Operation Slipper

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Operation Slipper
Part of the War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
Infantry from 3 RAR patrol Tarin Kowt in August 2008 as part of Reconstruction Task Force 4
Infantry from 3 RAR patrol Tarin Kowt in August 2008 as part of Reconstruction Task Force 4
Location Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and Diego Garcia
Objective Australia's contribution to the War in Afghanistan
Date 2001 – present
Casualties 41 killed, 256 wounded (as at 2 July 2014)[1]

Operation Slipper is the Australian Defence Force (ADF) contribution to the war in Afghanistan. The operation commenced in late 2001 and is ongoing. ADF participation included two major activities centred on Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf.

Afghanistan[edit]

First phase[edit]

A No. 33 Squadron Boeing 707 refuelling a US Navy F/A-18 in 2002

Australian participation in Afghanistan included a Special Forces Task group and two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Boeing 707 air-to-air refuelling aircraft from No. 33 Squadron. These aircraft and associated support personnel operated from Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan and provided support to coalition aircraft operating in Afghan airspace. Two RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft flew maritime patrol missions in support of maritime interdiction operations in the Persian Gulf.[2] These aircraft were temporarily retasked to Operations Falconer and Catalyst in 2003.

RAAF C-130 Hercules transport aircraft were also involved in providing logistic support for deployed forces. The Special Forces were involved with the establishment of the US-led coalition's first Forward Operating Base (Camp Rhino) southwest of Kandahar in November 2001, followed by the capture of Kandahar International Airport in December 2001. The initial ADF commitment in Afghanistan concluded in December 2002 when the Special Air Service Task Group was withdrawn.[3] Following this date until 2005 Australia’s total contribution to efforts in Afghanistan was a single officer attached to the Coalition’s mine clearing force.

All three squadrons of the Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) were deployed to Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002. The dates of these deployments were:[4]

  • 1 Squadron Group, SASR – (October 2001–April 2002)
  • 3 Squadron Group, SASR – (April 2002–August 2002)
  • 2 Squadron Group, SASR – (August 2002–November 2002)

A Troop from the New Zealand Special Air Service was attached to each Australian SAS Squadron Group. It is unclear whether the New Zealand SAS Troop was rotated at the same times as the Australian units.

Second phase[edit]

An Australian Special Forces Task Group was re-deployed to Afghanistan in August or September 2005. This Task Group consisted of elements from the SASR, 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando), the Incident Response Regiment and logistic support personnel.[3] As well as heavily modified land rovers, the Special Forces Task Group was also equipped with some Bushmaster infantry mobility vehicles. A detachment of two CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the 5th Aviation Regiment was deployed to Afghanistan in March 2006 to support the Special Forces Task Group. The Australian Special Forces Task Group was withdrawn from Afghanistan in September 2006 and the helicopter detachment returned to Australia in April 2007.[5]

Third phase[edit]

Australian and US Army engineers working on a bridge in Afghanistan in August 2008

A Reconstruction Taskforce based around the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment with protective elements from the 5th/7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and 2nd Cavalry Regiment began arriving in Orūzgān Province in southern Afghanistan in early September 2006. The Australian Reconstruction Taskforce formed part of a Dutch-led Provincial Reconstruction Team, operating as part of the Dutch-led Task Force Uruzgan and based at Forward Operating Base Ripley, outside of Tarin Kowt.[6]

A 300-strong Special Operations Task Group was deployed to support the Reconstruction Taskforce in April 2007, including a Commando company-group, elements of the SASR, and an integral combat service support team. In addition to radar crews, logistics and intelligence officers, and security personnel, this brought the number of Australian personnel in Afghanistan to 950 by mid-2007, with further small increases to 1,000 in mid-2008, 1,100 in early 2009[7] and 1,550 in mid-2009.[8] These increases have occurred in spite of opinion polls indicating that public support for the deployment is decreasing, with a poll released in September 2008 finding that a majority of those surveyed were opposed to Australia's continued military involvement in the country.[9]

In early 2009 a number of Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLTs) were embedded into the Afghan National Army battalions serving in the 4th (ANA) Brigade, 205th Hero Corps, in Uruzgan as part of the Australian mission to mentor and partner the ANA within the province. Consequently, the RTF was renamed the Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force.[8] On 16 January 2009, Trooper Mark Donaldson, a member of the SASR, was awarded Australia's highest gallantry medal, the Victoria Cross for Australia. Donaldson was awarded the medal for exposing himself to enemy fire to protect injured Australian troops and then rescuing an Afghan interpreter under heavy enemy fire during a contact on 2 September 2008.[10]

As of 2010 a modest Australian force remains in Afghanistan where they are involved in counter-insurgency operations in Uruzgan province in conjunction with Dutch and other coalition forces. MRTF was again renamed to the Mentoring Task Force in early-2010, and is now based around a combined arms battalion-sized battle group, it consists of motorised infantry and cavalry force elements supported by engineers, as well as coalition enablers including artillery and aviation assets. The Rotary Wing Group flying CH-47D Chinooks, the Force Logistics Asset and an RAAF air surveillance radar unit are currently based in Kandahar.[11] A further 800 Australian logistic personnel are also based in the Middle East in support of Operation Slipper, but are located outside of Afghanistan.[8] Detachments of maritime patrol and transport aircraft continue to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, based out of Al Minhad Air Base in the United Arab Emirates.[12]

Current order of battle[edit]

Australian and Afghan soldiers in September 2009
A Special Operations Task Group patrol in October 2009

As of March 2011 approximately 1,550 Australians were deployed to Afghanistan.[13]

Scheduled departure of Australian forces[edit]

At the end of October 2013, Prime Minister Tony Abbott traveled to Afghanistan with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten for a special ceremony at the Australian base in Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan. He told a gathering of troops and Afghan leaders that "Australia's longest war is ending. Not with victory, not with defeat, but with, we hope, an Afghanistan that is better for our presence here." Afghan forces were scheduled to take over running of the camp in mid-December. The last combat troops were withdrawn on 15 December 2013; however, approximately 400 personnel remain in Afghanistan as trainers and advisers, and are stationed in Kandahar and Kabul.[14][15]

Persian Gulf[edit]

HMAS Kanimbla preparing to launch a US Navy rigid hull inflatable boat in January 2002

Since October 2001 the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has maintained a continuous presence in and around Iraqi territorial waters as part of Operation Slipper and subsequent operations. There were four major rotations of RAN ships to this area of operations between December 2001 and March 2003. The primary focus of these rotations was to conduct Maritime Interception Operations as part of a US, Australian and British force enforcing United Nations Security Council resolutions against Iraq. The first rotation consisted of Her Majesty's Australian Ships (HMAS) Sydney, Adelaide and Kanimbla. These ships were followed in February 2002 by HMA Ships Canberra, Newcastle and Manoora and again in July 2002 by HMAS Arunta and Melbourne.

Detachments from the Army's 16th Air Defence Regiment provided point defence to the Kanimbla and Manoora during their deployments. One of the final Operation Slipper rotations was in November 2002 with HMA Ships Anzac and Darwin.

HMAS Kanimbla departed from Sydney, Australia on 20 January 2003 again bound for the Persian Gulf under the mission objectives of Operation Bastille. On arriving in Bahrain on 16 February she reverted to the original mission objects of Operation Slipper (that of enforcing UN Sanctions against Iraq). On 20 March 2003, HMA Ships Kanimbla, Anzac and Darwin participated in the combat phase of the 2003 Iraq War, codenamed Operation Falconer.

During these operations the Australian ships pioneered a number of techniques that increased the effectiveness of Maritime Interception Force operations leading to them intercepting and boarding about 1700 vessels during the period. Four Australian naval officers commanded the multinational force at various times during the course of the operation.

Diego Garcia[edit]

A detachment of four Australian F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft provided air defence for the US military base on the island of Diego Garcia during the campaign against the Taliban. The initial detachment was provided by No. 77 Squadron RAAF between December 2001 and 10 February 2002. This detachment was replaced by a detachment from No. 3 Squadron RAAF which was deployed between 10 February 2002 and 20 May 2002. No further Australian units have been deployed to Diego Garcia.[16]

Casualties[edit]

The repatriation ceremony held for Private Sher on 7 January 2009

Operation Slipper is notable for the first Australian combat deaths since the Vietnam War, and to date all casualties have occurred during operations in Afghanistan.[17] 41 Australian soldiers have been killed and 256 wounded, the majority since October 2007.[1][18] Another Australian was killed while serving with the British Army.[1][19]

Timeline[edit]

An ASLAV leading a resupply convoy from Kandahar to Tarin Kowt in May 2010
From March 2011, the ADF in Afghanistan has exclusive rights to a leased Mi-26 Halo heavy lift helicopter provided by PME International-Vertical T, enabling deployed forces to be less reliant on road transport.[20]
Australian and British gunners, March 2009
2001
  • 11 September - Islamist terrorists attack New York and Washington, killing nearly 3,000 people.
  • November - The first Australian forces are committed.
2002
  • 16 February - Sergeant Andrew Russell (SASR) becomes the first Australian killed in Afghanistan after his patrol vehicle struck a land mine.
  • March - Australian and coalition forces conduct a major offensive to clear the Paktia region along the border with Pakistan in Operation Anaconda. More than 500 Taliban were reported killed.[21]
2006
  • July - During Operation Perth Australian special forces troops, working together with Netherlands Korps Commandotroepen, killed 150 Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in nine days of fierce fighting in the Chora district, 40 kilometres (25 mi) north-east of Tarin Kowt in southern Afghanistan. The fighting was the heaviest experienced by Australian forces since the Vietnam War and saw six Australians wounded in action.[22]
2007
2008
  • 2 September - Nine Australian Special Forces soldiers are wounded, including three seriously, during a major ambush on their patrol by insurgents.[23]
2009
  • 16 January - Trooper Mark Donaldson (SASR) was awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia for gallantry under heavy enemy fire during a contact on 2 September 2008.
  • March/April - Australian troops from the Special Operations Task Group and the Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force killed at least 80 Taliban fighters in a major four-week operation in Helmand province. An Australian bomb disposal expert was killed and four others wounded.[24]
  • 12 April - Heavy fighting during Operation Shak Hawel in the Chora Valley north of Tarin Kowt resulted in the Battle of Kakarak during which a large Taliban force unsuccessfully attempted to ambush an Australian combined arms platoon from MRTF-1. Insurgent casualties were heavy and believed to included 20 killed and 20 wounded, while there were no Australian casualties.[24]
  • Early May - A senior insurgent commander, Mullah Noorullah, was killed in a joint Australian operation after he and one other insurgent were tracked moving into a tunnel system by Special Forces in Oruzgan province. Noorullah was also understood to have been involved in the major battle with Afghan and Australian forces on 12 April.[25]
  • October - Sabi, an Australian special forces explosives detection dog which was declared missing in action after 2 September 2008 ambush, is recovered safe and well.[26][27]
2010
  • 21–23 April - Australian Special Forces soldiers responding to a call for help from elders in Gizab in northern Uruzgan become involved in heavy fighting over several days, after local nationals staged an uprising against the shadow Taliban government. During the uprising residents of Gizab captured several Taliban fighters, and were then attacked by nearly a dozen insurgents in retaliation, with the town's local defence force, supported by the Australians and coalition aircraft, repelling the attack. The operation resulted in the clearance of the town and a number of insurgent casualties.[28][29]
  • 10–14 June - Australian Special Forces and Afghan troops conduct an offensive in the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province, resulting in very heavy insurgent casualties, including up to 100 killed in action.[30] The operation occurred in preparation for the coalition clearance of Kandahar and significantly disrupted a major insurgent safe haven. One Australian soldier and one Afghan were wounded in the action.[31] Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith of the Special Air Service Regiment was awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia for his actions during the offensive.[32]
  • 21 June - Three Australian soldiers of the 2nd Commando Regiment were killed when the US UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter carrying them crashed in northern Kandahar Province.[33] The helicopter's US pilot was also killed, while a US crewman and the other seven Australian commandos aboard were also injured.[34][35][36]
  • 24 August - Australian forces from 1st Mentoring Task Force and Afghan National Army soldiers are involved in intense fighting during a three-hour close quarters battle with Taliban forces in Deh Rahwood, in western Uruzgan during the Battle of Derapet. AH-64 Apache attack helicopters provided close air support before the combined Australian and Afghan patrol broke contact after inflicting heavy casualties on the Taliban who were forced to retreat into the mountains. One Australian was killed in the fighting, while a large number of insurgents were known to have been killed.[37]
2011
  • 30 May - An Australian Army CH-47D Chinook helicopter crashed during a resupply operation in Zabul Province, killing one Australian and injuring five others. The Chinook was unable to be recovered, and was subsequently destroyed in place.[38]
  • 9 September - Australian forces from MTF-3 are heavily engaged during the Battle of Doan.[39]
  • 30 October - ANA/Australian Incident in which 3 Australians were killed as well as an Afghan interpreter and 7 injured after an Afghan ally turned his gun against the Australians. This event marked the bloodiest incident for Australian forces in the Afghanistan War, and the worst for the ADF since Vietnam.[40]

Cost[edit]

The cost of Operation Slipper has represented the largest operation expenditure for most of its operational life. Below is the yearly expenditure on Operation Slipper of the Australian Defence Force.

Year 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Cost (AUD$ million) $575.3[41] $661[42] $1381.1[43] $1100[44] $1221.8[45] $1700[46] $1800[47]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Australian Defence Force personnel wounded and killed in action". Australian Operation in Afghanistan. Australian Department of Defence. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  2. ^ "Operation SLIPPER Afghanistan". Department of Defence. Retrieved 2009-01-06. 
  3. ^ a b Neville (2008). Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan. p. 30. 
  4. ^ Neville (2008). Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan. p. 29. 
  5. ^ Dennis et al 2008, pp. 7–9.
  6. ^ Dennis et al 2008, pp. 7–8.
  7. ^ Australia to double Afghan force. bbc.co.uk. Date: 2007-4-10. Accessed: 2007-4-12.
  8. ^ a b c "Global Operations – Department of Defence". Australian Department of Defence. Retrieved 2009-04-15. 
  9. ^ "Government losing support for Afghanistan campaign". ABC News. 29 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  10. ^ "Australian SAS soldier Mark Donaldson awarded Victoria Cross". The Australian. 16 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-16. 
  11. ^ Dennis et al 2008, p. 9.
  12. ^ "Al Minhad Air Base - Global Collaborative". Australian Bases Abroad. Nautilus Institute. 2009. Retrieved 13 January 2010. [dead link]
  13. ^ "Global Operations". Department of Defence. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  14. ^ "Under heavy security, PM Tony Abbott visits Afghanistan and declares war over". News Corp Australia Network. 29 October 2013. 
  15. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-29/tony-abbott-makes-first-visit-to-afghanistan-as-prime-minister/5051242
  16. ^ http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BN/1011/MilitaryInvolvementAfghanistan
  17. ^ "Tributes flow for fallen SAS sergeant". Melbourne: The Age. 25 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-28. 
  18. ^ "Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan". http://www.defence.gov.au (Aust. Dept. of Defence). 10 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  19. ^ "Rifleman Stuart Nash killed fighting with British Forces". The Australian. 19 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-26. 
  20. ^ Garibay, Spc Edward (19 March 2011). "Australia contracts new gigantic helicopter for Afghanistan". 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. Defense Video and Imagery Distribution (DVIDS)). Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  21. ^ Dennis et al (2008), p. 8.
  22. ^ "Diggers 'killed 150 in Afghanistan'". news.com.au. 12 September 2006. Retrieved 2009-01-11. [dead link]
  23. ^ "Special Operations Task Group Soldiers Wounded in Afghanistan - Update". Australian Department of Defence. 4 September 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  24. ^ a b McPhedran, Ian (25 April 2009). "Australian soldiers have killed more than 100 Taliban". news.com.au. Retrieved 10 November 2010. 
  25. ^ "Pressure Mounts as another Taliban Leader is Killed". Australian Department of Defence. 6 May 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-14. 
  26. ^ "Australian Dog Returns Home After A Year In The Wilderness". www.defence.gov.au, Defence Media Release. Australian Department of Defence. 12 November 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-11-11. Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  27. ^ "Handler never gave up on lost army dog". ABC News. 12 November 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-11-14. Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  28. ^ "Anzac Day in Gizab". www.defence.gov.au, Defence Media Release. Australian Department of Defence. 24 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-16. 
  29. ^ "Afghan Civilians Help Police Repel Taliban Attack". www.defense.gov. American Forces Press Service. 16 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-18. 
  30. ^ "Combat Operations: Afghanistan". Australian and New Zealand Defender (Brisbane: Fullbore Magazines) (71): 36. Spring 2010. ISSN 1322-039X. 
  31. ^ "Insurgents driven out of Shah Wali Kot". www.defence.gov.au, Defence Media Release. Australian Department of Defence. 16 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-16. 
  32. ^ "Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, VC, MG". Citation - Victoria Cross for Australia. Department of Defence, Commonwealth of Australia. 23 January 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2011. 
  33. ^ Australian Associated Press (21 June 2010). "Three Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 21 June 2010. 
  34. ^ Nicholson, Brendan (22 June 2010). "Crash kills three Diggers in Afghanistan". The Australian. Retrieved 22 June 2010. 
  35. ^ Australian Associated Press (21 June 2010). "Three Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan". The Age. 
  36. ^ "3 Aussie soldiers killed in Afghanistan". 3AW Radio. 21 June 2010. Retrieved 22 June 2010. 
  37. ^ "Battle of Derapet footage released". www.defence.gov.au, Defence Media Release. Australian Department of Defence. 17 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  38. ^ "Australian Chinook crashes in Afghanistan". Australian Aviation. 1 June 11. Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  39. ^ Gary Ramage (9 September 2009). "Video: Battle of Doan". Herald Sun. Retrieved 15 December 2011. .
  40. ^ ABC (30 October 2011). "3 Australians killed". ABC. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  41. ^ http://www.defence.gov.au/budget/07-08/pbs/2007-2008_Defence_PBS_03_s1_ch2.pdf Page 23
  42. ^ http://www.defence.gov.au/budget/09-10/pbs/2009-2010_Defence_PBS_03_department.pdf
  43. ^ http://www.defence.gov.au/budget/09-10/pbs/2009-2010_Defence_PBS_03_department.pdf
  44. ^ http://www.defence.gov.au/minister/90tpl.cfm?CurrentId=10273
  45. ^ http://www.defence.gov.au/minister/90tpl.cfm?CurrentId=10273
  46. ^ http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/BudgetReview201112/ADF
  47. ^ http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/2012/05/08/minister-for-defence-budget-2012-13-defence-operations-funding/

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]