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Australian Special Forces to return from Afghanistan.



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MEDIA RELEASE Senator the Hon. Robert Hill Minister for Defence Leader of the Government in the Senate

 

20 Nov 2002 MIN 664/02

 

Australian Special Forces to return from Afghanistan

 

As announced by the Prime Minister today, Australian Special Forces will return from Afghanistan from the end of this month.

Defence Minister Robert Hill said Australian Special Forces soldiers had been on the ground in Afghanistan continuously as part of the international coalition against terrorism since 27 November last year. There have been three rotations of the Special Forces Task Group.

"Australian soldiers have made a vital contribution to destroying terrorist networks in Afghanistan and to providing a secure future as the nation rebuilds," Senator Hill said.

"They have demonstrated courage and commitment in the highest tradition of the Australian Defence Force. Their skills and professionalism in difficult circumstances has been acclaimed by our coalition partners and made all Australians proud.

"In particular, soldiers demonstrated their ingenuity and tenacity during Operation Anaconda in March where they battled harsh conditions to guide multiple air strikes to prevent al Qaeda fighters overrunning survivors of a United States helicopter crash. Their actions were critical to the survival of the US soldiers.

"But the Special Forces’ work has not been without sacrifice. Sadly, Sergeant Andrew Russell was killed in action on 16 February 2002 as a result of a land mine explosion and another soldier was seriously injured in a separate land mine incident. And the families and friends of the soldiers have had to cope with the strain of the deployments.

"As the focus of operations has moved towards supporting the reconstruction of Afghanistan, the particular skills of our Special Forces are in less demand. Most of the troops should be home before Christmas to celebrate the holiday season with their families.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank the soldiers for their valuable work and their family and friends for their invaluable support."

Media contacts:

Minister’s office: Catherine Fitzpatrick 02 6277 7800 or 0405 351 245

Department: Brigadier Mike Hannan 0410 626 759