Where Were the Aussies?


Categorie: Afghanistan |

Dutch and Afghan forces reportedly did most of the fighting in last week’s battle for Tarin Kowt in southern Afghanistan. So where were the Aussies? That’s a question I’ve been asked a dozen times by desperate Australian reporters, soldiers and members of the public.

700 Australian troops are based alongside the Dutch at Kamp Holland, but most of them appear to have played only a minor role in the fighting. One Aussie was part of the mostly Dutch patrol that was targeted by a suicide bomber in the opening salvo of the battle, according to Tom Hyland at the Australian Sunday Age newspaper. I myself accompanied Aussie forces patrolling Tarin Kowt in the aftermath of the bombing, by which point the fighting had moved to nearby Chura. Aussie special forces were involved in the Chura fighting, Hyland writes:

In fierce fighting, Dutch, Afghan and Australian forces, backed by air strikes and artillery, foiled an attempt by 500 Taliban fighters to overrun the isolated town of Chora, north of Tarin Kowt, Dutch armed forces chief General Dick Berlijn told reporters. A small Dutch force based in the town held out despite being outnumbered by the Taliban, who killed civilians, including women, who refused to join them, General Berlijn said. Coalition forces then counter-attacked, with Dutch troops and Australian special forces fighting “close and intense street combat” before the Taliban retreated.

Interesting that a Dutch official is the source here. Canberra has released very little information about Australian participation in the battle. The Hague pulled this stunt too, early in the battle, but yours truly and other reporters embedded at Kamp Holland pushed to get the news out. Both the Dutch and Aussie governments seem to want to downplay the violence in Afghanistan in order to preserve shaky public support for missions that they sold strictly as peaceful reconstruction exercises.


20 Responses to “Where Were the Aussies?”

  1. misa says:

    Dutch general Dick Berlijn was pretty vague about the ADF support. He mentioned australian support, but never said the ADF special forces were involved in the fighting at chura (or Chora as the Dutchies call it).
    No one at the press conference asked what this Aussie support contained.
    The ADF press releases on Saturday and Sunday remained vague as well.
    I’d hoped you would have found out, since you’re there. But apparently you haven’t.
    I suppose, just like the Dutchies, the Aussies are not saying anything about the combats of their special forces.

  2. Brian H says:

    Interesting. The Canadian forces are involved in heavy fighting, and it’s well-known, and there is considerable pride in their effectiveness.

    Nonetheless, public ignorance nurtured by the MSM is a major problem. At least the government isn’t soft-pedalling anything here.

  3. misa says:

    new info:
    Dutch highest militairy man just told parlement the Aussie did not fight in Chora district, he said they formed a shield between the Balluchi Valley and Mirabad.

  4. Péter says:

    Hi there, Misa,
    I have covered Uruzgan for the last three months, and based on what I know I’d be very surprised if the Aussies wouldn’t have fought. To such an extent, that I don’t really consider this possible. After all their special forces have gone to Uruzgan to do just that in the first place. So I’d like to ask you to insert here a link (if the source is in Dutch, that’s alright), to show where Berlijn said that the Aussies haven’t fought. I can, meanwhile point to this link for you, in The Australian. Berlijn (on another occasion, possibly) did say that the Aussies were fighting. So I’d be curious to know if there is an attempt – which David has suggested already anyway – to make the Australian role less visible. Or if this all is just a misunderstanding. Perhaps on the part of The Australian. I don’t know, and the point is that I want to find out. Thanks for the help in advance.
    So, the link:
    (Title of the article: ‘Diggers, Dutch clash with Taliban’)

  5. Arjan says:

    Hi Péter,
    Please find enclosed the link of the Dutch source wherein written that Australians didn’t fight in Chora.
    Also, based on this contradictional information, I’ll write an article about this subject on
    Best regards,

  6. Bob says:

    In his first press conference on friday June 22 Berlijn said that Dutch, Australian and Aghans had fought. During the weekend the Australian MOD handed out a press report that no Australian troops were involved in the combat.

    Earlier today Berlijn said that the Australian troops were not involved in combat but supported Dutch troops by closing off the Baluchi valley.

    Either Berlijn let something slip that the Australian MOD did not want to get out or it was just a misinterpretation from the press and Berlijn corrected this today (probably after speaking with Australian officials).

  7. Arjan says:

    Strange that Special Forces are used for back-up action. You would think the opposite would take place. Like the Dutch Special Forces are on shoot-to-kill operations, at least they were in Iraq since 911, I reckon the rest is doing the same.

  8. Hawk says:

    Nobody is going to be able to build up an accurate picture of what Australian SF have done in this battle. The DOD gives out practically zero information while they are operating and very little once they have left. Unless you were there with them, whatever you hear would be hearsay and conjecture.

  9. Péter says:

    Hi there everyone,
    My thanks to Arjan, Bob, and Hawk. Also to Arjan: I’ll check out the article, thanks for that as well.
    Seems to me now that the ‘Berlijn let it slip’ scenario is the most realistic perhaps.

  10. Arjan says:

    The question is when did Berlijn ‘slip’ his tongue. The first or latter? I guess he was instructed to correct his words. I cannot believe that very well trained troops are used for second rate battle action.

  11. [...] U.S. and Australian tactics call for ambushed patrols to speed to safety immediately. But in the aftermath of the June 15 blast, the Dutch patrol remained halted in the ambush zone. This despite the fact that all of the vehicles were capable of traveling. Instead of rushing their injured to the hospital at Kamp Holland, five miles away, Dutch medics attempted to treat them in the ambush zone. Smeehuyzen, the most crtically injured, died after an hour. During this period, Dutch commanders turned down offers to help from an Australian platoon, including a medic and several heavy trucks, that was just two blocks away guarding a reconstruction project and witnessed the explosion. [...]

  12. [...] Related: Welcome to Tarin Kowt Mysterious Aussie role in Afghan combat Afghanistan combat photo album No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  13. David says:

    More info on what happened to the Aussies. Apparently they pulled out of the operation fearing civilian casualties.


  14. martin says:

    Australian troops do not feel the need to big note their operations such as over bearing US forces always do.

    They are special forces, not gung ho blow em all up marine types. Australian troops have always adopted a low key approach in Iraq and Afganistan.

    Thats why we dont have large casualties, because we fight smart, not loud and obnoxious like the US military.

    Australian troops could not care less about informing journalists on their plans or movements, get used to it, it’s the way we do things.

  15. Sandy Storm says:

    Aussies are pissies. Just act tough but in reality cowards. Here’s what Wired magazine says about Australian troops:

    Five years ago President George W. Bush hailed Australia — a nation of just 20 million people — as America’s “sheriff” in the Pacific, fighting to bring stability to its own region while also contributing to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The great thing about Australians,” Bush said, “is they’re not afraid.”

    Indeed, I’ve dropped in on Australian military contingents in southern Iraq, southern Afghanistan (pictured) and East Timor. In Timor the Aussies head a small international coalition, but elsewhere they’re junior partners, generally content to play a supporting role. Now one respected Australian general, recently retired, has written a book accusing the island nation of deliberately avoiding heavy combat while still reaping the political benefits of serving alongside the U.S., Great Britain and Canada.

    [Major General Jim] Molan says Australia does not have generals who control troops on the battlefield. It has not been involved in “serious, joint, sustained combat since Vietnam”. Instead, it luxuriates in limited deployments of choice within wars of choice.

    Come to think of it, Aussie troops in Afghanistan were notably absent from the fighting when the Taliban assaulted a Dutch- and Australian-controlled town last year. “Where were the Aussies?” I asked in the aftermath of the battle. They were, it seems, pursuing a strategy of just appearing tough, without ever actually being tough.

    The problem, Molan contends, is that future wars won’t leave room for politically motivated but passive junior partners. “[I]t is Australia’s enemies that will have a major say in dictating our future military engagements, not Canberra’s strategic experts,” The Australian writes. “We delude ourselves to think Australia can just decide how and when to fight.”

  16. GIBBY says:

    I was part of Operation Perth July 2006 Chora valley. I have served my country for over 21 years and fought alongside of many other countries. I was part of Operation PERTH, July 2006 Chora Valley, Afghanistan. It strikes me as odd to hear an Australian Soldier writing about how loud and obnoxious U.S Soldiers fight and how smart the Aussies are in their tactics and techniques which prevent them from receiving causalities.
    We are loud and obnoxious and we take the fight to the enemy and eliminate any threat. The enemy had enough after 6 days of intense fighting from U.S Ground and Air Forces. I can still remember the Taliban leader announcing on his 2 way radio to what was left of his fighting force. “I was saved by the grace of Ala, every man for himself. Get out if you can, we have lost too many.”
    My own BN did not even recognize the accomplishment of that operation. We lost a great leader 17 July 2006. He will not be forgotten and as long as I and other members of my unit are alive. We know what happened that July of 2006 in the Chora Valley and we know what the Australian and Dutch forces did not do.
    If you are going to try and deface the U.S and the Soldiers, know what you are talking about. Get the facts straight, pick up your weapon and quit hiding behind the Soldiers accomplishing the mission.

  17. Clarkie says:

    Dear Martin “Australian troops do not feel the need to big note their operations such as over bearing US forces always do.

    They are special forces, not gung ho blow em all up marine types. Australian troops have always adopted a low key approach in Iraq and Afganistan.

    Thats why we dont have large casualties, because we fight smart, not loud and obnoxious like the US military.

    Australian troops could not care less about informing journalists on their plans or movements, get used to it, it’s the way we do things.

    ” ……really? I was there with GIBBY during that long battle. Why is your ignorance so apparent? US forces and US air support weren’t mentioned, however they were there fighting alongside the aussies. Show more respect for the fighters, Aussie and American, before you continue on your rant of idiocracy.

  18. Mav says:

    The Australian commando`s are highly respected in the Netherlands.
    Besides their commando`s the Aussies are not allowed to fight in Afghanistan.
    The Commando`s where mentioned in the Battle of Chora.
    But what not is mentioned the Australian commando`s had to stop because of much stronger
    rules of engagement than the Dutch are operating under.
    The Australian commando`s were instead instructed to set up a checkpoint during the battle.

    The official Dutch investigation report about the battle shows almost the same as what is mentioned here. http://www.theage.com.au/news/world/diggers-let-down-dutch-allies-in-deadly-battle-with-taliban/2008/01/19/1200620277950.html

    Australian min. of defence:
    Australian troops provided support to Dutch forces in a raid on Taliban extremists in southern Afghanistan earlier this month.
    Defence said Australian forces were not involved in combat, but provided “routine forms of military support” to a Dutch-led operation against Taliban extremists over June 16 and 17.
    “Defence is concerned about any loss of innocent lives and Australian forces operate under rules of engagement that aim to avoid and minimise civilian casualties,” the defence department said.

    What not is mentioned in international media, one of the main reasons why the Dutch pull out.
    The Dutch army for instance is much smaller than the Australian army.
    The Dutch are in Uruzgan since 2006, and is the seventh-largest military force in the NATO coalition, with around 2160 troops in Afghanistan.
    They provide also the Australians with crucial logistical, hospital, artillery, Air support; including F16`s Apache attack helicopters, transport helicopters and some more.

    They lost a lot of expensive equipment like armoured infantery vehicles, Bushmasters, 1 F16, two Chinooks, 1 Apache. Plus severely damaged Apaches and Transporthelicopters in Battle.

    The Dutch army has reached it`s limits and needs to recuperate after 4 years of intensive fighting.
    During Chora they had 6 F16`s and 6 Apaches bombing and firing their cannons. At a certain moment all their f16`s at the same time above Chora.
    Besides 5 Cougars (wintertime) / Chinooks (summertime). Plus selfpropelled artillery PH2000.

    Also they need rest. Some Apache pilots have been there for 7 or 8 times, some even more.

    Within the first 2 years (less heavy action than the two years after):
    Apache pilots (gunned or did shoot Hellfire rockets): 136 times
    F16 pilots threw bombs: 185 (20 mm guns not included)
    Ground forces used weapons: 327x

    The Dutch commited for 2 years.
    No European country wanted to take over so they did a second two years.
    (German commando`s did not one singel operation in three years!)
    It never can`t have been a surprise for Nato the Dutch would leave after these extra two years.
    Everybody in the Nethetlands knew we would leave, politically it was no more than finding
    an excuse to let the government fall by a party. It was not really a main issue just a reason.

    We hope Australians do have some respect the Dutch army needs time to recuperate.
    May be for Australia interesting. Every politician and the army in the Netherlands thought
    when body bags will come get in, protesting would become a major problem.
    It never became a problem, even know only 8% of the population see Uruzgan as a problem.

    46% of the population still backs Afghanistan, besides a percentage who don`t know.
    70-80% of the troops want to stay in Afghanistan.

    We do hear about the Australians they are fantastic soldiers to work with.
    Our commando`s see them as real brothers in arms.

    To my opinion some F18`s will be needed and some of your Tiger helicopters too.

    After Screbrenica the Dutch have lessons learned. No operation anymore without
    Dutch airsupport, otherwise no soldiers will ever go on a mission.
    During Chora this appeared very important again. Headquarters refused aircover.
    After threatening to withdraw Dutch F16`s out of command, aircover came in.

    Besides that it can be very important to have airsupport or whatever from your own.
    It might be possible the Americans are not able, at a certain moment, to backup.

  19. Mav says:

    Captain Kroon, dutch commando`s, about respecting SAS as Brothers in Arms.

  20. Brb says:

    Sag chiomento is gone now. I’m sure we could have used some Aussie help when we were pinned down but they were no where to be found

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