Questions by Fairfax and answers from the Defence Department about the Australian withdrawal from Oruzgan.
1. Upon what advice or information was the decision to declare an infantry kandak independent based? Which kandak has been so assessed and where is it located?
Defence Response: On 7 October 2012, Australian forces formally transferred Patrol Base Wali to Afghan National Security Forces. PB Wali is in the Mirabad Valley. The Patrol Base is now operated by the 3rd Kandak of the Afghan National Army's 4th Brigade without any Australian presence on the ground.
The 3rd Kandak have proven their effectiveness during the period that Australians were assisting and advising them. They have conducted several independent operations by day and by night, and worked effectively with the Afghan National Police.
Australia now supports the kandak indirectly by advising its superior Headquarters, Headquarters 4th Brigade, in order to improve the way that the Kandak is operated and supported. This is in accordance with our transition plan which is endorsed by ISAF.
2. What role will the ADF have in URZ once all four kandaks are operating independently? (ie., in 2013 and, perhaps, 2014.)
Defence response: The transition of security to the Afghan National Security Forces in Uruzgan province is an ongoing process that started on the 17th of July 2012 with the inclusion of Uruzgan province in Tranche Three of the Inteqal (Transition) process. The process of transitioning responsibility for security in Uruzgan province is expected to take 12 to 18 months.
Transition will see the progressive handover of responsibility for security to the ANSF as the ANSF demonstrate the capacity and capability to accept this responsibility. For the ADF task group (currently the 3 RAR Task Group and subsequently the 7 RAR Task Group) this will see a commensurate shift in emphasis from partnering and mentoring to advising the Afghan National Army's 4th Brigade of the 205th Corps.
As the infantry kandaks of the 4th Brigade demonstrate capability for independent operations the ADF task group, as part of the Combined Team – Uruzgan, will progressively shift emphasis from partnering and mentoring at kandak level to advising the 4th Brigade Headquarters and the Operational Coordination Centre – Provincial (OCC-P) in Uruzgan, as well as the combat support and combat service support (logistics) kandaks.
3. Will SOTG continue to undertake joint operations with the ANSF in RC South during the remainder of 2012 and 2013 and 2014? And have the restrictions on such partnered operations announced by COMISAF last month been lifted?
Defence response: The SOTG will continue to undertake partnered operations with designated ANSF units, in particular the Provincial Response Company and provincial National Directorate for Security elements, as well as enabling Narcotics Interdiction Unit operations. SOTG operations continue to focus on building ANSF capability to disrupt insurgent activity, including funding from the narcotics trade, within Uruzgan province and in key adjacent provinces from which insurgents exert influence on Uruzgan. All ADF force elements, including the SOTG, continually assess force protection measures and adjust their posture according to the situation. COMISAF restrictions imposed as a result of recent insider attacks have not impacted SOTG operations.
4. Once all four kandaks are operating independently, will ADF members be based anywhere in URZ other than MNB-TK? (I am not requesting specific places, merely a broad indication.)
Defence response: Once all of the ANA 4th Brigade infantry kandaks are operating independently it is envisioned that most of the task group will operate from Tarin Kot, however will maintain the capability to operate across Uruzgan as required by the situation. SOTG will continue to conduct operations more broadly across Uruzgan and adjacent provinces.
5. Given the Minister is now stating mentoring at a kandak level will end this year, does he expect the next MTF (or whatever name it uses) to be significantly smaller than the current one? If so, please explain.
Defence response: Each ADF task group is structured for the mission to be accomplished during its deployment. This structure is tested during planning and mission rehearsal exercises prior to deployment to ensure the Task Group is best organised for the tasks it will be required to perform. As we progress through transition the structure of each deploying task group will be adjusted to best achieve its anticipated tasks. The next deploying task group, the 7 RAR Task Group, will see a shift in emphasis from mentoring and partnering to advising. The 7 RAR Task Group has been structured to meet the requirements of this change in emphasis and is smaller in size than the 3 RAR task Group. It is expected that as the 4th Brigade takes increasing responsibility for security and as the capability of the ANSF to provide command and control, combat support, and combat service support increases, the structure and size of future task groups will be adjusted accordingly.