Rebellion in the Defence ranks - officers want more support for Diggers
The Daily Telegraph
September 24, 2010 12:00AM
MILITARY officers are angry top brass failed to reveal hundreds of troops were available but not used during a fatal battle in Afghanistan.
They accused Joint Operations Chief Lieutenant-General Mark Evans of understating the numbers available for the August 24 battle against 100 enemy fighters that claimed the life of Lance Corporal Jared Mackinney.
Up to 200 soldiers were kept in reserve during the three-hour battle and mortar and artillery support were not deployed, according to a briefing paper written by a senior intelligence official and obtained by The Daily Telegraph.
"Why did we have to withdraw when the enemy would have been armed with nothing more than light machine guns, rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and we had artillery, attack helicopters, light armour, fixed-wing air support and 250 troops?" the brief read.
The brief echoes the frustration at a lack of fire support and heavy armour to Australian troops first outlined in an email from a Digger who fought in the battle.
The paper adds weight to the view Diggers are fighting with a hand tied behind their backs.
"No one is questioning the conduct of the tactical commander," the document said.
"No one is being an 'armchair general'. What is being asked is whether General-rank officers are doing their job, shaping the battlefield by providing to the tactical commanders in these fire fights the resources they need to do the job and prevail. Retreating from a battle does not win you a war."
The latest document reflects the frustration felt by soldiers who believe the Australian commander on the ground, Major General John Cantwell - an armoured corps officer - should be provided with Abrams tanks.
"The deployment of a troop of tanks [three or four Abrams main battle tanks] would provide the existing task force with sufficient heavy armour to make the task force self-sufficient in terms of heavy armour support," it said.
According to sources, General Cantwell regularly requests more fire support, but his pleas have been rejected by a Government that fears a Vietnam-style quagmire or civilian casualties.
The army has 59 Abrams available for deployment.
Some officers have also demanded $70 million Tiger attack helicopters, but the Army's 17 machines won't be ready to fly to war until May next year.
"This battle has got to have raised doubts in the minds of the troops that we are behind them all the way," the report says.
"The army has let us down mate and I am disgusted." Battle of Derapet, Australian Soldier’s shocking account of needless death of Lance Corporal Jared Mackinney