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Transcript of doorstop interview: 20 June 2011: death of Shafied Ullah

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Stephen Smith, MP  Minister for Defence  Federal Member for Perth 



DATE: 20 JUNE 2011

TOPICS: Death of Shafied Ullah.

STEPHEN SMITH: Okay, well, thank you very much for turning up. I just wanted to confirm the advice I've received this afternoon that the rogue Afghan National Army soldier, Shafied Ullah, has himself been killed.

Shafied Ullah was of course the rogue Afghan National Army soldier who murdered Lance Corporal Andrew Jones. Andrew Jones' family have been advised of this outcome early today, and they've asked that their privacy be respected and whilst this may come as some solace or closure so far as the family is concerned, the knowledge that Shafied Ullah has been killed - and no longer poses a risk in Afghanistan, it will of course be a terrible reminder to the family of Lance Corporal Jones' tragic death.

You would have seen the release from the Defence Force which indicates that Shafied Ullah was killed by a coalition Special Forces operation, primarily the United States, partnered with Afghan National Army. It was a limited Australian involvement, but I'm not proposing

to detail that or detail the circumstances of the operation as I don't in the normal course of events comment on operational detail.

The Chief of the Defence Force in future may be able to provide more details, but for the present, we are confirming Shafied Ullah's death and confirming the fact that that was a coalition Special Forces operation, effectively jointly between the Afghan National Army and the United States Special Forces.

He was killed in Khowst Province in Langhar district near his home town. His brother who was with him has been detained by US forces and we hope that questioning of him may throw some light on the reasons for Shafied Ullah's terrible murder of Lance Corporal Jones.

Obviously we would have preferred that Shafied Ullah was captured to enable interrogation to occur as to the circumstances surrounding his murder of Lance Corporal Jones.

But as you'll see from the advice from the Chief of the Defence Force and the Defence Department, Shafied Ullah placed himself in a position where he was a direct threat to Special Forces and as a consequence in a resulting fire fight, or gun fire he was killed.

So, I confirm that the Afghan National Army soldier who tragically and terribly murdered Lance Corporal Jones has himself been killed and the investigation into the causes and reasons of Lance Corporal Jones' death continues. But as I say now placing the difficulty of Shafied Ullah himself having been killed, and not in a position to respond to any of our

questions as to what motivated or caused him to commit the terrible murder of Lance Corporal Jones.

I'm happy to respond to a few questions, but I am a bit tight for time.

JOURNALIST: Has it been proven beyond any doubt whatsoever that Shafied Ullah was responsible for the murder of Lance Corporal Jones?

STEPHEN SMITH: All of the evidence and all of the advice that I have points conclusively in that direction firstly, and secondly in all of the evidence - and all of the advice that the Chief of the Defence Force and I have had today is that Shafied Ullah has been positively identified. He was positively identified as a result of the biometric identification techniques as an Afghan National Army soldier. And the advice that the Chief of the Defence Force and I have this afternoon is he has likewise or similarly been positively identified. So we are proceeding conclusively on the basis that the murderer of Lance Corporal Jones has himself been killed.

JOURNALIST: Did they do the biometrics before or after they shot him do you know?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, after, on the basis of my understanding - because he placed himself in a position where he was a direct threat to the Special Forces operation and was killed as a consequence.

JOURNALIST: Mr Smith, do you know if he ever - if this runaway ever actually made it to the Taliban?

STEPHEN SMITH: I'm not in a position to advise on that, as you know. As soon as he fled from the patrol base, the forward operating base, an Afghan National Army pursuit of him was affected, and that has been ongoing since the end of May.

JOURNALIST: What are the circumstances of him being caught? Was he actually targeted by the, specifically by the Special Forces or-

STEPHEN SMITH: Well as you'll see from the release by the Chief of the Defence Force and the Defence Department, it was a Special Forces operation, as I say, a coalition Special Forces operation primarily United States, in partnership with Afghan National Army. Some limited Australian involvement - or some Australian involvement which I'm not proposing to detail.

But he was essentially tracked down - as a result of intelligence. That general point is made to you, both in the press release, and by me, but in accordance with my normal practice I wouldn't be proposing to go into intelligence matters, but he was tracked to his home

province and district, the province of Khowst, the district of Langhar, as a result of intelligence work.

JOURNALIST: What's your response to reports overnight that the Americans have admitted for the first time that they're actually engaged in face to face talks with the Taliban?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well you may recall last week or the week before I was in Brussels at the NATO/ISAF Defence Ministers' Meeting and both, from Brussels, and when I returned, I made the point that part of the developments that we see unfolding as a result of improving

our security position in Afghanistan, not just Uruzgan province, but Afghanistan generally, is that if and when the Taliban come to a conclusion that they cannot win military then they may well sue for peace. Australia for a number of years has been a strong supporter of the

notion that Afghanistan, our mission in Afghanistan can not be won by military means or combat means alone.

There also needs to be a political strategy, and we've been strong supporters of the reconciliation reintegration and rapprochement efforts, and we are seeing very early signs of that.

I think people should pay very careful attention to Secretary Gates' comments. He's made the point this is very much preliminary or initial outreach. The only time or the only way in which the Taliban will come to the table is when they come to the conclusion that they cannot win militarily. I don't think we've reached that position yet. But we have seen in recent months very early and slow signs of reintegration at the local level, and today we see indications of some very preliminary outreach efforts so far as political reconciliation is concerned.

But I think we're a long way from seeing a political settlement; A very long way.

Okay. Thanks. Thanks very much.