Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR Sept 2010 Contents 36 | Asia Pacific Defence Reporter
were a very experienced enemy; they weren’t necessarily structured as a
conventional force or anything like that. They were just really ferocious. I
think our boys would have been behind the eight-ball even as good as they
are, without the ‘primary school’ experience of East Timor.
For our first deployment to Afghanistan in 2001, I was Chief of Army and
my job was to raise and provide troops to the Chief of Defence Force for
operations. Part of my role was to advise the Chief of the Defence Force on
the use of land forces – so in the very quick lead-up to the commitment
to Afghanistan, I had to be the CDF’s right hand man on the Army’s
While the operations in Afghanistan were commanded by the CDF, I
maintained a very close overwatch, because it was my job to support them
with reinforcements and, equipment, to monitor their operations and, to
look at emerging warfare trends. Then before they came home, in later
2002, in the middle of that year I became the Chief of the Defence Force,
so I was then in detail, responsible for the execution of their operations,
responsible to the government. We brought them out in late 2002 and
at the time it looked like the Taliban had been dispersed and Al-Qaeda
were on the run; it looked like it would be a sort of holding operation, not
sedentary so much as reasonably low key.
Late in 2005 and early 2006, the pacification campaign in Afghanistan
was faltering and it was decided by Australia and a number of other
countries that they had to beef up the forces in Afghanistan. Being in on
the ground floor, so to speak in 2001,it was natural that Australia would
provide a bigger contingent the second time around.
Our force which had lapsed down to few staff officers in headquarters
went up again to incorporate a Special Forces element and later on a
civil affairs type function with engineers and the like with appropriate
protection, and now we’ve got mentoring as well. All that happened after I
left the job in mid-2005.
In Afghanistan, winkling out who is an insurgent and who is a normal
innocent head of the household is part of the difficulty. The terrain in
Afghanistan is much more open, thus you might superficially say that
concealment was more difficult in Afghanistan than in Vietnam, and
that Vietnam was tremendously complex terrain, very high degrees of
concealment. The two fighting environments are equally demanding;
totally different in character but equally demanding. For example, the
terrain in Afghanistan is enormously difficult and very mountainous and
the climate is one of extremes.
There are possibilities for concealment in Afghanistan, in the uninhabited
areas through the mountainous nature of the terrain; and indeed, one of
the things which has characterised operations in Afghanistan, is a very
close proximity between ordinary Afghans and armed insurgents, whether
they be Taliban or Al-Qaeda or any people with guns and explosives who
want to fight.
The nature of the insurgent as being actually a member of the population
of the area in which you’re operating is underscored in Afghanistan. Some
may be the head of the household who might sub-contract to a local
Taliban senior figure to come out and do some anti-coalition work; a
person who might be particularly politicised, but who also might simply
think ‘I don’t want these foreign troops in my village.’
It’s in Afghanistan that this Australian urban COIN doctrine is taking a
major step forward, and mostly stemming from the second deployment. In
the first deployment there was some of it going on, but it was in its infancy.
Now it’s evolved, and our intelligence and surveillance arrangements, our
use of discriminating fire to neutralise the enemy but not the innocent
person nearby, all of these things have taken a major boost.” APDR
July 2005 General Peter Cosgrove hands over the tri-Service flag to the
Chief of Defence Force-designate, Air Marshal Angus Houston.
General Peter Cosgrove AC, MC was the Chief of the Defence Force from July 2002 until July 2005, when he retired from active service. He
graduated from of the Royal Military College, Duntroon in 1965 and served in Vietnam. In the mid-1980s he commanded the 1st Battalion, Royal
Australian Regiment. In 1999, General Cosgrove led the UN endorsed INTERFET peacekeeping and stabilization mission to East Timor. He was
promoted in 2000 to Lieutenant General as Chief of the Army, and in 2002 to the position of Chief of the Defence Force.
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