Australia apologises to Afghanistan over racist remarks by soldiers
Australia has issued an apology to the Afghan government after it emerged that soldiers had posted racist comments on the internet calling Afghans "sand niggaz" and "dune coons".
Stephen Smith, the Australian defence minister, apologised to Abdul Rahim Wardak, his Afghan counterpart, Abdul Rahim Wardak, on behalf of the 1,550 Australian troops based in Afghanistan's restive Uruzgan province.
"I said, 'I am ringing you, minister, because I don't want this to lower our standing,'" he told ABC radio.
"He said that in his mind, in his own view it would not."
The Australian military said it had launched an investigation into the offensive Facebook remarks, which included troops joking about running over and shooting Afghans. The defence force have warned that the comments could jeopardise the country's mission in Afghanistan.
Mr Smith described the postings, in which Afghans are referred to as "ragheads", as appalling.
Other posts by soldiers on the social network described Julia Gillard, the Australian prime minister, as a "*** ranga," in reference to her red hair, and Kevin Rudd, the foreign minister, as a "tool".
Both the military and Mr Smith said the postings were unacceptable, and warned that the soldiers involved could face discharge or jail.
Amanullah Jayhoon, the Afghan Ambassador, said that he had accepted an assurance from Air Marshall Angus Houston, the head of the Australian army, that the military would take appropriate action.
"It is very distressing, shocking and appalling, but I am sure that this does not represent the whole Australian forces' professionalism," he said.
"The problem is that it will be used against Australian soldier and against the Afghan government," he said. "This sort of disrespectful behaviour will endanger the lives of others."
The embarrassing comments came one day after the head of the Australian Navy warned mariners that they must put an end of alcohol-fuelled culture of sexual misconduct that involved sailors aboard one ship running a ledger on how many women they could have sex with.