Australia first deploys troops to Afghanistan

October 22, 2018

On 22 October 2001, Australia's first contingent of Special Forces troops to Afghanistan – part of Operation Slipper – departed from Perth.

The Australian deployment was little more than a month after the September 11 terrorist attacks on US soil (New York and Washington DC targets) soon after which then Prime Minister John Howard formally invoked (for the first time) the ANZUS Treaty (ie the mutual-defence clauses on acting to meet a common danger).

Australia joined the US-led International Coalition against Terrorism – or “the Coalition of the Willing”, after US President George W Bush declared a “war on terror” – to conduct military operations against al-Qa’ida and Taliban targets in Afghanistan, widely held responsible for the September 11 attacks.

Denying al-Qa’ida (and more recently ISIS, since its collapse in Syria and Iraq) a safe haven has been the most consistently stated justification and objective for the war in Afghanistan. The war also quells the re-establishment in the long-war-torn nation of insurgent Taliban forces – the authoritarian Islamic fundamentalists hostile to Western values, our way of life and even moderate Islam.

A broader description of Australia’s role is the following:

“From counter-insurgency, through reconstruction, to mentoring, Australians have been working to create a democratic and stable Afghan nation. This mission aims to assist the people of Afghanistan, but also to promote the security of the region, diminish the influence of terrorist groups, and create a safer global environment.”

Whilst Operation Slipper ended on 31 December 2014, our new support mission of “train, advise and assist” (called Operation Highroad) has continued since. Operation Highroad includes approximately 400 personnel in various roles such as mentoring, advising, providing medical personnel, force protection and logistic support.

To date, more than 26,000 Australian service personnel have served in Afghanistan with 41 killed and over 260 wounded - and remarkable feats of bravery (see More Information below). (Over 2,000 Americans have also been killed.) Australia’s entire Afghan engagement to 2018 has cost around $8 billion.

It is by far the longest conflict Australia has ever been involved in, and in 2019-20 set to become the longest war the United States had been involved in (surpassing Vietnam). Some refer to Afghanistan in 2018 as “a witch’s brew”.

Mark/commemorate the first deployment of Australian forces to Afghanistan by PM Howard’s Coalition Government (soon after the September 11 2001 Islamic terrorist attacks on US soil) by:

More Information

Australian soldiers who have served for 30 days or in 30 sorties in Afghanistan are recognised by the Afghanistan Medal, commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II on the recommendation of then Prime Minister John Howard. 

Our soldiers' bravery has been recognised in four Victoria Cross of Australia awards being given: Mark Donaldson (2008) and Daniel Keighran (201) for valour in the Urozgan province, Ben Roberts-Smith (2010) in the Kandahar province and posthumously to Cameron Baird (2013) in the Khod Valley.

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