Chapter 4 Operations
Over the Financial Year 2010-2011, Defence conducted 17 Operations.
n Pakistan Assist II
n Christchurch Assist
n Hedgerow (Darfur);
n Kruger (Iraq);
n Astute (East Timor);
n Palate II
n Yasi Assist
n Pacific Assist
n Anode (Solomon
n Riverbank (Iraq);
n Tower (East Timor);
n Queensland Flood
n Azure (Sudan);
n Mazurka (Sinai); and
n Resolute (Australian Border
Defence stated that Afghanistan remains a highly complex and dangerous
environment and, while every attempt is made to minimise risk as much as
possible, an element of risk will always exist. Defence noted that the tragic
shooting of Afghan civilians in Kandahar was not indicative of the tenor of the
relationship that Australia and coalition forces have with the people of
Defence commented that operations in Afghanistan have been constrained
over the past few months due to a particularly difficult winter. Snow and
weather has limited operations and, in some cases, aerial resupply. Similarly,
the winter has impacted on insurgent operations, resulting in a lower combat
tempo during the winter period.
Defence advised that Mentoring Task Force 4:
. . . has used the reduced combat
tempo as an opportunity to conduct training with the Afghan National Army with
a focus on core skills such as their planning capability and weapons training.
We continue to see encouraging progress with our partners in the Afghan Army 4th
Brigade. Over the past few weeks independent ANA [Afghan National Army] patrols
have uncovered a number of significant weapons caches. The Special Operations
Task Group [SOTG] has continued operations throughout the winter, but the harsh
weather has also caused some disruptions. In the past two months partnered SOTG
and Afghan security force operations have resulted in the death or detention of
a number of insurgent commanders who were believed to be responsible for
supplying materials to build IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices] as well as
marketing or trafficking illegal drugs.
Defence observed the Operation is at an important transition point from
the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) led to Afghan led security
operations. This model of operation will be shaped at a Northern Atlantic
Treaty Organisation (NATO) summit in May 2012 where the long-term strategic
plan for Afghanistan, including the size and composition of the Afghan National
Security Forces (ANSF), and the international community’s enduring assistance will
On 16 May 12, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence issued a
joint press release about their intentions for continuing support to
Afghanistan. They advised these intentions would be taken to the NATO summit in
May 2012. These include reaffirming Australia’s commitment to supporting
Afghanistan after transition, through helping to train and mentor the ANA and
police. They also advised an ongoing Special Forces presence would be
The Committee questioned whether progress is being maintained in
Afghanistan, specifically, how ANA and Afghan National Police (ANP) units are
progressing towards functioning without continued mentoring.
Defence outlined that, under the ISAF performance management framework
within the Uruzgan province, the 4th brigade of the ANA is
classified as a whole as ‘effective with advisers’. This means that:
. . . they are capable of
undertaking operations – conceiving operations, planning operations and
executing them – by themselves, but we will plug into certain parts of that
process, help lead them through the planning process, but not necessarily do it
for them. The key to that is that they are now, under the better utilisation of
the intelligence and so forth, initiating plans to go into particular areas and
determining what needs to be done in each of those areas by themselves. We then
support them and make sure that the enablers are available to support them in
Defence noted that three of the infantry battalions, or Kandaks, are
capable of varying degrees of autonomy. In fact, one of them is virtually
capable of conducting independent operations in its own space, certainly within
the Uruzgan province, and the Brigade Commander has a very clear idea about
distribution of his forces and frequency of operations.
Additionally, the Combat Support Kandak encompasses the engineer
capability and the artillery capability. The artillery capability has been
declared able to operate by itself, while the engineers are still under
mentoring and advice as they develop route clearance abilities. The combat
service support is still being developed, and there is still one Kandak, formed
later than the others, that is being progressed.
Overall, there has been progress. While the Taliban declared a number of
objectives they planned to achieve in this year, they have not achieved any of
their operational objectives.
At the operational and tactical
level there has been a good two years of hard work put in by ISAF and the
Afghan forces. You see the strategic implications of all this, though, playing
out now. The reconciliation processes, the thinking through about transition,
and what the state of the ANSF and the coalition force will be in 2014 are all
playing themselves out as a consequence of that work.
The Committee queried how the Afghan people viewed the insurgency,
noting that, during their delegation visit to the Middle East Area of
Operations (MEAO) in 2011, they had been briefed on Afghan people reporting
insurgents, reporting arms caches, and IED caches. The Committee questioned
whether this level of support was continuing.
Defence responded that, as competent ANSF forces were developed, they
were able to interact with their own people. There had been some potential
setbacks as a result of the Koran burning incident, and there is a proportion
of the population that will never be won over, however, in Uruzgan there is a
good working relationship with the majority of the population. On the whole,
Defence assessed that working relationships with the Afghan people are
The Committee asked about the retention rates of personnel in ANA
Kandaks after completion of their initial period of engagement.
Defence advised that monthly progress reports sourced from NATO
indicated the retention rate of ANA soldiers on completion of their initial
engagement period had been 73 per cent in August 2011, 33 per cent in September
2011, 75 per cent in October 2011, 64 per cent in November 2011, 62 per cent in
December 2011, and 59 per cent in January 2012. These retention percentages
include both recontracting of those eligible for separation and reenlistment of
previous soldiers returning to the ANA.
Defence further noted that the ANA is a young organisation, only four
years old, so it lacks the depth of leadership at the Senior Non-Commissioned
Officer (SNCO), Warrant Officer, and junior officer levels. This, combined with
many other factors, means that the retention rates post initial period of
engagement are still not as high as hoped. Positive steps are being taken, with
updated equipment, infrastructure, and confidence in their own abilities all
improving attitudes. However, it will take time for change to occur.
The Committee queried the effects of community engagement activities,
such as sealing the road to the Chora valley, on the relationship with the Afghan
Defence noted that there has been positive feedback on such activities
from local villagers. The sealing of the road to the Chora valley has also reduced
the risk of IEDs in this location.
The Committee queried the success of the interrogation capability
situated in Tarin Kowt.
Defence responded that this capability has been very carefully constructed
and supported throughout implementation. Interviews are recorded using Closed
Circuit Television (CCTV) and other technology, and interrogations are observed
minute by minute. Defence noted that this capability has already produced good
results by identifying personnel who are of interest but may not have been
picked up under previous arrangements.
The Committee inquired about the ongoing viability of AusAID programs
once Australia draws down its military capabilities in Afghanistan.
Defence observed that the aid program assists with three dimensions:
security, governance and development. However, in terms of continued government
effort in Afghanistan post drawdown, AusAID would work directly with the
Australian Government to develop an ongoing plan for the delivery of aid.
The Committee asked about the report into the CH-47D Chinook Helicopter that
was lost in Afghanistan.
Defence advised that the accident investigation had been conducted.
Defence subsequently informed the Committee that a Commission of Inquiry
has now been appointed, and the Aviation Accident Investigation Report will not
be released prior to the conclusion of the Committee of Inquiry.
The Committee inquired as to the current maintenance situation with
CH-47s Chinooks deployed to Afghanistan, given the operational tempo and
Defence responded that a changed maintenance approach to these helicopters
was introduced over the winter period in Afghanistan. Whereas helicopters had
previously been returned to Australia for maintenance over the January/February
period, on this occasion the helicopters were left in Afghanistan and
deep-level maintenance was conducted onsite. This not only reduced the cost of
maintaining the capability, but also enabled the Chinook workforce to be
managed more effectively. Defence noted that this deep-level maintenance is primarily
conducted by contractors.
The Committee questioned whether, as a consequence of the CH-47 Chinook
commitment in Afghanistan, the raise, train, and sustain function for these
helicopters in Australia was under stress.
Defence responded that having a small fleet of only six helicopters has
always been an issue. This number will now grow to seven, but the issues of
managing a small fleet cannot be easily alleviated. Defence noted the ongoing
challenge of maintaining two helicopters in Afghanistan, out of a fleet of six
to seven helicopters, while still keeping crews adequately prepared.
The Committee observed that, in the past 18 months, there has been a
significant change with regards to embedding of media, with the military
opening up its forces to allow journalists and cameramen in to observe
activities firsthand. The Committee questioned whether this change was
beneficial from Defence’s point of view.
Defence responded that this has been a positive change as it enables
clearer messages and informed debate about Defence activities in Afghanistan.
This program will continue for at least the next 12 months.
The Committee noted that concerns had been raised with Committee members
about the night vision goggles currently provided to the Australia Special
Forces, specifically, that they are not state-of-the-art technology.
Defence advised that different night fighting equipment is provided to
Special Forces personnel in Afghanistan compared to those undertaking domestic
operations, including domestic counter-terrorism elements. The night fighting goggles
issued in Afghanistan are smaller in size and weight, significantly reduce
‘blooming’ and flaring when exposed to bright light sources, and provide
increased resolution and depth perception.
Noting the continual improvement
in technology of this type, a proposal is being prepared for consideration by
the Defence leadership that seeks to refresh the Special Operations’ night
fighting capability. This will ensure Special Operations forces are provided
with the most suitable equipment.
Defence noted that it continues to maintain a force of about 390
personnel in East Timor, and has been consolidating its bases in that country. Consequently,
the bare base at Gleno and the forward operating base, Chauvel, were handed
back in 2012. Defence noted that it does not expect any significant change to
the level and force structure of the ADF currently in East Timor until after
The Committee queried how the security role of the ADF in East Timor
will be transitioned to the Timorese and whether this will occur in 2012.
Defence replied that the armed forces of East Timor are not currently
dependent on Australia for their capability, rather, they are capable of
conducting independent operations. Defence noted that Australia’s ADF presence will
remain at current strength and force structure until after the elections. After
that time, discussions will be held with the government of East Timor about
Australia’s continuing security and defence engagement in this country.
Defence noted it had agreed to maintain its existing commitment to RAMSI
in the Solomon Islands until at least mid 2013.
Papua New Guinea
Defence noted it is continuing to assist with the preparation for
national elections in Papua New Guinea this year.
Pakistan Assist II
Defence observed that involvement in operations such as Pakistan Assist,
and even Pacific Assist in Japan, strengthens relationships between Australia
and those countries.
The Committee noted that many commentators have linked success in
Afghanistan with the actions of authorities in Pakistan. The Committee questioned
whether, in Defence’s opinion, it would be of value for the Australian government
to seek further engagement with the Pakistan military.
Defence responded that it already has a robust relationship with the
Pakistan armed forces. Australia is the second largest provider of individual
training to the Pakistan military, offering about 140 positions a year across
all ranks and course types. Pakistan accepts about half of these opportunities
each year, with language being the main barrier to increasing that number.
There are a range of senior officer visits and a willingness for interaction at
all levels, including through sport.
The Committee noted the ongoing flood assistance provided by the ADF across
Australia and expressed its appreciation of this continued support. The Committee
asked Defence to outline the number of personnel, the capabilities provided,
and the issues that confronted the ADF when providing assistance during the
Defence advised that Queensland flood assistance commenced early in
January 2011 and, overall, about 1,976 Defence personnel assisted in some way.
As the situation developed, support requests were submitted to Emergency
Management Australia to the Government and back through to Defence. Defence
then delivered immediate aid where necessary, and responded to requests through
Government channels. There were a number of permanent and reserve Defence
personnel providing a range of support. This included helicopter support in the
form of Kiowa and Black Hawks which enabled assessment of the situation first
through the Kiowa, then action via the Black Hawk or other suitable response.
We were involved in a number of
emergency issues where the helicopter crews should be commended for the bravery
they showed winching people down into really difficult situations – housetops,
people in trees, floodwaters and so forth.
Defence detailed that, once the immediate crisis passed, a significant
force was committed to the cleanup operation. Additionally, Defence contributed
to the planning effort and, ultimately, the leadership effort in Queensland
both for the immediate aftermath and the ongoing reconstruction process. Initially,
General Slater was in charge before being relieved by General Wilson. General
Wilson has now retired from the Army but retained his position with the
Queensland Government. Defence continues to support the reconstruction
authority with a small number of key planners.
Defence further noted it was currently providing assistance to flood
affected communities in New South Wales and Victoria in the form of personnel,
transport, and equipment.
The Committee requested an update on the post-deployment reintegration
program for ADF personnel returning from deployment to Afghanistan.
Defence provided an example of a post deployment reintegration program
for Mentoring Task Force 3 personnel who began returning from deployment in
late 2011. The program schedule is as follows:
to 14 days prior to returning to Australia, returning members undertake a 3 day
program in Tarin Kowt. This program includes a group psycho-education
presentation on the ‘Realities of Reintegration’, completion of a Return to
Australian Psychology Screen, completion of Return to Australia Medical Screen
paperwork, a one-on-one screening interview with a psychologist or
psychological examiner, and various administrative checks. These administrative
checks include pay and allowance, honours and awards, security, and, where
required, equipment handover and returns.
prior to returning to Australia, personnel usually spend two days at Al Minhad
Air Base. This provides an opportunity for cleaning and hand back of equipment,
and a half day rest and recreation activity in Dubai.
the week after returning to Australia, dependant on the member’s posting or
family location, members undertake a three day reintegration program. This
program includes briefs, family activities, physical training and unit
administration. The activities are scheduled as part-days to enable individuals
to integrate back into home life at the same time. Briefs are conducted on
reintegration, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, rehabilitation process,
Department of Veterans’ Affairs processes and entitlements, Veterans and
Veterans family counselling service, finance, and Returned Services League
usually then undertake a period of leave, the length of which varies depending
on the individual.
to 180 days after returning from deployment, members undertake a structured
Post Operational Psychology Screen in their home location. Townsville based
Mentoring Task Force – 3 personnel are currently part of a trial program which
includes the opportunity for a family member to participate in the Post
Operational Psychology Screen interview.
required, a four hour Coming home Readjustment Program is conducted. This
program focuses on assisting personnel with sub-clinical difficulties with
alcohol, anger, sleep, stress, relationships or communication. Members can
either self refer to this program, or be referred by mental health providers,
medical officers, or the chain of command.
has developed a new, voluntary, group-based program for individuals with
emerging Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Individuals suitable for this program
will be identified through the Post Operational Psychology Screen. The program
consists of psycho-education and self management/therapy skills for managing
symptoms of PTSD, general psychological distress, and socialisation to
treatment for PTSD if required. This program will be conducted for the first
time in July 2012.
The Committee notes the following in respect of Defence operations
during Financial Year 2010-2011:
n The ADF continued to
conduct a large numbers of operations within Australia and across the world.
n The ADF continues to
conduct professional operations that support Australia’s interests and
reputation across the world.