Australia — Mission overview about Afghanistan

Paper pre­sent­ed by the Min­is­ter for Defence, Stephen Smith, MP on Afghanistan

Tabled in con­junc­tion with a Min­is­te­r­i­al State­ment on 12 May 2011

  • Why we are there
  • Progress
  • Spe­cial Forces
  • Chi­nooks
  • Chal­lenges
  • Tran­si­tion
  • US Draw­down
  • Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Rein­te­gra­tion
  • More Bush­mas­ters for Afghanistan
  • Detainee Man­age­ment
  • Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces issue
  • Sar­poza Prison Break
  • Osama Bin Laden
  • Pak­istan
  • Casu­al­ties
  • Con­clu­sion

The Gov­ern­ment and I are com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing reg­u­lar reports and updates on Afghanistan, includ­ing to the Par­lia­ment.

I last report­ed to the Par­lia­ment on 23 March, which fol­lowed my atten­dance at the meet­ing of NATO and Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force (ISAF) Defence Min­is­ters in Brus­sels on 10 and 11 March.

My report on this occa­sion fol­lows my recent vis­it to Afghanistan with the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Mar­shal Angus Hous­ton, to com­mem­o­rate Anzac Day with our troops deployed in Uruz­gan Province.

I also vis­it­ed Kab­ul to speak to Afghan and ISAF part­ners.

Why we are there

Australia’s fun­da­men­tal goal is to pre­vent Afghanistan from again being used by ter­ror­ists to plan and train for attacks on inno­cent civil­ians, includ­ing Aus­tralians in our own region and beyond.

To achieve that goal we must help pre­pare the Afghan Gov­ern­ment to take lead respon­si­bil­i­ty for pro­vid­ing secu­ri­ty for the Afghan peo­ple. We must sta­bilise the secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion and men­tor and train the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces.

Progress

It is the first time I have returned from a vis­it to Afghanistan with some cau­tious opti­mism that we are mak­ing progress on the secu­ri­ty front.

I have pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed my view that we have been mak­ing progress, but opti­mism is a word I have rarely if ever used with respect to Afghanistan.

ISAF and Afghan secu­ri­ty forces have had a good win­ter cam­paign.

As not­ed in the lat­est Unit­ed States (US) Defense report to Con­gress on “Progress in Afghanistan”, released on 29 April, the Taliban’s momen­tum has been halt­ed and much of their tac­ti­cal infra­struc­ture and pop­u­lar sup­port removed.

Key insur­gent safe havens have been elim­i­nat­ed and many insur­gent lead­ers have been cap­tured or killed.

Last year’s surge of 40,000 US and ISAF troops has been wide­ly report­ed.

How­ev­er, less well appre­ci­at­ed is the surge of 80,000 in the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces over the same peri­od.

Indeed, Afghan secu­ri­ty force growth is ahead of its growth tar­get, with its ranks swelling to close to 300,000.

ISAF is now able to shift its focus from sim­ply grow­ing the size of the force to improv­ing the qual­i­ty and spe­cial­ist capac­i­ties of the Afghan forces, such as artillery, where Aus­tralia is lead­ing the train­ing effort.

As a result of sus­tained ISAF and Afghan offen­sive oper­a­tions, the Tal­iban has lost its clear home ground advan­tage in key ter­rain in the South – the cen­tral Hel­mand Riv­er Val­ley and Kan­da­har.

Cache finds have increased sig­nif­i­cant­ly, nar­cotics inter­dic­tions are up and there has been some suc­cess in inter­dict­ing the move­ment of Tal­iban forces and sup­plies from Pak­istan trib­al areas across the bor­der into Afghanistan.

Spe­cial Forces oper­a­tions con­tin­ue to suc­cess­ful­ly cap­ture or kill Tal­iban lead­ers and demor­alise those who remain.

Progress in Uruz­gan

Progress is also being made in Uruz­gan Province.

In Uruz­gan Province, ISAF and Afghan forces have extend­ed secu­ri­ty to areas pre­vi­ous­ly con­trolled by the Tal­iban — from the Tarin Kot bowl to the Mirabad Val­ley in the east, Deh Rawud in the west, and north through the Baluchi Valey into Cho­ra.

Dur­ing my recent vis­it to Afghanistan I vis­it­ed Aus­tralian troops at For­ward Oper­at­ing Base Mir­wais in the Cho­ra Val­ley, to the north east of Tarin Kot. A group of young Dig­gers told me that over the sev­en months of their deploy­ment, the local Afghans were now more sup­port­ive of the com­bined efforts of Afghan and ADF troops to bring secu­ri­ty to the val­ley.

Dur­ing my pre­vi­ous vis­it to Afghanistan in Sep­tem­ber 2010 I vis­it­ed Patrol Base Razaq in the Deh Rawud dis­trict.

In March, Aus­tralian sol­diers and the Afghan Nation­al Army opened a new patrol base – Patrol Base Mohammed – near the vil­lage of Hey­dar on the east­ern edge of the Mirabad Val­ley.

A suc­cess­ful six week secu­ri­ty oper­a­tion facil­i­tat­ed the con­struc­tion of the patrol base on an impor­tant insur­gent infil­tra­tion route by Afghan Nation­al Army engi­neers under Aus­tralian guid­ance.

Insur­gent activ­i­ty in the area had pre­vi­ous­ly denied the Afghan peo­ple access to impor­tant gov­ern­ment ser­vices and infra­struc­ture devel­op­ment.

The new patrol base will allow the expan­sion of secu­ri­ty and gov­er­nance into the area.

More recent­ly, Oper­a­tion TIGER’S AVALANCHE aimed to clear insur­gents from the Kamisan Val­ley region of north­ern Uruz­gan.

The Oper­a­tion was con­duct­ed over 11 days from mid-April onwards and dis­cov­ered 39 caches of weapons and ammu­ni­tion, includ­ing more than 2400 rounds of ammu­ni­tion, 33 rock­et-pro­pelled-grenade war­heads, 11 grenades, explo­sives, IED mak­ing com­po­nents, six radios and opi­um resin.