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Australian soldiers backed out of Dutch-led Afghan operation

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Sun Oct 28, 3:52 AM ET

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian soldiers did not fight in a heavily-criticised Dutch-led assault on Taliban fighters in Afghanistan because of concerns about differing rules of engagement, the military said Sunday.

Some 52 civilians were reported to have died in the battle in the Chora Valley in southern Uruzgan province in June, prompting Afghan President Hamid Karzai to slam the “indiscriminate and unprecise operations” of the foreign forces.

A spokesman for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) said that Australian officers were involved in the planning of the operation and in manning vehicle checkpoints but did not take part in the June 16-17 combat.

“As the situation in the Chora Valley deteriorated… ADF personnel in Afghanistan became aware that Dutch procedures for this operation differed from Australian targeting procedures and expressed their concerns, including at senior levels,” Brigadier Andrew Nikolic said.

Nikolic said Australian troops shared the same concerns as NATO soldiers about civilian lives being placed at risk by Taliban fighters who were choosing to attack from inside heavily populated areas.

“Australian forces operate under rules of engagement that aim to avoid and minimise civilian casualties,” he said.

While unable to discuss the rules of engagement for Australian forces, Nikolic said they were consistent with the objectives of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

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Written by afghandevnews

October 29, 2007 at 3:40 am

Posted in Security

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