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Offline big bad john (John Hill)

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Aussie Commandos fought for lives under rain of rockets
« on: September 29, 2006, 00:14:51 »,20867,20488739-31477,00.html

Commandos fought for lives under rain of rockets
Patrick Walters, National security editor
September 28, 2006
IN a rugged mountain valley in Afghanistan, the Australian commandos were fighting for their lives under an afternoon rain of rocket-propelled grenades.
The small band of 4RAR fighters were on their way across the Chora valley, trying to help another coalition unit under attack when they were caught up in the heaviest battle fought by Australians since the Vietnam War.

The Australians were hit by a sustained barrage from RPGs, mortars and machineguns fired by Taliban guerillas who wounded six of their platoon.

Leaving their wounded on the battlefield, they pressed on, linked up with the coalition force, and saw off the enemy fighters as the sun went down.

"They continued to fight through until the enemy had been neutralised, whereupon they then assisted in co-ordinating what became the largest combat medical evacuation of Australian soldiers since Vietnam," special forces commander Major General Mike Hindmarsh revealed yesterday.

"Despite meeting extremely stiff resistance, the overall operation was a resounding success, with the ACM (anti-coalition militia) taking such heavy casualties that the remnants eventually fled the valley.

The commandos' action came at the end of 10 days of pitched battles fought by a 500-strong six-nation force in the Chora valley just 15km north of the Australian special forces base at Tarin Kowt in Oruzgan province.

Commanded by an Australian, the force took on an insurgent sanctuary that had loomed as an ever-present threat - not just to coalition forces but to the nearby township of Tarin Kowt.

The enemy, including well-trained Taliban fighters, were more dangerous than any foe the famed SAS had encountered since the Vietnam War, according to Australian commanders. The operation saw SAS troopers, 4RAR commandos and US and other coalition forces fan out to clear the valley of insurgents or "anti-coalition militia".

"Overall the Chora valley operation, planned, co-ordinated and led as it was by the Australian task group, was a model of combined arms warfare in an extremely challenging counter-insurgency setting," Major General Hindmarsh summed up.

For years until the Australians arrived, Taliban fighters and local militias had sought safe haven in Oruzgan province far from the reach of the Karzai Government or from coalition forces.

So remote are parts of Oruzgan that when an Australian SAS patrol stopped late last year in a remote valley they were asked, when they stopped to talk to a village elder, "Why has it been so long since the Russians returned here?"

The old man had not heard that the Russians had quit Afghanistan in 1989 and thought the Australians were members of a Russian occupying force.

The story helps explains why this most rugged of Afghanistan's southern provinces remains a haven for Taliban fighters and a huge security challenge, not just for NATO forces in the south but for the Karzai Government in faraway Kabul.

Oruzgan is tough country for warfare - physically demanding, with temperatures ranging from 50C in summer to freezing in winter.

Major General Hindmarsh said the harsh remote terrain was an environment tailor-made for guerilla warfare.

It has also been the scene of the most sustained period of combat action by the Australian army since the 1970s.

The 200-strong special forces task group which deployed in August 2005 spent 395 days in Afghanistan, including 306 days on operations away from their main base at Tarin Kowt.

They conducted over 100 -patrols and were involved in 139 combat incidents ranging from small skirmishes to battles involving hundreds of enemy fighters lasting hours.

With the help of US air power, they are believed to have accounted for hundreds of Taliban and militia fighters.

"They were constantly in danger wherever they went, and rarely a day went by when there was not some sort of contact with the enemy," Major General Hindmarsh revealed.

Yesterday, he outlined for the first time the scope of the fighting undertaken by the special forces task group during their 13-month sojourn in Afghanistan.

For years, Oruzgan has been a Taliban hideout, with its valleys providing ideal sanctuary for guerilla fighters.

When the Australians arrived, the mission was to disrupt the Taliban sanctuaries and freedom of movement within the province.

It was not surprising the Taliban reacted aggressively to the arrival of special forces, often for weeks at a time, in their back yard. "It was akin to poking an ant bed with a stick. It did have the desired effect of unsettling them psychologically," Major General Hindmarsh said.

The Australians were regularly able to attack Taliban leaders on long-range operations. But throughout the 13-month deployment, the Taliban tenaciously maintained an ability to muster large numbers of fighters and engage in co-ordinated attacks.

Major General Hindmarsh said the Taliban had a structured logistical chain that provided fighters with money and weapons inside and outside Afghanistan.

"Our adversary was armed with every conceivable weapon you could think of, a legacy of years of conflict," he said.

While the coalition had, interestingly, faced far fewer surface-to-air missiles than the Russians in the 1980s, rocket-propelled grenades were routinely used.

Offline Digger Hale

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Re: Aussie Commandos fought for lives under rain of rockets
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2006, 03:19:56 »
Fantastic post BBJ, thanks heaps for that. You find out that stuff before we find out back home!
"Then imitate the actions of the tiger, stiffen the sinews, conjure up the blood...
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath, and bend up every spirit to his full height..."