Tenth Soldier Slain!

Another Digger as died attempting to diffuse and IED.

Once again my thoughts go out to his family and friends.

I don’t want to make this thread into a political punching bag.   I do think we should have a thread about the politics of war and Iraq and Afghanistan in particular – I’ll set one up next week.

For now, I’d like to reflect on the ten highly trained elite soldiers who have lost their lives doing their jobs and particularly watching out for their mates…contrary to popular belief (eg serving their country)…  that’s what Diggers do…


March 19 Defence confirms the nation has lost its 10th soldier in Afghanistan. The man was killed while trying to defuse a roadside bomb.

March 16 Corporal Mathew Hopkins, 21, a member of the mentoring and reconstruction taskforce, killed in firefight with Taliban near village, 12 kilometres north of Tarin Kowt.

January 4 South African-born Private Gregory Michael Sher, 30, from the Sydney-based 1st Commando Regiment, killed as a result of indirect rocket attack in Oruzgan Province.

November 27 Lieutenant Michael Fussell, 25, from Sydney-based 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, killed during an operation against Taliban insurgents in Oruzgan Province after an improvised explosive device (IED) was detonated.

July 8 Signaller Sean McCarthy, 25, from Perth-based Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) killed after wounded by improvised explosive device. Two other Australian soldiers and one soldier from another country wounded. Signaller McCarthy was born in New Zealand.

April 27 Lance Corporal Jason Marks, 27, from 4RAR commando unit in Sydney killed in battle with Taliban fighters in Oruzgan Province. Four other commandos wounded.

November 23 Private Luke Worsley, 26, from 4RAR commando unit in Sydney killed in battle with Taliban fighters in Oruzgan Province.

October 25 Sergeant Matthew Locke, SAS, killed by Taliban fighters in Oruzgan Province.

October 8 Trooper David Pearce, 41, killed and another soldier seriously injured in roadside bomb attack in Oruzgan Province.

February 16 Sergeant Andrew Russell, 33, was killed when the vehicle in which he was travelling struck a landmine in southern Afghanistan.

The Ode

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Lest We Forget

39 Responses

  1. I’ll be busy most of the day, so won’t be posting much, please respect the feelings of the families and friends.

  2. Lest we forget.

  3. tb a post like this is intrinsically highly political. Writing it and then demanding that nobody respond politically is transparently self-serving.

  4. Lest we forget why he is there in the first place.

  5. TB, just caught it on Sky..that this soldier died trying to protect his mates from an unstable roadside bomb. Lest We Forget.

  6. Condolences to the families and friends of all the soldiers killed in action.

    I well remember the shabby treatment handed out to Sgt Russell’s widow by the Rodent government. When he and his slimy cohorts brown nosed Dubya during his visit to this country, Kylie Russell was conspicuously absent at the wreath laying for her husband, because they hadn’t bothered to invite her.

    She had been campaigning for better treatment of families of soldiers killed in service and that was the vile creature’s payback.

  7. Sad news. I heard this last night on Lateline and my heart immediately went out to the family of the soldier.

    Lest we forget.

  8. I can’t help feeling that rather than commenting in this thread which achieves absolutely nothing, your time would be better spent in writing to your local member and (1) asking to what purpose are our troops there in the first place and (2) demanding that they be brought home.

    (I’ve already done this.)

  9. Joni

    “Sad news. I heard this last night on Lateline and my heart immediately went out to the family of the soldier.”

    Anatomically impossible feat Joni.

  10. I think it does highlight just how dangerous it is over in Afghanistan and should raise questions as to progress and limits etc.

  11. I feel sorry for the poor bastard, but really can’t see why his life was thrown away like that.

    “Saving his mates from a bomb”, some will reply: “a noble thing to attempt”. No doubt. I’m not accusing anyone of cowardice.

    I just wanna know WTF we’re doing keeping our boys in a shit-hole like that to prop-up a shaky local Government in the first place.

    The Afghans have been murdering each other since Adam was a boy. Blood-feuds, tribal stoushes and vendettas are a way of life there. The only time they come together is when some foreigner pops his nose-in.

    Then they band together to practise some of their well-honed skills (sniping, booby-traps, the knife in the back and the roadside bomb) on said foreigner.

    No doubt in a stand-up fight we’d bury the lot of ’em. But these guys don’t do stand-up fights. They’re guerrillas.

    And anti-insurgency warfare has never worked. Just ask the Vietnamese.

  12. John

    Are you saying I am heartless?

    But I am sure you knew what I meant.

  13. Very sad news. My condolences to his family & friends.

    “tb a post like this is intrinsically highly political.”

    I agree Ken.

    Well said Evan. Tho if we pull out ASAP I do worry about what will happen to the Afghan families who have sided w/ the International Security Assistance Force & the Americans. And those who choose to try and live outside of the dictates of the Taliban and other Afghan warlords. Think Cambodia.

    The soldiers such as this latest poor fella are brave to be over there attempting to protect the citizens from backlash & try to help them rebuild & gain job skills….but they’ve been put in an atrocious situation. And still no Osama Bin Laden.

    Makes you wonder what the BIG PLAN is really all about?:

    Geo-strategic military build-up
    The dramatic build-up of an indefinite Western military presence in Afghanistan has unsettled some regional powers, including Russia.

    “Is it all to fight a number of Taliban – 10,000, 12,000 Taliban?” Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s ambassador to Kabul, has questioned. “Maybe this infrastructure, military infrastructure, [is] not only for internal purposes but for regional also.”

    Russia views the large and indefinite military build-up as a potential threat “because Afghanistan’s geographical location is a very strategic one,” Kabulov said. “It’s very close to three main world basins of hydrocarbons: Persian Gulf, Caspian Sea, Central Asia.”

    Other observers have also noted that through a stronger military presence in Afghanistan, the U.S. may be seeking to strengthen its own position in the region to counter increasingly warm relations among India, China and Russia.

    Along with its proximity to the vast Central Asian and Caspian Sea energy sources and being in the midsts of the regional powers of India, China, and Russia, Afghanistan also holds strategic significance given its border with Iran.
    (Wiki pedia)

    Sad days indeed.


  14. joni, on March 20th, 2009 at 12:58 pm Said:


    Are you saying I am heartless?

    But I am sure you knew what I meant.

    I was only joking of course. The interesting thing, being an ex-digger myself, is that you have to have a sense of humour to even do that job. If you don’t the pressure and fear will get the better of you. I think about our troops in Afghanistan often and the the un-hospitable terrain and weather conditions they have to fight in.

    Sadly, there job is getting harder not easier.

  15. You’ll note that Newscorp is re-writing this story as it goes along, handily omitting information as it seeks to shape the story rather than merely adding information to the account…same url last night indicated that the IED was encountered as a Taliban (defensive) ‘weapon’ as Australian forces participated in a “widened operation”, whatever “widened operation” meant to Angus Houston last night such that it must be omitted in the revised story today.

  16. Meanwhile, other collected blurbs from the Wider Cyberia Post include…

    Negotiating with Taliban no change in tactics:Obama

    Obama’s comments to the New York Times on Sunday showed for the first time that an occupant of the White House could publicly embrace the wider understood gospel of counter-insurgency at play in Afghanistan: that it is inevitable that Afghanistan’s government would have to sit across a negotiating table with at least some of its enemies if it is to ever have a peaceful future.

    As part of his country’s national reconciliation policy, President Hamid Karzai has maintained that his country’s enemies are welcome to take part in their political process if they denounce violence and their connections to terrorist groups such as al-Qaida, and swear allegiance to Afghanistan’s constitution.

    No one expects hardened extremists who lead the Taliban, or who are in al-Qaida to leap at this offer. It is aimed at swaying less committed foot soldiers of the insurgency such as impoverished Afghans who have grown disillusioned with the pace of reconstruction in their country.

    Stop supporting Taliban, U.S. tells Iran

    The U.S. commander of international forces in Afghanistan accused Iran of supporting the Taliban insurgency and urged Tehran to join international efforts to bring peace to its eastern neighbour.

    “We believe there is certain training support, funding support and there is certain complicity in the narcotics trade,” General David McKiernan said on Friday.

    But McKiernan said he had not seen the introduction in the last year of sophisticated Iranian military equipment of the kind that was sent to Iraq, nor had any Iranian trainers been caught.

    Iran also had “legitimate” cultural, economic, religious and political ties with its eastern neighbour, he said, adding: “I am hopeful that Iran can be part of the solution as opposed to being part of the problem.”

    The United States said on Thursday it intended to invite Iran to an international conference on Afghanistan this month, the first overture from the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

    Shi’ite Iran is not a comfortable ally of the hardline Sunni Taliban, but may be providing some support to tie down and irritate U.S. forces in Afghanistan, analysts say.

    And, from the same article, because I know John likes the idea of ‘tipping points’…

    In any case, there was no quick fix, he warned, and it would be some time before foreign forces could retreat into the background, into “training and mentoring” local security forces.

    “We are some years away from what I call the ‘tipping point’, where Afghan institutions specifically the Afghan security forces, the police and the army, are able to take the lead for their security,” he said.

    McKiernan said he was hopeful that tipping point might be seen in three to five years, but said there were many other variables which would come into play — not least the situation in Pakistan’s tribal areas where many militants shelter.

    Little hope for Afghanistan democracy: Report

    Afghanistan has become a “narco-state” that is unlikely to experience democracy or peace any time soon, according to a pessimistic new report on the conflict released Thursday.

    The study by two major think-tanks, one American and the other German, calls on the U.S. and its allies to re-fashion the counter-insurgency while seeking to reach a political settlement with Taliban insurgents….

    ….”Recent events suggest that a clear military victory is unlikely, even if the coalition augments its troop strength,” said the report by the Rand Corporation and the Bertelsmann Stiftung think-tank.

    “Rather, all indications point to a long, protracted struggle in which neither side wins a decisive military victory.”

  17. Legion. I have read at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/record-opium-crop-helps-the-taliban-fund-its-resistance-463283.html

    In an annual survey of opium production released yesterday, the UN reported that Helmand province had produced 48 per cent more opium compared to its record-breaking crop last year. Opium production in Afghanistan as a whole will reach a “frighteningly new level” at 8,200 tons, 34 per cent higher than last year, the report said.

    However at: http://www.opioids.com/afghanistan/index.html

    U.N. drug control officers said the Taliban religious militia has nearly wiped out opium production in Afghanistan — once the world’s largest producer — since banning poppy cultivation last summer.

    And so since the breaking down of the Taliban there is 48% more opium? Or am I reading this wrong.

  18. This is the conflict that should never have been underestimated. Most people can never imagine what it’s like to be fighting under the conditions our troops are in Afghanistan, I for one, however, am glad I’m not over there.

    Out of our depth
    Patrick Walters, National security editor | May 03, 2008

    Operating in small groups, Taliban fighters had carefully manoeuvred around the flank of the Australian force and opened up with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.The firefight, which killed 4RAR commando Jason Marks and wounded four of his comrades, went on for more than three hours before the Taliban broke off the contact. The incident once again exemplified the fighting prowess of the Taliban, regarded by the Australians as some of the toughest opponents they have encountered.

    “The whole action is testament to the professional confidence of the Taliban. They are extremely hard, professional fighters. They closed on us without hesitation, without waiting to be attacked,” observes one military source of Sunday’s encounter. Adds another senior Australian Defence Force source: “They are learning and adapting faster than us. They gather intelligence on us and then they disappear into local communities.”

    This latest action further underlines the challenge that confronts Australia’s 1000-strong military in Afghanistan. How to defeat a hardy, mobile and resourceful foe that melts in and out of the local population and just keeps coming back even after suffering heavy casualties?

    The hard-headed assessment of some of our best military minds is that Australia will have to exert a great deal more will and determination to prevail in Oruzgan province.
    From a military perspective, we are not gaining ground, tactically or strategically. It’s time for our military leaders and the Rudd Government to fundamentally reassess the mission entrusted to our Diggers.

    For years the rhetoric from the Australian government about the vital strategic importance of the struggle in Afghanistan has not been matched by a commensurate physical commitment of military and civil resources.

    “In Oruzgan we are hanging on with barely enough resources to maintain the status quo. It’s not enough to be decisive. At best we are holding our ground. We are not doing the heavy lifting or doing the strategic planning,” one senior military source tells Inquirer.

  19. Min, on March 20th, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    No, Min, that is correct. And lest we forget, Air America was a prime organisational force behind the Golden Triangle’s outputs in the 60s and 70s; was there again doing Iran-contra deals for South American benefit in the early 80s; and it’s probably not by accident that narco-operations shifted to Afghanistan during the mid-80s and the height of the secret war against the Ruskies.

  20. Min and Legion

    Remember when JWH was peddling the prevention of terrorists capturing Iraq’s oil fields, after the WMD’s were ruled out? I’d already worked out what I believed was going on with Al qaeda and the Taliban even then. I thought it was obvious, still do.

    Blair’s retreat plays into Rudd’s hands
    Wednesday, February 21, 2007
    Matt Price

    Matt, I am hoping you hear me out on this one.
    I’m going to think outside the box for a moment, to see whether there is a slight possibility that terrorist organizations, such as al qaeda aren’t leading us (the COW) down a merry path to destruction.

    The threat of attack in Afghanistan by the Taliban and al qaeda fighters is looming large, in my opinion. There has been growing number of foreign fighters seeking to assist the Taliban in reclaim control of the country – and if this happens, Afghanistan will return the the terrorist haven that it used to be prior to the US invasion.

    Now, if Iraq descends into full scale civil war (along sectarian lines) that conflict could quite easily and rapidly spread over the borders into surrounding countries. Sunnis vs Shiites.

    Now, Bush, Blair and Howard have focused on Iraq and the fall of Bagdad as being a victory for terrorist groups like al Qaeda.

    Here’s where I think that extremist groups may have outfoxed them all (and all of us unfortunately). A full scale sectarian war in the region works in their favour, because they know that the COW will be rendered largely ineffective in other parts of the world where they will seek to operate unhindered.

    So, maybe al Qaeda’s involvement in Iraq has been nothing more that a diversionary tactic to cripple COW forces or render them largely ineffective?

    Now, if what I am saying is true, we now face the prospect of losing control in Iraq and Afghanistan, so you tell me who has been assisting terrorist organizations in gaining a firmer grip on their future ambitions?

    And for those who believe that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have reduced the threat of global terrorism need to think carefully about the assumptions they make. Just because, on the surface there seems to have been less movement in activities in the US and Australia doesn’t mean we have been successful, it may just mean that we don’t understand the strategies and tactics being employed by these groups and networks.

    There may just come a point (a tipping point) where we wake up one day and realise that we have been fighting the wrong war all along, and it has been a war that terror groups such as al qaeda have wanted us to fight. By that stage, their forces and support bases around the globe may have grown considerably as well as their access to financial resources to fund their operations anywhere and anytime they please.

    We fear they will gain access to oil in Iraq to fund their activities, but Afghanistan offers them a more potent source of funding through illegal poppies that can be harvested, turned into heroin and shipped all over the western world and sold on our streets (just another potent weapon that can be used against the Western world and all the while making a healthy profit)

    John McPhilbin of NSW
    Tue 10 Apr 07 (11:57pm)

  21. Legion..and so we might all be being shafted in order to prop up the US supported opium industry?

  22. We fear they will gain access to oil in Iraq to fund their activities, but Afghanistan offers them a more potent source of funding through illegal poppies that can be harvested, turned into heroin and shipped all over the western world and sold on our streets (just another potent weapon that can be used against the Western world and all the while making a healthy profit)

    Problem with the analysis…those who become hooked are those closest to source of production, which are ‘their people’, first, not the decadent ‘foreigners’, second…and both AQ and the Taliban are contra intoxicants which imperil good Moslems…so it’s in someone else’s interests that those things continue…but whose?

  23. Legion..surely it couldn’t be America/the westerners who want oil and opium?

    Reminds me of the Opium Wars in China. The US expression of this being Charlton Heston in 55 Days at Peking. However, the truth is that the US wanted to pay Chinese workers in opium and the Emporer objected. Opium was in those days only for the upper classes as a recreational drug and certainly not a method of payment for the lower classes.

  24. Min, on March 20th, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Don’t know, Min. The last time I tried going down that rabbit-hole I encountered front companies aplenty, but the physical drugs seemed to be going through Pakistan as first distribution point, and the money appeared to be being laundered via West-European private banks.

  25. Let’s just say Legion t’is suspicious.

    Which doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be there in Afghanistan as we have some responsibility in the matter.

  26. Min, on March 20th, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    It means that nation-building is a priority, perhaps…starving, illiterate, war-fractured peoples need hope.

  27. And Legion, this is a topic on it’s own. I cringed at the invasion of Baghdad when all those US troups were standing around with their hands in their pockets (due to having no further orders) while looters were robbing the country of their antiquities. I wonder if anyone has worked out yet what has been lost?

  28. It’s strange how so many supporters of invading and occupying other countries develop such a commitment to Doing Good for the Natives … but only after the event, as a justification for remaining in occupation.

    I’d be much more impressed with their sincerity if they were just as enthusiastic about foreign aid that wasn’t preceded by overwhelming deadly force and delivered by soldiers in hugely expensive fighting vehicles, but the same armchair warriors are often the first to scream opposiiton to any increase in non-military assistance to poor countries.

    To this day, the record of the nations that invaded Iraq in helping the refugees thay helped create is shameful.

  29. Ken Lovell, on March 20th, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Indeed, it would seem counter-productive. Destroy the village to save the village, then quarter rebuild the village, while continuing to destroy the other three-quarters for a bit, and expect the natives to be thankful. Why not just build the village into a town, a city, and a nation for same or lesser cost and without the bad blood?

  30. Legion, Ken et al…I found this interesting…takes patience to watch (not the usual HYPED news topic discussion)…brings up the interesting point regarding “hidden costs of war” about 5 odd mins in:

    Why are we in Afghanistan? Pt.2

    I think there’s 6 parts all up.

  31. One essential ingredient was missing when they invaded both Iraq and Afghanistan, besides not having anywhere near enough troops and local security forces to work with, was the ‘coalition of the willings’ complete unpreparedness for what was to follow.

    For example, the U.S. military published a counterinsurgency manual back in 2006, that drew, they say, on lessons from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and stresses that troops must be able to do more than just fight.

    U.S. forces battling insurgencies must be ready every day “to be greeted with a hand grenade or a handshake, and to respond appropriately to each,” is one piece of wisdom the manual extols. As an ex- Australian soldier, I thought that was common knowledge

    Military officials said they had drawn extensively on experience from Iraq and Afghanistan, where critics accused some U.S. units of being ignorant of local culture and traditions and of failing to gain the trust of local people. Once again, I would have thought that such knowledge would have been crucial for soldiers to understand and take into account in their operations.

    What I find more than a little concerning about these type of revelations is : this manual came a little too late, in my opinion – the damage was done, however, one encouraging fact for Australia is that we learnt our lessons from Vietnam and have been operating along these guidelines ever since. I guess the fact that we only have a relatively small force means we have had to learn to operate smarter through necessity!

    The US has relied so heavily on superior fire power from air and sea since Vietnam that they neglected to prepare their troops the lessons from having their (and our arses) kicked by the Cong.

  32. Excellent comments Ken, and others.

    Some years ago a friend and I were the discussing the merits of Western forces invading Afghanistan. He was for, I was against.
    We wagered on the basis that I assumed the Taliban were infinitely more adaptable to THEIR terrain than was a force from the West. He proposed a war lasting 18 months to 2 years. I suggested a long occupation without any foreseeable end. It saddens me that I may have been correct, and that our boys are caught in this Afghan quagmire. I have also argued that overall military command in Aghanistan should be stripped from the US.
    Lets not forget that ‘local culture’ would have been the last consideration of the thugs who instigated this unholy mess, namely, thugs Bush and Cheney.
    These thugs paid little heed to the warning sounded by OBL and other radicals to ‘leave’ Muslim territory.

  33. I also noticed recently the satanic Cheney has suggested homeland security of the US is now compromised, and will be for the term of Obama’s presidency.
    And yet, former Cheney staff members have described Cheney as being ‘evil’.

  34. It may seem simplistic but I believe the answer to terrorism et al is education, medicine, food & water.

    Imagine how many schools, hospitals, water treatment plants etc. could’ve been built with obscene amount of money the CoW has spent in Iraq.

  35. Sans Blog

    Imagine how many schools, hospitals, water treatment plants etc. could’ve been built with obscene amount of money the CoW has spent in Iraq.

    Exactly. Imagine if the US focused all efforts on Afghanistan alone?

  36. The Taliban originally won hearts and minds with
    “education, medicine, food & water.” for a terribly deprived population. The current mess is all about the money, John McP and ‘Min may have it summed up above regarding the narcotics. Such cash-flows cannot exist without global government collusion. Makes a mockery of all the public posturing, and restrictions placed up on us by our alert but unalarmed establishment.

  37. If war is politics pursued via other means, then ending a war may just require pursuing means other than war…America floats plan to tempt Taliban into peace process.

  38. Seems to be going well

    “Afghan and coalition forces killed five militants and detained four suspected militants early this morning in Kunduz province during an operation targeting a terrorist network in northern Afghanistan,” the US military said.

    The operation took place near the border with Tajikistan, it said.

    But provincial police chief Abdul Rehman Actash said the five men killed were civilians visiting a district mayor.

    “They went into the mayor’s house and killed his driver, two guards, his cook and a guest from Sari Pul province, and confiscated two weapons from the house,” Mr Actash said.

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