'Land, Kill and Leave': How Australian Special Forces Helped Lose the War in Afghanistan by C. August Elliott - ABC (Australia) News
The photographs, the documents, the whistleblower testimony are all there - the brutal details of our diggers' conduct brought forward into the harsh light of day.
A blow has been dealt to the prestige of Australia's special forces with in-kind damages likely to follow for the reputation of the Australian Army as a whole.
At first, it might seem tempting to think of these kinds of events as isolated incidents that do not speak to a more widespread problem within the Army's special operations community. But misconduct on the battlefield also speaks to a wayward shift in a military force's broader operating culture.
Along with the Maywand District murders and the Panjywai massacre, what these new allegations levelled against Australian soldiers in Uruzgan will come to symbolise is the ultimate failure of Western militaries to adapt to a fight where the decisive battle was the human terrain.
According to our military leaders, the reason for Australia's presence in Uruzgan province between 2001 and 2014 was to "clear, hold and build" a Taliban-free Afghanistan. Per counterinsurgency doctrine, by providing an enduring sense of physical security to local Afghans, the "hearts and minds" as well as the rifles and trigger-fingers of fighting-aged males in Uruzgan would eventually be won over.
At some point it seems that this strategic guidance either failed or was wholly ignored.
While Special Operations soldiers had earlier played a kind of "guardian angel" role in support of their regular counterparts in the Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force, as the Afghan war dragged on, that role became increasingly aggressive.
An upsurge in "direct action" operations began to distract from efforts to secure the population. By 2010, much of the task group was solely focused on so-called "high-value targeting" — the coalition's effort to kill or capture an ever-growing list of local Taliban "commanders".
As a former Special Operations Task Group member drily put it to me, the new penchant for fly-in fly-out missions conducted out the side of a Black Hawk saw the entire concept of operations switch from "clear, hold and build" to "land, kill and leave"…