Australia in Afghanistan

Here is a quick summary of Richard Tanter’s 2010 very helpful guide to Australia’s role in the current war in Afghanistan.  Check out his website at the Nautilus Institute of Security and Sustainability for more detail.

Map showing Afghanistan and Uruzgan Province (image: BBC News)How many Australian troops are in Afghanistan?

About 1,550 soldiers, mostly in Oruzgan Province in the centre of the country (also spelt Urozgan and Uruzgan).  Plus there are about 60 civilians employed by the Australian government in Afghanistan.

Why are they there?

Australian forces are in Afghanistan at the invitation of the Afghan government, under a United Nations mandate from Security Council Resolution Resolution 1386 (2001) which “calls upon Member States [of the UN] to contribute personnel, equipment and other resources to the International Security Assistance Force” (ISAF).

The Australian government has described Australia’s purpose in Afghanistan as helping to:

  • establish democracy in Afghanistan
  • prevent a re-emergence of the country as a base for terrorism; and
  • prevent the country becoming a narco-state.

In April 2009, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said “we also have an enduring commitment to the United States under the ANZUS Treaty which was formally invoked at the time of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.”

Australian troops in Afghanistan (image: WA Today)

Australian troops in Afghanistan (image: WA Today)

How long has Australia been in this war?

Ten years, on and off.  Special Forces were first deployed in late 2001, and withdrawn in late 2002. They were sent in again from September 2005 to September 2006, and once again from March 2007. A Reconstruction Task Force was sent in March 2006 and a helicopter detachment from March 2006 until April 2007.

The Australian Navy has been deployed continuously in the Persian Gulf since July 2001 in relation to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Who are they fighting?

Armed opposition to the Afghan government include the Taliban, Al Qaeda and a range of warlords and militia.

With whom are Australian troops allied in Afghanistan?

Australia is part of a coalition of countries supporting the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Australian forces are deployed under two separate but coordinated coalition military operations: the NATO-auspiced International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the US-led ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’.

What about casualties?

The number of allied/coalition soldiers killed now runs to 4 figures.  The number of anti-government insurgents killed  is unknown.

Large numbers of civilians have died in the war since late 2001; the exact number is unknown.