Australia — Mission overview about Afghanistan

Our mil­i­tary strat­e­gy and effort alone will not achieve our mis­sion in Afghanistan. We must con­tin­ue to sup­port the polit­i­cal strategy. 

Aus­tralia strong­ly sup­ports Afghan-led rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and rein­te­gra­tion efforts where insur­gents are encour­aged to lay down their weapons, renounce ter­ror­ism and abide by the Afghan constitution. 

We are see­ing pos­i­tive signs in Uruzgan. 

On 27 March, Gov­er­nor Shirzad host­ed del­e­gates of the Afghan Peace and Rein­te­gra­tion Shu­ra, draw­ing cit­i­zens from the dis­tricts of Tarin Kot, Cho­ra, Deh Rawud, Shahid‑e Has­sas, Khas Uruz­gan and Giz­ab, along with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Kabul. 

At the con­clu­sion of the Shu­ra, 45 for­mer insur­gents pre­sent­ed them­selves to Gov­er­nor Shirzad as rein­te­gra­tion can­di­dates. They are now work­ing with gov­ern­ment and ISAF agen­cies to rein­te­grate back into their com­mu­ni­ties and par­tic­i­pate in com­mu­ni­ty recov­ery programs. 

We have also seen some progress at the nation­al level. 

On 16 April a high lev­el del­e­ga­tion from Pak­istan, includ­ing Pak­istani Prime Min­is­ter Gilani, Chief of Army Staff Kayani and the Head of the Intel­li­gence Ser­vice Pasha , vis­it­ed Kab­ul to meet their Afghan counterparts. 

For the first time the com­bined civil­ian and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship of Pak­istan sat down with their Afghan col­leagues to dis­cuss polit­i­cal set­tle­ment in Afghanistan and the role of Afghanistan’s neigh­bours in sup­port­ing this process. 

While I do not over­state the progress that has been made, this is an impor­tant step forward. 

The solu­tion in Afghanistan can not be pure­ly a mil­i­tary one, it must involve a polit­i­cal set­tle­ment with the sup­port of Afghanistan’s neighbours. 

Sup­port for our troops

This week’s Bud­get showed that total fund­ing of $1.2 bil­lion is com­mit­ted to oper­a­tions in Afghanistan and the wider Mid­dle East for the Finan­cial Year 2011-12. 

As well, the Gov­ern­ment is con­tin­u­ing its invest­ment in the pack­age of enhanced force pro­tec­tion capa­bil­i­ties for our troops in Afghanistan. 

Over the peri­od 2009-10 to 2012–13, $1.6 bil­lion will be invest­ed for these enhanced mea­sures for force protection. 

This includes $480 mil­lion of expen­di­ture in 2011-12. 

Our forces in Afghanistan are per­form­ing extreme­ly well in dan­ger­ous cir­cum­stances on a dai­ly basis and their sup­port and pro­tec­tion is, right­ly, our high­est priority. 

Dur­ing my recent vis­it, ADF Com­man­ders in Uruz­gan report­ed that the Counter Rock­et Artillery and Mor­tar (C‑RAM) Sense and Warn sys­tem is work­ing well. The C‑RAM pro­vides vital warn­ing of impend­ing rock­et attacks and mor­tar attacks, pro­vid­ing pre­cious sec­onds for our peo­ple to take cov­er, rather than being exposed in the open. 

This fol­lows on from 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, 41 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. 

More Bush­mas­ters for Afghanistan

As well, the Gov­ern­ment has approved the pur­chase of 101 Bush­mas­ter pro­tect­ed mobil­i­ty vehi­cles to sup­port oper­a­tions in Afghanistan. 

The Bush­mas­ter has proven to be a most effec­tive com­bat vehi­cle, pro­vid­ing Aus­tralian troops with pro­tec­tion against Impro­vised Explo­sive Devices. 

It has unques­tion­ably saved lives in Afghanistan. 

The pur­chase pro­vides for oper­a­tional attri­tion. 31 Bush­mas­ters have been dam­aged beyond repair in recent years and their replace­ment, togeth­er with a fur­ther 70 vehi­cles, will sup­port cur­rent and future oper­a­tions in Afghanistan. 

Dur­ing my recent vis­it to Uruz­gan, I was also reas­sured by the resources avail­able to assist our forces wound­ed in combat. 

The Unit­ed States’ aero-med­ical evac­u­a­tion sys­tem is great­ly admired by our sol­diers. The prompt response of the US air­crews and their will­ing­ness to take enor­mous per­son­al risk in recov­er­ing our wound­ed is great­ly val­ued by Australia. 

Rule of Law and the pro­tec­tion of civil­ians

The rule of law is an essen­tial basis for inter­na­tion­al rela­tions and for nation­al secu­ri­ty policy. 

The Aus­tralian Defence Force (ADF) has built a rep­u­ta­tion over the years for pro­fes­sion­al­ism and com­pli­ance with the rule of law and rules of engagement. 

We have prid­ed our­selves on our high stan­dards and we have a well regard­ed inter­na­tion­al rep­u­ta­tion for doing so. 

When, for exam­ple, there are inci­dents involv­ing civil­ians, they are always investigated. 

On 29 March, Defence advised pub­licly that a young boy had been injured dur­ing a con­tact between insur­gents and a part­nered Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Task Group (SOTG) and Afghan Nation­al Police Provin­cial Response Com­pa­ny-Uruz­gan patrol. 

Mem­bers of the Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Task Group and Provin­cial Response Com­pa­ny-Uruz­gan were engaged with small arms fire by a group of approx­i­mate­ly four insur­gents who fired from a creek-line in the Deh Raf­shan area on Sun­day, 27 March 2011. 

Dur­ing the con­tact, one insur­gent was killed in action. On fol­low-up, the part­nered patrol found a local boy suf­fer­ing from gun-shot injuries to the upper body. 

The child was assessed as being in a crit­i­cal con­di­tion and received imme­di­ate first aid before being aero med­ical­ly evac­u­at­ed to a med­ical facil­i­ty at Tarin Kot. The child was then trans­ferred to a mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal in Kan­da­har for ongo­ing treatment. 

The ADF moved the child’s father to be with him while he received treat­ment at ISAF med­ical facil­i­ties. The ADF also moved oth­er mem­bers of the child’s fam­i­ly to be with him while he received treatment. 

On 7 April, Defence fur­ther advised pub­licly that the Afghan boy had passed away as a result of com­pli­ca­tions aris­ing from injuries sus­tained dur­ing the engagement. 

Imme­di­ate med­ical assis­tance was pro­vid­ed to the child before he was aero med­ical­ly evac­u­at­ed to a med­ical facil­i­ty in Tarin Kot and then to Kandahar. 

Sad­ly the child’s con­di­tion con­tin­ued to dete­ri­o­rate and fol­low­ing con­sul­ta­tion with med­ical staff, the child’s fam­i­ly made the deci­sion to cease life sup­port. The child’s fam­i­ly remained with him when he passed away on Sat­ur­day 2 April. The boy was 23 months old. 

Aus­tralia deeply regrets any loss of inno­cent life or injuries to civilians. 

The ADF con­tin­u­ous­ly acts to reduce the risk of such inci­dents hap­pen­ing. At this stage, it is not known who caused the child’s injuries. A Defence Inquiry has begun into the incident. 

I am aware of sub­se­quent reports that the Afghan Inde­pen­dent Human Rights Com­mis­sion has found that the adult male killed in the con­tact was a civilian. 

Aus­tralia does not know at this stage whether the death of the child was caused by ADF action or by insur­gent action. 

As soon as the ADF became aware that the death of a child had occurred, a for­mal inves­ti­ga­tion was insti­tut­ed, which always occurs. 

The results of that inquiry will be made pub­lic when the inves­ti­ga­tion is completed. 

Team GlobDef

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