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Department of Defence
Media Release


25/04/2009 MECC 140/09



Taliban strongholds in southern Afghanistan have been successfully targeted by Australian, coalition and Afghan National Security Forces in a recent series of operations.


Australian Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) and the Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force (MRTF) have been involved in major combat operations against Taliban insurgents during operations which began in March.


SOTG operations supported coalition force operations in Helmand province which has taken Taliban insurgents by surprise and left their operations in north Kajaki in disarray.


The Commander of Australian forces in the Middle East, Major-General Mark Kelly said Operation AABI TOORAH involved coalition forces from the United Kingdom, United States, Netherlands and Australia in support of Afghan troops in a major strike against Taliban operations in Helmand province.


“The key objective of the operation was to disrupt the insurgents in northern Helmand province in order to support Afghan National Security Force and coalition framework security operations.


“The SOTG were in the field, deep inside a Taliban stronghold for 26 days. They were involved in 11 major contacts with Taliban insurgents that resulted in significant disruptions to Taliban activities.”


MAJGEN Kelly said the SOTG force element faced the daily threat of small arms and rocket attack as well as improvised explosive devices (IED). In one day alone 14 IEDs were identified. He said on one occasion insurgents that were spotted laying a device were directly targeted using close air support.


“On the first of April, Australian troops entered an area that was considered an insurgent stronghold and came under heavy and sustained contact with the Taliban. It was a day-long series of attacks through 12 compounds. Australian forces responded aggressively against the attackers and while the Taliban were determined in their actions, they were seriously routed.”


The operation was not without its downside, with the tragic death of SGT Brett Till on the 19th March, and the wounding of four others, one seriously.


“Success is not without its risks and the Special Forces soldiers continued to prosecute their objectives. The success of this operation is evidenced by the fact that the Taliban have been denied their freedom of movement while Afghan locals, the Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces are now able to operate more freely in the region. The Taliban insurgent network has been seriously disrupted while its resources have been significantly degraded,” MAJGEN Kelly said.


The MRTF has continued in its role to support the Afghan National Army as it also puts pressure on Taliban insurgents operating in central Oruzgan province.


During a recent operation near Karakak, approximately 12 kilometres north of Tarin Kowt, the MRTF encountered a large number of Taliban insurgents while conducting security support for an Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT) patrol.


The Taliban attacked the elements of the MRTF using small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades during the intense contact. Dutch helicopters and US aircraft were called to provide close air support against almost 40 insurgents.


The Commanding Officer of the MRTF, Lieutenant Colonel Shane Gabriel said the MRTF responded immediately and took the fight to insurgents, regaining the initiative.


“This was a very significant action. It resulted in numerous insurgent casualties and it has pushed them back from an area where they enjoyed relative freedom of action,”


“It has put a very big hole in their plans,” LTCOL Gabriel said.


Operating near-by, the attack drew support from SOTG elements which blocked the withdrawing Taliban. The SOTG came into contact with approximately ten insurgents. During the extended contact a number of Taliban were killed and a large weapons and IED cache were found. These were subsequently destroyed.


LTCOL Gabriel said the Australian and Afghan forces were doing a tough job under difficult circumstances against a dangerous enemy.


LTCOL Gabriel also paid tribute to CPL Mathew Hopkins who was killed in March during an OMLT patrol. He said ANZAC Day is a time that all Australians should remember those that had served and those that have laid down their lives for their country.


Media contact: Defence Media Liaison: 02 6265 3343 or 0408 498 664


Issued by Ministerial and Executive Coordination and Communication,
Department of Defence,
Canberra, ACT
Phone: 02 6127 1999 Fax: 02 6265 6946
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