Callous reminders of why Afghans still want to flee
Update 10.30am: Acting chief of the defence force Lieutenant General David Hurley, and the acting defence minister Greg Combet have also just confirmed the deaths, and said the soldiers’ families had requested their names not be released.
Update 10.10am: Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has confirmed two Australian soldiers were killed. More here.
Details are still emerging but Australians are believed among the casualties in the most deadly day this year for allied forces in Afghanistan.
A spokesman for the Australian Defence Force confirmed an “an incident” involving the Mentoring Task Force and that next of kin had been informed, though did not provide further details. The Courier-Mail in Brisbane, where the MTF is based, is reporting two Australian soldiers were killed in the incident. If confirmed it will bring the number of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan to 13 since 2002.
Last night the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force confirmed an improvised explosive device incident that killed two soldiers in southern Afghanistan, where Australian troops are based.
The last Australian fatality was Private Benjamin Ranaudo, who was killed by an IED last July.
Government officials won’t confirm the deaths but Defence Materiel and Science minister Greg Combet and Acting Chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant General David Hurley, will make a statement this morning expected at 10.30am AEST.
They’ll be handling it because the Defence minister, John Faulkner, is away in Pakistan for talks. He met yesterday with Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, and senior Pakistani brass to discuss closer military ties. Pakistan is a critical ally in the fight to secure Afghanistan.
Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan tends to drift in and out of the domestic political radar. These developments will renew focus on the deployment and its security, but it also carries the added complication of being intertwined with the border protection debate.
Earlier this year the government stopped processing the refugee status claims of Afghan refugees amid growing political concern about aslyum seekers arriving by boat. The government claimed at the time the suspension was because of improving conditions in Afghanistan.
Australian troop casualties in the country are a callous reminder that while progress has been made in Afghanistan its security and political system are far from stable.
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