“We will find you. We will hunt you down. Your time is limited.”Â
* Taking our guns away was the greatest crime in the history of this nation!
Special forces land crushing blow on Taliban in Afghanistan
Mark DoddÂ / The Australian
AUSTRALIAN special forces operating deep inside Taliban heartland in southern Afghanistan have inflicted critical damage to the insurgent’s senior leadership severely restricting their ability to launch offensive action, the army’s head of special operations said today.
In a rare briefing to the media summarising 524 days of combat action since the special forces returned to fight in Oruzgan, Major-General Tim McOwan, pledged no let-up in the brutal counter-insurgency despite the onset of a harsh Afghan winter.Â
And he had this Christmas Message for the Taliban: “We will find you. We will hunt you down. Your time is limited.”Â
Elite Special Air Service operatives and Commandos operating in some of the most gruelling conditions ever encountered had killed four senior Taliban leaders, captured seven others including one, Ahmad Shah, in his bed.Â
Another 180 lower ranking insurgents had been captured and handed over to Afghan authorities, Maj-Gen McOwan said.Â
“These are all key middle- to high-level Taliban leaders or IED (bomb makers) facilitators operating in or around Oruzgan province.Â
“These are individuals who are or have been involved in killing innocents and actively trying to kill coalition troops.Â
“These are successes not just for the SOTG (Special Operations Task Group) but for the hard-working poor civilians of Afghanistan and for the fledgling democracy itself,” he said.Â
For the first time, Maj-Gen McOwan revealed that in early October special forces killed a high-level Taliban commander, Mullah Korullah Shakir, implicated in bomb manufacturing and attacks on Afghan civilian and coalition troops.Â
“We know that the loss of these individuals has had a dramatic impact on the resilience of these Taliban networks,” he said.Â
His upbeat appraisal of military success in Oruzgan stands in contrast to the overall security picture in Afghanistan.
Faced with a resurgent Taliban, the Afghan conflict has got bloodier for every year since 2005 with the death toll for coalition troops this year alone standing at 273, compared with 232 last year.Â
The NATO-backed International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) remains woefully under-strength.Â
Hunkered down in Kabul, the Karzai Government lacks legitimacy in the eyes of most ordinary Afghans faced with a daily reality of insecurity, corruption and lawlessness.Â
Tarin Kowt market just five kilometres from the main Dutch-Australian base was bombed by the insurgents on Wednesday – an attack that left two killed and nine wounded.Â
The cost has also been high among the SOTG, with six of the seven Australian combat fatalities since 2001 being members of the special forces.Â
Not so well known is the number of Australian special forces soldiers wounded – about 50 – including some with serious, life-threatening wounds.Â
“The frequency of these wounds speaks of the violence and danger these men face on a daily basis.Â
“There are no words to describe how devastating these deaths have been.Â
“While we in the special forces and special forces command feel these losses deeply, I can assure you our sense of grief is nothing compared to the mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters and partners,” said Maj-Gen McOwan.Â
He said he prayed there would be no more casualties but feared that would not be the case with 2009 expected to be an equally bloody year.Â
The Australian Defence Force has 1100 troops deployed in Afghanistan with the main combat role undertaken by the 300-strong Special Operations Task Group.