Afghanistan/Australia — Paper presented by the Minister for Defence on casualties, procedural issues etc.

As part of the over­ar­ch­ing tran­si­tion strat­e­gy in Afghanistan, Aus­tralia is com­mit­ted to men­tor­ing and train­ing the 4th Brigade of the Afghan Nation­al Army (ANA) in Uruz­gan Province to enable them to take on respon­si­bil­i­ty for secu­ri­ty arrange­ments in the province between 2012 and 2014. 

Australia’s assess­ment of the 4th Brigade’s capac­i­ty is that it is effec­tive with assis­tance and increas­ing­ly capable. 

A fur­ther infantry Kan­dak has now arrived in Uruz­gan to bring the 4th Brigade to full strength. 

While this 6th infantry Kan­dak lacks expe­ri­ence, it is trained and equipped for ini­tial tasks, has strong lead­er­ship and is a strong grad­u­ate of the Con­sol­i­dat­ed Field­ing Cen­tre in Kabul. 

The 6th Kan­dak is cur­rent­ly men­tored by US forces. 

The next rota­tion of Aus­tralian forces – Aus­tralian Task Force 9 – will be deployed into Uruz­gan province in June, and will take on the addi­tion­al task of men­tor­ing the new­ly formed 6th Infantry Kan­dak of the 4th Brigade. 

As we hand over patrol bases and estab­lish new ones, and see ANA Kan­daks con­duct more unac­com­pa­nied activ­i­ties, Aus­tralian forces can be released for addi­tion­al train­ing and men­tor­ing tasks, includ­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty for addi­tion­al ANA forces in Uruzgan. 

As the Kan­daks become more capa­ble and self reliant, Aus­tralian forces can move into an enabling and over­watch role. 

Sup­port for our troops

Our troops and per­son­nel in Afghanistan are per­form­ing extreme­ly well in dan­ger­ous cir­cum­stances on a dai­ly basis. 

Aus­tralians are proud of the fact that our troops have a well-deserved rep­u­ta­tion for their effec­tive­ness and their conduct. 

Afghan Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ters and ISAF Com­man­der Gen­er­al Petraeus praise the work and rep­u­ta­tion of Aus­tralian deployed per­son­nel, includ­ing in their engage­ment with local Afghan communities. 

The sup­port and pro­tec­tion of Aus­tralian per­son­nel in Afghanistan is, right­ly, our high­est priority. 

A new Counter Rock­et Artillery and Mor­tar (C‑RAM) Sense and Warn sys­tem pro­vides ear­ly detec­tion of attacks from ene­my rock­ets, artillery and mor­tars and replaces the pre­vi­ous capa­bil­i­ty pro­vid­ed by the Sin­ga­pore­an Armed Forces. 

The ear­ly warn­ing pro­vid­ed by the C‑RAM sys­tem great­ly enhances the sur­viv­abil­i­ty of Aus­tralian and oth­er ISAF forces from these attacks, pro­vid­ing increased warn­ing of an immi­nent attack to enable them to take appro­pri­ate shelter. 

The pro­vi­sion of the new capa­bil­i­ty is part of the pack­age of ini­tia­tives worth $1.6 bil­lion the Gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted to fol­low­ing the Force Pro­tec­tion Review effect­ed by my pre­de­ces­sor Min­is­ter Faulkn­er and under­lines the com­mit­ment to pro­vide our troops with the best avail­able equipment. 

Of the 48 rec­om­men­da­tions made by the Review, 42 are now com­plete or on track. They include enhanced counter IED mea­sures, bet­ter armour and heav­ier cal­i­bre weapons for our Bush­mas­ters, the place­ment of medics with each pla­toon oper­at­ing in Afghanistan and the intro­duc­tion of 1000 sets of lighter com­bat armour. 

The new C‑RAM capa­bil­i­ty fol­lows the deliv­ery of the first batch of the new, lighter Tiered Body Armour Sys­tem now rolling off the pro­duc­tion line in Bendi­go. The ADF plans to have the next Men­tor­ing Task Force equipped with this armour when it deploys to Afghanistan lat­er this year. 

The new Mul­ti­cam com­bat uni­form will also be avail­able to all troops oper­at­ing out­side the wire in the first half of this year. 

Since Octo­ber there has been a sig­nif­i­cant rota­tion of per­son­nel in Uruz­gan province. 

As I have pre­vi­ous­ly announced, the 4th Bat­tal­ion of the US 70th Armored Reg­i­ment has now replaced the US Stryk­er Bat­tal­ion – which had been oper­at­ing in Uruz­gan since the new Com­bined Team-Uruz­gan arrange­ments began in August 2010. 

I have seen an asser­tion that this rota­tion of Unit­ed States troops means that there is a 300 troop on the ground dif­fer­ence. This is not cor­rect. The net US on the ground troop dif­fer­ence is less than 100 troops. 

There are two fur­ther points to be made. First, the US Stryk­er Bat­tal­ion oper­at­ed not just in Uruz­gan but also in Kan­da­har. Sec­ond, its replace­ment will focus on Uruzgan. 

Most impor­tant­ly, the Unit­ed States will con­tin­ue to pro­vide all the sup­port we require to enable Aus­tralian oper­a­tions rang­ing from fixed-wing air sup­port through to heli­copters and artillery fire. 

The Unit­ed States troop rota­tion was done in very close con­sul­ta­tion with Aus­tralian Defence Force per­son­nel, both in Can­ber­ra and on the ground in Afghanistan. 

I have also spo­ken to the Com­man­der of Com­bined Team Uruz­gan, Colonel Jim Creighton, about the troop rota­tion. I have sat­is­fied myself that the troop rota­tion will con­tin­ue to pro­vide the same coop­er­a­tion, the same enablers, and the same cov­er that Aus­tralia has at the moment in Uruzgan. 

With the arrival of the 4th Brigade’s 6th Infantry Kan­dak there are now in total 250 more Afghan and ISAF troops in Uruz­gan since the rota­tion of the Stryk­er battalion. 

Team GlobDef

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