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Two Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan -

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LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: The Defence Force has named the two soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in
Afghanistan. They were Sappers Darren Smith and Jacob Moerland, both from the Brisbane-based 2nd
Combat Regiment. Their remains will be flown back to Australia by the weekend.

Eight other international soldiers died yesterday in the deadliest day for NATO and American-led
forces in Afghanistan so far this year.

The Prime Minister's expressed his sympathy for the families of the soldiers, but reaffirmed
Australia's commitment to the fight against the Taliban.

Peter Lloyd reports.

PETER LLOYD, REPORTER: It was Jacob Moerland's first overseas deployment. He was 21 and engaged to
be married.

Darren Smith leaves behind a wife and young son in Brisbane. This was his first deployment too.

The 26-year-old was a handler for an explosives detection dog named Herbie who also died.

Smith featured in this ABC story.

DARREN SMITH, ARMY DOG HANDLER: They're military working dogs but they get looked after better than
a lot of house dogs I've seen.

PETER LLOYD: The soldiers were on a routine foot patrol in the remote Mirabad Valley. It was just
before lunchtime when an improvised explosive device, or IED, detonated.

DAVID HURLEY, ACTING DEFENCE CHIEF: One of the soldiers was killed at the time of the explosion,
the other soldier received emergency first aid from his patrol mates and was subsequently,
aero-medical evacuated to a nearby ISAF hospital. Sadly the soldier died from his wounds.

PETER LLOYD: Their deaths take to 13 the number of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

KEVIN RUDD, PRIME MINISTER: This is an enormous loss for their families and their loved ones. On
behalf of the Government and the people of Australia, I extend to them our deepest condolences, our
deepest sympathies.

PETER LLOYD: With more soldiers dying, the Prime Minister was facing questions: was this war
winnable? Conspicuously, Kevin Rudd spoke today only of progress.

KEVIN RUDD: This is a very tough, difficult, continuing military campaign. And we are up against a
determined and dangerous enemy.

HUGH WHITE, ANU: Look it is very hard for the Prime Minister under these circumstances to say that
it's not winnable, but I don't think there's any evidence that we're making serious progress.

PETER LLOYD: Hugh White was a senior figure in the defence establishment, a government advisor, now
a professor of Strategic Studies at the ANU. He's openly pessimistic about the prospects for any
sort of victory in Afghanistan.

HUGH WHITE: I think the scale of the insurgency remains large and the scale of the Western effort,
the Coalition effort to combat the insurgency, and more importantly, to build a kind of effective
government in Afghanistan that can resist the Taliban's pressure once the Coalition's forces leave,
that that progress is way too slow for us to have any confidence.

PETER LLOYD: So, why are we there? Kevin Rudd, like John Howard before him says: countering

KEVIN RUDD: Our mission is important to ensure that Afghanistan does not return to become an
operating base for terrorists around the world, terrorists who in the last decade have killed more
than 100 Australians.

PETER LLOYD: But the reality on the ground undermines the logic of the Government's strategy.

The Taliban's top leaders and Al Qaeda-linked terrorists have, long ago, established operating
bases across the border in Pakistan.

Hugh White argues the Australian presence is about something else.

HUGH WHITE: Ever since the end of the Cold War in Asia, way back, the end of Vietnam War, Australia
has demonstrated its support for the United States as an ally by making small, quick, cheap
contributions to the various wars that America's fought in and around the Persian Gulf.

And I think our contribution to Afghanistan and for that matter our contribution in Iraq before
that in 2003 were very much part of that pattern.

The problem for Australia is that these wars turned out not to be, you know, small, quick and
cheap, but slow, hard and ultimately, I think, unsuccessful.

PETER LLOYD: When it began, the mission in Afghanistan was justified by John Howard as a
nation-building project, provincial reconstruction.

Now, under Rudd Labor, the emphasis is on building up the capability of Afghan soldiers and police.
Either way, the US wants more Australian boots on the ground and some senior military thinkers here

JIM MOLAN, COUNTER-INSURGENCY EXPERT: If we aligned our strategy with our campaign, with our
tactics, I think Australia or someone has got to put in at least about 3,500 troops.

PETER LLOYD: But Kevin Rudd says we're doing enough.

KEVIN RUDD: We have never extended a blank cheque when it comes to our troop commitment.

PETER LLOYD: Time is running out, with the US planning to begin a phased withdrawal next year,
Australian soldiers won't be far behind and then Afghanistan will be on its own.

Peter Lloyd, Lateline.