|The article below seems to indicate that by sending our Army trainers out with Afghan Forces alone, we are putting them at greater risk due to lower levels of competence amongst the latter. Could the prospect that by sending our own infantry to patrol in greater numbers with the Afghan's we might reduce casualties, be just the thing for the Army getting to deploy the extra troops there that it wants to?
Digger's death exposes Afghan roleFont Size: Decrease Increase Patrick Walters, National security editor | March 18, 2009
Article from: The Australian
MILITARY chiefs have defended the support given to Australia's new army training teams in Afghanistan following the death of another soldier, killed in a firefight with the Taliban.
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Dead digger a new dad
The latest Australian soldier to die in Afghanistan became a father just days ago. 3/09 Sky News
Views today: 1089Sorry, this video is no longer available.The soldier, the ninth Australian serviceman to die in Afghanistan, was a member of the army's newly established operational mentor and liaison team, which is helping to train an Afghan National Army battalion.
He was badly wounded while on patrol with the ANA soon after 9am (3.30pm AEDT) on Monday near the village of Kakarak, 12km north of the Australian base at Tarin Kowt.
Defence chief Angus Houston said yesterday the infantryman had suffered a serious gunshot wound after his patrol became involved in an intense firefight with about 20 Taliban insurgents using small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.
Air Chief Marshal Houston said an aero-medical evacuation was called in and two Apache helicopters sent from Tarin Kowt to help fight off the insurgents.
The soldier was evacuated by helicopter to Tarin Kowt but declared dead on arrival.
The young soldier, from the Darwin-based 7RAR, was the first member of the Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force to be killed since its formation last October. His death has brought into sharp scrutiny the roles and missions being performed by Australian soldiers in Oruzgan province. A fortnight ago, an officer with the first of the OML teams in Oruzgan, Lieutenant Jake Kleinman, said he would like more infantry to support operations.
"If we were going to increase troops here, I think infantry should be the first step, followed by more engineers to support their operations," he told Sky News. Lieutenant Kleinman said while it was not his job to talk about numbers, up to an extra battalion of infantry (about 750 troops) would be "excellent" for Oruzgan.
Some Australian trainers are also understood to have expressed reservations about the fighting prowess of the Afghan army while on joint patrols.
Air Chief Marshal Houston said yesterday he was satisfied that OML teams had enough support when on patrol with Afghan soldiers.
"I'm satisfied that, in these circumstances, these soldiers had all the support they needed, given the circumstances that they came up against," he said. "If you're up against 20 people who are well-armed and are engaging you with rocket-propelled grenades, small arms, there is going to be considerable risk associated with what you're doing."
Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said the Government constantly reviewed troop numbers in Afghanistan and was guided by advice from defence chiefs.
Kevin Rudd said he was deeply saddened to learn of the soldier's death and the nation mourned.
"He was a fine and courageous soldier in the great Anzac tradition," the Prime Minister told parliament.
Army trainers working in the OML teams are embedded with Afghan army units in forward operating bases away from the main Australian base at Kamp Holland. They help ANA soldiers plan operations, accompany them on joint patrols and advise on tactics.