Australia — Mission overview about Afghanistan

I have often said that Aus­tralia is the tenth largest troop con­trib­u­tor in Afghanistan with around 1550 per­son­nel in Afghanistan. 

The pri­ma­ry focus of our mis­sion in Uruz­gan Province is to train the 4th Brigade of the Afghan Nation­al Army (ANA) to the lev­el where it is able to take the lead for secu­ri­ty in the Province. 

The vast bulk of Aus­tralian Defence Force per­son­nel in Afghanistan are deployed in Uruzgan. 

Oth­er per­son­nel are based in Kab­ul, at Australia’s own nation­al Head­quar­ters and also embed­ded in ISAF Head­quar­ters. Fur­ther ADF per­son­nel are based in Kan­da­har sup­port­ing heli­copter, recon­nais­sance and ISAF Head­quar­ters operations. 

Aus­tralia is also the third largest con­trib­u­tor of Spe­cial Forces in Afghanistan with per­son­nel deployed to the Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Task Group based in Tarin Kot. 

The mis­sion of our Spe­cial Forces is to tar­get and dis­rupt insur­gent net­works in and around Uruz­gan Province. As my pre­de­ces­sor Min­is­ter Faulkn­er has pre­vi­ous­ly indi­cat­ed pub­licly, from time to time our Spe­cial Forces are autho­rised to oper­ate in adjoin­ing provinces, such as Daykun­di, Ghazni and Zab­ul, on oper­a­tions that have secu­ri­ty ben­e­fits in Uruz­gan Province. 

Our Spe­cial Forces also con­tribute to broad­er ISAF oper­a­tions which have impli­ca­tions for Uruzgan. 

Oper­a­tion OMID 1390, ISAF’s main coun­try-wide effort into 2012, will see our Spe­cial Forces con­tin­ue to main­tain pres­sure on insur­gent lead­er­ship in Uruz­gan, and the near­by areas of north­ern Kan­da­har and north­ern Hel­mand, which direct­ly affect Uruzgan. 

The oper­a­tions of our Spe­cial Forces and their Afghan part­ners are cur­rent­ly focused on tar­get­ing insur­gent net­works known to be oper­at­ing in Uruz­gan Province and along key access routes into the Province and region, to dis­rupt insur­gent fight­ing prepa­ra­tions in Uruzgan. 

These oper­a­tions con­tin­ue to help pro­vide improved secu­ri­ty to Uruz­gan Province through the removal of insur­gent lead­ers in the months lead­ing up to the north­ern sum­mer ‘fight­ing season’. 

Dur­ing oper­a­tions con­duct­ed in March and April, Spe­cial Forces sol­diers and their Afghan part­ners effec­tive­ly dis­man­tled a provin­cial lev­el insur­gent cell oper­at­ing in west­ern Uruz­gan and sig­nif­i­cant­ly cur­tailed the com­mand and con­trol of two dis­trict-lev­el cells oper­at­ing else­where in the Province. 

Part­nered oper­a­tions over this peri­od killed or cap­tured over a dozen insur­gent lead­ers, tak­ing them off the battlefield. 

The improved secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion result­ing from these oper­a­tions has per­mit­ted the Afghan police to estab­lish a stronger pres­ence in remote areas of Uruz­gan province, and for the Men­tor­ing Task Force to per­form their task of train­ing the Afghan Nation­al Army 4th Brigade under a reduced threat from insur­gent interference. 

This secu­ri­ty improve­ment has allowed the civil­ian-led Provin­cial Recon­struc­tion Team to increase its efforts to build the Afghan Government’s capac­i­ty to deliv­er basic ser­vices and pro­vide eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ties to its people. 

It has also allowed the Provin­cial Recon­struc­tion Team to extend their reach into areas of Uruz­gan not con­tem­plat­able last year. 

Artillery Detach­ment and Train­ing

The ADF is also con­tribut­ing to broad­er ISAF efforts across Afghanistan. 

In April, the Army con­clud­ed its unique attach­ment of artillery­men to British oper­a­tions in Hel­mand Province. 

Fif­teen gun­ners from the Bris­bane-based unit, the 1st Field Reg­i­ment have com­plet­ed their attach­ment to the British 7th Para­chute, Roy­al Horse Artillery (7 Para RHA) and oper­at­ed from a patrol base at Lashkar Gah Durai, in north­ern Hel­mand Province. 

While the secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion in Hel­mand Province has become more sta­ble, dur­ing an ear­ly stage in their deploy­ment, at a For­ward Oper­at­ing Base in Hel­mand Province, the Aus­tralian and British posi­tion was attacked by insur­gents with rock­et pro­pelled grenade launch­ers and small arms. The men were forced to defend their posi­tion by using the 105 mm light gun in a direct fire role, a rarely used tech­nique for artillery. 

The first Roy­al Aus­tralian Artillery con­tin­gent deployed to south­ern Afghanistan in March 2008, hav­ing con­duct­ed train­ing in the Unit­ed King­dom for six months pri­or to join­ing Oper­a­tion HERRICK. The first con­tin­gent, from the Dar­win-based 8/12 Medi­um Reg­i­ment, was the first of Artillery­men to deploy in that role since the Viet­nam War. Three Aus­tralian Artillery Reg­i­ments have now each pro­vid­ed two deploy­ments to south­ern Afghanistan. 

The British 105mm L118 light guns pro­vide indi­rect fire sup­port to troops on the ground many kilo­me­tres away. Troops can call for offen­sive sup­port to pro­vide addi­tion­al fire pow­er when in con­tact with the ene­my and often request illu­mi­na­tion rounds to be fired to pro­vide vision at night and to deter the enemy. 

The ANA Artillery Train­ing School in Kab­ul has reached an impor­tant mile­stone with its first grad­u­ates join­ing Afghan and ISAF com­bat ele­ments in Kan­da­har Province. 

The school, men­tored by the Aus­tralian led Artillery Train­ing School-Kab­ul, pre­pares Afghan sol­diers to become skilled artillery­men and is an impor­tant step towards Afghan secu­ri­ty forces tak­ing full respon­si­bil­i­ty for secu­ri­ty in the com­ing years. 

Aus­tralia cur­rent­ly has 20 artillery train­ers men­tor­ing Afghan instruc­tors at the school, which offi­cial­ly opened in Octo­ber 2010. 

While train­ing includes live fir­ing of the ANA’s D‑30 How­itzer guns and rig­or­ous gun drills, an impor­tant aspect of the school cur­ricu­lum is to teach basic lit­er­a­cy and numer­a­cy skills. These skills are key to pro­fes­sion­al­is­ing the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces, and are high­ly val­ued by the students. 

The ANA Artillery Train­ing School was the first mil­i­tary school in Afghanistan to devel­op and run a lit­er­a­cy pro­gram for its stu­dents. At any one time, the school typ­i­cal­ly has 440 stu­dents attend­ing one of nine dif­fer­ent courses. 

The goal for the school is to pro­vide artillery train­ing to approx­i­mate­ly 2100 offi­cers and sol­diers over the next twelve months, which trans­lates to approx­i­mate­ly 23 artillery bat­ter­ies for the ANA


The CH47D “Chi­nook” heli­copter Task Group from 5 Avi­a­tion Reg­i­ment returned to Aus­tralia in Octo­ber 2010 for the Afghan win­ter months to under­take manda­to­ry main­te­nance and a well earned break after com­plet­ing over 737 fly­ing hours and hav­ing moved in excess of 691,000 kilo­grams of supplies. 

The CH-47D, “Chi­nook” heli­copter is an air­craft with a lift capa­bil­i­ty of 12,000 kilo­grams, allow­ing it to counter air­craft per­for­mance issues some­times encoun­tered in moun­tain­ous ter­rain and land­ing zones at high elevations. 

Since their first deploy­ment in 2006, the Aus­tralian Chi­nooks have been high­ly val­ued on the bat­tle­field and are well suit­ed to oper­a­tions in Afghanistan’s tra­di­tion­al­ly harsh environment. 

The Aus­tralian Defence Force’s Chi­nook heavy lift heli­copters have returned to Afghanistan to sup­port Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force (ISAF) oper­a­tions for 2011. The Rotary Wing Group com­menced full oper­a­tional duties in April. 

Now back in Kan­da­har, Aus­tralian Chi­nooks are embed­ded with the Unit­ed States Army’s 159th Com­bat Avi­a­tion Brigade and have con­duct­ed tri­al mis­sions and main­te­nance to ensure the heli­copters and crew are well pre­pared for the Afghan sum­mer ahead. 

New US, NATO and ISAF Lead­er­ship

Key US, NATO and ISAF lead­ers will change in the peri­od ahead. 

Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al John Allen has been nom­i­nat­ed to assume Com­mand of ISAF from Gen­er­al David Petraeus. 

Ambas­sador Ryan Crock­er has been nom­i­nat­ed to take over as US Ambas­sador to Afghanistan from Ambas­sador John Eikenberry. 

Ambas­sador Simon Gass has become the NATO Senior Civil­ian Representative. 

His pre­de­ces­sor, Ambas­sador Mark Sed­will has become the Unit­ed Kingdom’s Spe­cial Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Afghanistan and Pak­istan and Ambas­sador Marc Gross­man has tak­en over the same role for the Unit­ed States. 

Each and every one of these fine pub­lic ser­vants from the Unit­ed States and Unit­ed King­dom are good friends of Aus­tralia and Aus­tralia has every con­fi­dence in their abil­i­ty to lead the inter­na­tion­al effort in Afghanistan. 

Team GlobDef

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