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Friday, January 30, 2009

MINISTER ON AFGHAN FACT FINDING TRIP?

Exclusive

Tim Holding - Brumby’s man turned PM Rudd’s international man of mystery?
VIC MINISTER WON’T CONFIRM OR DENY AFGHAN TRIP

By Sasha Uzunov
Copyright 2009

Mr Tim Holding, a Victorian State government minister who is a former Australian Army Reserve Special Forces soldier, will not confirm nor deny speculation about him undertaking a short fact finding mission to Afghanistan on behalf of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

A prominent strategic analyst, who has the close ear of governments, and speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he wanted to “float the idea of Mr Holding undertaking a fact finding mission to the Australian base in Tarin Kowt province [in Southern Afghanistan].”

“Mr Holding is an intelligent young politician with links to Special Forces. The Australian media underestimate his ability, which is why he would be ideal for the mission: he would slip under the media radar,” the strategic analyst said. “Mr Holding has not been informed of the proposed trip.”

The analyst said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was not happy with the flow of information about Afghanistan coming from the army chain of command and needed his own “eyes and ears” on the ground for a couple of weeks to assess the situation.

Mr Holding’s office was contacted a week ago to confirm or deny if Mr Holding knew the speculation about the Afghanistan trip. But no comment has been forthcoming.

Mr Holding served as a Signaller or communications expert with the elite Army Reserve Special Forces unit, 126 Commando Signals Squadron, then attached to 1 Commando Regiment, 2nd Company, at Fort Gellibrand, Williamstown, Melbourne, Victoria from 1991 to 1993.

Greg Sher the eighth and most recent Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan was also a member of 1 Commando Regiment (1 CDO Regt).

Mr Holding is the Minister for Finance, WorkCover and Transport Accident Commission, and Minister for Water, Minister for Tourism and Major Events in the John Brumby ALP state government.

A former Australian intelligence agent, with extensive Middle East experience, and also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he believed that Prime Minister Rudd would change Australia’s current military policy and commit a regular army infantry battalion (about 500 soldiers) to Afghanistan very soon.

Current military policy is for Australia’s Special Forces units, SASR and 4RAR (Commando) to do the frontline fighting in Afghanistan, which according to standard doctrine should be carried out by regular infantry.

SASR and 4RAR (Cdo)’s traditional roles include surveillance of the enemy, information gathering or carrying out raids against targets or securing entry and exits points for other army units.

SASR, 4RAR (Cdo) and 1 CDO Regt fall under the Australian Army's Special Operations Command (SOCOMD).

In contrast the Canadian army, after decades of peacekeeping, has regular infantry fighting the Taliban in the dangerous southern Afghanistan province of Kandahar. But over 100 Canadian soldiers have been killed.

(end)

- UPDATED - 3 February 2009

Link:

Paul Daley in the excellent article below tells of the Australian Defence Minister's frustration at not being able to go outside the wire in Afghanistan and have a look for himself

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/are-our-troops-really-helping-in-afghanistan-20090131-7ued.html?skin=text-only

Are our troops really helping in Afghanistan?

The Sunday Age

Date: February 1 2009

By Paul Daley
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Older Links:

http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,23995986-5000117,00.html

Herald Sun newspaper

New options to blunt Taliban
by Sasha Uzunov
July 10, 2008 12:00am
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2005 UZUNOV STORY ON THE OVER USE OF THE SAS (extract):

The Herald Sun newspaper
A grand political warrior

by Sasha Uzunov21 January 2005

...Some have criticised General (Peter) Cosgrove on his over reliance on the SAS to do the fighting in East Timor that would normally have been taken up by the regular infantry.But I think this criticism is unjustified.

Criticism should be aimed at the government of the day (Howard 1996-2007) and those at home squeamish about seeing a 19 year old lad away from home for the first time fighting a war. Better to send the SAS, whose identity cannot be revealed...

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