefight".

Graphic showing how bullet holes were found clustered close to ground level - suggesting people had been kneeling or lying down when shot

The same pattern was visible at two other locations examined by the BBC. Ballistics experts who reviewed images said the bullet holes were suggestive of execution-style killings rather than firefights. 

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an RMP investigator confirmed to the BBC that they had seen photographs from the scenes and that the bullet mark patterns had raised alarm. 

"You can see why we were concerned," the investigator said. "Bullet marks on the walls so low to the ground appeared to undermine the special forces' version of events." 

In 2014, the RMP launched Operation Northmoor, a wide-ranging investigation into more than 600 alleged offences by British forces in Afghanistan, including a number of killings by the SAS squadron. But RMP investigators told the BBC that they were obstructed by British military in their efforts to gather evidence.

Operation Northmoor was wound down in 2017 and eventually closed in 2019. The Ministry of Defence has said that no evidence of criminality was found. Members of the investigations team told the BBC they dispute that conclusion.

The Ministry of Defence said British troops were held to the highest standards. "No new evidence has been presented, but the Service Police will consider any allegations should new evidence come to light," a spokesperson said.

In a further statement, the MoD said it believed Panorama had jumped to "unjustified conclusions from allegations that have already been fully investigated".

It said: "We have provided a detailed and comprehensive statement to Panorama, highlighting unequivocally how two Service Police operations carried out extensive and independent investigation into allegations about the conduct of UK forces in Afghanistan.

"Neither investigation found sufficient evidence to prosecute. Insinuating otherwise is irresponsible, incorrect and puts our brave Armed Forces personnel at risk both in the field and reputationally.

"The Ministry of Defence of course stands open to considering any new evidence, there would be no obstruction. But in the absence of this, we strongly object to this subjective reporting."


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