Wednesday 13 Oct 2021 | 04:04 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 13 Oct 2021 | 04:04 | SYDNEY

Afghanistan: A revealing army report


James Brown


18 October 2011 16:25

I've just finished reading Colonel Peter Connolly's account of his time in command of the ADF's Second Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force in Uruzgan between May and December 2009.

'Counterinsurgency in Uruzgan 2009' reads a lot like an edited post-operation report and its great to see an Australian Army officer writing about his combat experience for a public audience. The report is put out by the Land Warfare Studies Centre within Army, whose mandate is to 'raise the level of professional and intellectual debate within the Army'. A few points that stood out for me:

• This report was published nearly two years after Colonel Connolly returned from operations, no doubt due in part to the cumbersome information clearance processes within the ADF for public comment by serving officers. It would have been much more valuable had it been published sooner – the tactical situation has changed significantly in southern Afghanistan in the 20 months it took for this report to emerge.

The Australian National Audit Office recently concluded that the ADF has significant deficiencies in the way it learns lessons from operations. These kinds of delays are legion within the ADF and unduly restrict the flow of information that can help soldiers do their job better and stay alive.

• Connolly highlights the large number of Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles (pictured) lost to IED explosions – Connolly says he lost five in almost as many weeks. Earlier this year Defence announced that 31 of the $600,000 vehicles have been destroyed in recent years.

• There's some excellent detail about some of the methods ADF soldiers are using to adapt to local conditions, particularly the way they are renting local housing compounds for weeks at a time to enable them to unpredictably move and base themselves among the local population.

• There are some subtle niggles in the report about the impact of poor strategic guidance from government on the tactical situation. He notes that the 'late decision' of the National Security Committee of Cabinet to add additional troops to his task force led to a lack of equipment for pre-deployment training in Australia and meant that his battlegroup never had the opportunity to train together in one location before deploying to Afghanistan.

Connolly also concludes that 'it would be very useful to have a strategy from Canberra to synchronise and prioritise whole-of-government efforts in nation building effects, but no such strategy is apparent at this stage'. There seems to be increasing concern within the ADF about the lack of strategic direction from government as to what troops should be doing in Afghanistan – an issue to watch as Australia moves closer to a change in force structure and disposition.

Photo courtesy of the Defence Department.