Australia denies troops without support in Afghanistan

The Australian military on Tuesday denied claims that its troops in Afghanistan were left to battle Taliban insurgents without adequate support from artillery or aircraft.

Sydney: The Australian military on Tuesday
denied claims that its troops in Afghanistan were left to
battle Taliban insurgents without adequate support from
artillery or aircraft.

The allegations, contained in an email from a soldier to
a friend and published in the media, suggest that Australian
Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney would not have died in the
firefight if the troops had had mortars.
The strongly-worded email, excerpts of which were printed
in Sydney`s Daily Telegraph, also said that the troops had
insufficient intelligence before they fought for their lives
against up to 100 insurgents in troubled Uruzgan province on
August 24.

The Australian military strongly rejected the claims,
describing them as "wrong and ill-informed and quite frankly
not helpful".

"It has caused some consternation with the unit and has
undermined the excellent work being done at the tactical level
by our troops," Chief of Joint Operations Lieutenant General
Mark Evans told reporters.

In the email, an unnamed soldier who fought alongside
MacKinney blames concerns about collateral damage for the
alleged lack of air support given to troops on the ground
during the engagement near Tarin Kowt.

The Australian soldiers were "at times pinned down by a
massive rate of fire" and withdrew when they ran low on
ammunition after insufficient support from artillery, mortars
or aircraft, it said.

"The army has let us down mate, and I am disgusted," the
soldier wrote.
But Evans said the plan had always been for the fighting
patrol to draw out the enemy, engage them in fire, and then
withdraw to their base.

"The fighting patrol on August 24 did everything it had
planned to do," he said, adding it was well supported by light
armored vehicles and Apache helicopters, and had artillery
support.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith said the email would be
considered as part of a defence force investigation into
MacKinney`s death.

Australia, which has about 1,550 troops in Afghanistan
mostly training Afghan soldiers in Uruzgan, has lost 21
soldiers in the war which Defence Minister Stephen Smith said
should be debated further by parliament.

PTI

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