Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Defence
I am advised by the Department of Defence that two Dutch attack helicopters were involved in the action on 2 September 2008.
I am also advised that in support of the mission Australian troops had fire support available from United Statesand United Kingdom attack helicopters and United States F-18 aircraft.
The ADF has contacted their Dutch counterparts who have indicated their intention to review the claims.
The incident, as it has been reported, goes to the detail of operational procedures and rules of engagement. As is the case in such matters, I take the professional operational advice of the CDF.
It remains my view that the Dutch have made a very important contribution in Uruzgan.
Australia greatly appreciates the efforts of the Dutch forces in Uruzgan and the close relationship that we developed with them.
The Government has welcomed the extension of Dutch helicopter support in Afghanistan through until mid next month. This is part of the overall International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) helicopter pool from which all ISAF forces benefit.
The Prime Minister and I have said that ensuring sufficient helicopter support for our troops is crucial. The Prime Minister raised this with General Petraeus, Commander ISAF and Colonel Creighton, Commander Combined Team-Uruzgan, during her recent visit to Afghanistan, and with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Brussels. I raised this issue with US Secretary for Defense Gates at the ASEAN Defence MinistersPlus Meeting in Hanoi.
Combined Team Uruzgan is currently working with ISAF Headquarters in Kabul in order to ensure that replacement helicopter capability is able to provide continued support and will be in place at the time of the Dutch withdrawal.
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