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Five Australian soldiers have been killed in two separate incidents in Afghanistan in the past 24 hours, marking one of Australia's darkest days since the Vietnam War.
In a press conference in Canberra this afternoon, acting Chief of the Defence Force Air Marshal Mark Binskin said two Australian soldiers had been killed in a US Black Hawk crash in Afghanistan this morning (Australian time).
Earlier today, the government confirmed three Australian soldiers were killed and two injured in an attack in Afghanistan by someone wearing an Afghan army uniform.
There's been what appears to be another "insider attack" in Afghanistan and three Australian troops have been killed.
Three Australian soldiers killed in Afghan 'insider attack' (Credit: ABC) It happened in Uruzgan province, where about 1, 500 Australian troops are deployed as part of the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF.
ISAF says a person wearing an Afghan National Army uniform turned his gun on the three Australians and an investigation into the incident is under way.
NATO is struggling to counter the growing number of so-called "green-on-blue" attacks, with more than 40 foreign troops killed by Afghan soldiers this year.
Presenter: Richard Ewart
Speaker: Raspal Khosa, defence analyst and Afghan specialist
KHOSA: Can I start by saying what a huge tragedy this is for the ADF. This brings the number up to 36 killed in Afghanistan. Look this trend is very disturbing given that we're in the midst of transition, handing over to the Afghan National Security Forces, the security lead for their country. Whether or not it's rogue, no one's got a handle on that. I was in Afghanistan myself two months ago and spoke to the NATO subsidiary command responsible for building the Afghan National Security Forces. In different parts of the country they face different circumstances, in Regional Command East for example there's intimidation of Afghan security forces by the Taliban who threaten them and their families if they don't carry out some sort of attack. So it's a difficult trend to get an understanding of. General Dempsey, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was recently in Afghanistan to discuss these very types of incidents with Afghan officials and also senior NATO commanders.
EWART: Now as I mentioned there is this move to ensure that NATO troops have been ordered to keep a loaded magazine in their weapons at all times so they can fire back quickly. But plainly if they're caught by surprise that might not be as easy as it sounds. And another measure I gather has been tried is intelligence officers have been planted in the Afghan battalions to look out for someone who may be showing signs of acting in a way that could lead to an attack like this. But plainly both those measures are not foolproof as we can see in this latest incident?
KHOSA: No they're not, I mean NATO has introduced strengthened security measures and you mentioned the Guardian Angels, that's a soldier sort of standing by with his weapon at the ready. The other measure is introducing up to 850 counter infiltration staff that are to be bedded within ANSF units and training centres to monitor the behaviour of Afghan service members. But when someone does indeed turn rogue for whatever reason, the outcomes can be truly tragic.
EWART: What about the relationship between the Afghan troops and the ISAF forces? There's been suggestions in a leaked US report that essentially there is distrust bordering on hatred?
KHOSA: Look I can't make a comment on that but certainly there is friction and it's related in many ways to cultural differences between western security forces and their Afghan charges in the field. And of course the only way to deal with that is thorough force preparation, including cultural awareness training. But there can be a great number of issues that can lead to friction and once again it can have devastating outcomes.
EWART: So presumably with the number of deaths that have been reported in this month alone, 15, the concern will obviously be increasing, but what more really can there be done to try and stamp these incidents out? Unless there is a pattern, unless they are in some way organised, surely it's almost impossible to spot when this is going to happen?
KHOSA: That's absolutely correct. It's been described in the past as a nightmare that won't go away. If the strategy that NATO ISAF is pursing is this transition building the capacity of Afghan security forces, not just building an enormous military and police force, but actually raising their combat capabilities, and to do that you use...the earlier approaches were operational entering and liaison teams. Now they've gone to a new approach, which are called SFATs, Security Force Advice Assist Teams, which is perhaps even more disturbing given that the sort of risk that western forces are exposed to. They're much smaller teams, it's the measure by which ISAF is using to best implement its diminishing combat capability and allow the bulk of that NATO ISAF force to actually redeploy out of Afghanistan.
EWART: So whilst attacks of this nature continue, what impact does it have in terms of the timing of the withdrawal strategy? Does it speed it up, does it slow it down and where does it leave the Afghan forces?
KHOSA: Well yes it has a very negative effect in the external centre of gravity in this conflict, which is public opinion in the west. The Secretary for Defence in the United States, Leon Panetta, stated he was certainly very concerned about these insider attacks because of the lives lost, but also because of the damage it's doing to the partnership effort. So certainly it does have an effect because it stops mentoring activity from going ahead as it should and forces NATO to actually re-examine its various processes to actually protect its own personnel.
Supported by Wikipedia
Operation Slipper is notable for the first Australian combat deaths since the Vietnam War, and to date all casualties have occurred during operations in Afghanistan. 38 Australian soldiers have been killed and 240 wounded (including two sailors), the majority since October 2007. Another Australian was killed while serving with the British Army.
- Andrew Russell, 33, a sergeant in the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR). On 16 February 2002, Russell was travelling through southern Afghanistan with four other Australian soldiers when their Long Range Patrol Vehicle struck a land mine, severely injuring him. He was taken to a US military hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds
- David Pearce, 41, a trooper from the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment, serving with MTF-3, was killed while serving in Orūzgān Province
- Matthew Locke MG, 33, a sergeant in the Special Air Service Regiment. On 25 October 2007, Locke, who was serving a second tour of duty in Afghanistan, was engaged in a firefight with members of the Taliban militia, when he was injured in the chest by small arms fire. Other soldiers in his unit provided first-aid care prior to and during evacuation to a medical facility, where he died a short time later. Gurkha Lance Corporal Agnish Thapa, serving in the 1st Royal Gurkha Rifles, British Army was awarded the Military Cross for running 100 metres (110 yd) through enemy machine gun and RPG fire and extracted Locke by physically dragging him back to cover. Locke was killed while serving in Orūzgān Province. During his first tour of duty, Locke had been awarded the Medal for Gallantry
- Luke Worsley, 26, a private in the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando), serving with Special Operations Task Group. He was shot and killed by small arms fire on 23 November 2007 during an attempt to take a heavily defended Taliban position
- Jason Marks, 27, a lance corporal in the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando). He was killed after an intense firefight with Taliban insurgents, when a RPG landed near the patrol vehicle he was taking cover behind whilst reloading his weapon. The attack occurred 25 kilometres (16 mi) south of the Australian base at Tarin Kowt in Orūzgān Province. Four other Australian soldiers were wounded in the attack. All five were flown to a nearby US military hospital, where the wounded were expected to fully recover
- Sean McCarthy, 25, a signalman in the Special Air Service Regiment. He, two other SASR soldiers and a soldier from another country were wounded when the vehicle they were travelling in was attacked by a roadside bomb on 8 July 2008 during a patol in Orūzgān Province. McCarthy died from his wounds after being evacuated to the SOTG's base at Tarin Kowt. He was on his 2nd tour of duty in Afghanistan. The two other Australians wounded in the attack returned to duty on 11 July
- Michael Fussell, 25, a lieutenant in the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando). As he and his team were conducting a dismounted patrol on 27 November 2008 they were struck by an improvised explosive device(IED), killing Fussell. Two other soldiers received minor wounds, but returned to duty a few days later
- Gregory Michael Sher, 30, a private in the 1st Commando Regiment, Australian Special Operations Command
- Mathew Hopkins, 21, a corporal in the 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. He was attacked and fatally injured on 16 March 2009 while on patrol as part of a mentoring and reconstruction taskforce patrol operating with members of the Afghan National Army, near a village 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) north of Tarin Kowt
- Brett Till, 31, a sergeant and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technician from the Incident Response Regiment. He was killed on 19 March 2009 while trying to defuse an IED
- Benjamin Ranaudo, 22, a private in the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, serving with MRTF 2. He was killed on 18 July 2009 by an anti-personnel explosive device during an operation against a compound of interest in the Baluchi Valley
- Jacob Moerland, 21, a sapper in the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment, serving with MTF 1. He was killed on 7 June 2010 by an improvised explosive device while participating in an Australian patrol conducting operations in the Miribad Valley region of Oruzgan province
- Darren Smith, 25, a sapper in the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment, serving with MTF 1. He was injured on 7 June 2010 by an improvised explosive device in the same incident as Moerland while participating in an Australian patrol conducting operations in the Miribad Valley region of Oruzgan province. He subsequently died of wounds after being evacuated to an International Security Assistance Force hospital. Also killed was his explosives detection dog Herbie
- Scott Palmer, 27, a private in the 2nd Commando Regiment, serving with SOTG. He was killed in the crash of a US UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter on 21 June 2010, during operations in the Shah Wali Kot
- Timothy Aplin, 38, a private in the 2nd Commando Regiment, serving with SOTG. He was killed in the crash of a US UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter on 21 June 2010, during operations in the Shah Wali Kot
- Benjamin Chuck, 27, a private in the 2nd Commando Regiment, serving with SOTG. He subsequently died of his injuries following the crash of a US UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter on 21 June 2010, during operations in the Shah Wali Kot
- Nathan Bewes, 23, a private in the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6 RAR), serving with MTF 1. Private Bewes was killed and another wounded following an improvised explosive device on 9 July 2010 in the Chora Valley region
- Jason Brown, 29, a trooper in the Special Air Service Regiment. Brown was shot and killed on 13 August 2010 during a "disruption operation" in northern Kandahar
- Grant Kirby, 35, a private in the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, serving with MTF 1. Private Kirby was killed by an Improvised Explosive Device after dismounting from a Bushmaster PMV in an overwatch position during an operation in the Baluchi Valley on 20 August 2010
- Thomas Dale, 21, a private in the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, serving with MTF 1. Private Dale was killed by an Improvised Explosive Device after dismounting from a Bushmaster PMV in an overwatch position during an operation in the Baluchi Valley on 20 August 2010
- Jared MacKinney , 28, a lance corporal in the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, serving with MTF 1. Lance Corporal MacKinney was shot and killed in Deh Rahwod, in the western part of Orūzgān Province, during the Battle of Derapet on 24 August 2010
- Richard Atkinson, 22, a corporal in the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment, serving with MTF 2. Corporal Atkinson was killed by an improvised bomb in the Tangi Valley, southern Uruzgan province on 2 February 2011
- Jamie Larcombe, 21, a sapper in the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment, serving with MTF 2. Sapper Larcombe and an Afghan man employed as an interpreter were shot in the Mirabad Region on 19 February 2011
- Brett Wood MG, DSM, 32, a sergeant in the 2nd Commando Regiment, serving with the SOTG. Wood was killed by an improvised explosive device on 23 May 2011, during his third tour of duty in Afghanistan
- Andrew Jones, 25, a lance corporal in the 9th Force Support Battalion, was shot by a member of the Afghan National Army on his way to guard duty at a patrol base in the Chora Valley on 30 May 2011
- Marcus Sean Case, 27, a lieutenant in the 6th Aviation Regiment. Case was killed when an Australian Chinook helicopter crashed east of Tarin Kowt during a re-supply mission in Zabul Province. This was Case's first deployment to Afghanistan
- Rowan Robinson, 23, a sapper in the Sydney-based Incident Response Regiment serving with SOTG. Robinson was killed in action on 6 June 2011 during his second deployment to Afghanistan
- Todd Langley, 35, a sergeant in the Sydney-based 2nd Commando Regiment, serving with SOTG. Langley was shot and killed on 4 July 2011 during his fifth deployment to Afghanistan
- Matthew Lambert, 26, a private in the Townsville-based 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR), serving with MTF 3. Lambert was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) in the Khaz Oruzgan region on the 22 August 2011. It was his first deployment to Afghanistan
- Bryce Duffy, 26, a captain in the 4th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, serving with MTF 3 was shot and killed by a member of the Afghan National Army on 29 October 2011.
- Ashley Birt, 22, a corporal serving as a Geospatial Technician in the 6th Engineer Support Regiment. Birt was shot and killed by a member of the Afghan National Army on 29 October 2011.
- Luke Gavin, 27, a lance corporal in the 2 RAR serving with MTF 3 was shot and killed by a member of the Afghan National Army on 29 October 2011.
- Blaine Diddams, 40, a sergeant in the Special Air Service Regiment serving with the SOTG was shot and killed during an engagement with insurgents on 2 July 2012.
- Nathanael John Aubrey Galagher, 23, a private serving with the Special Operations Task Group was killed in a helicopter crash on 30 August 2012.
- Mervyn John McDonald, 30, a lance corporal serving with the Special Operations Task Group was killed in a helicopter crash on 30 August 2012.
- Stjepan Milosevic, 40, a lance corporal from 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment serving with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment TG (3 RAR TG) was shot and killed by a member of the Afghan National Army on 30 August 2012.
- Robert Hugh Frederick Poate, 23, a private from 6 RAR serving with the 3 RAR TG was shot and killed by a member of the Afghan National Army on 30 August 2012.
- James Thomas Martin, 21, a sapper from the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment (2 CER) serving with the 3 RAR TG was shot and killed by a member of the Afghan National Army on 30 August 2012.