Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Australian Soldier Killed By IED Attack In Afghanistan

Australians on patrol in Afghanistan

Update : The soldier who was killed yesterday in Afghanistan was David Pearce, 41. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson waited only hours after the official announcement of the soldier's death to begin politicising the tragedy, by kicking off the 'Blame Iran' campaign, though Nelson admitted he has no proof the IED that killed Pearce comes from Iran.

Yesterday, an IED tore through an Australian patrol in the southern Oruzgan province in Afghanistan killing one Australian soldier, wounding another, and injuring three local children.

The injured soldier was airlifted to a medical base and was reported to have serious injuries, though they are not believed to be life-threatening.

The death of the soldier marks the first combat-related fatality for Australia in Afghanistan or Iraq during the 'War on Terror', as a direct result of enemy action.

Hopefully both sides of politics will be able to refrain from seeking political capital from the death of this soldier, but don't bet on it.

If anything, the death of the soldier, and the blanket media coverage that the arrival of his body back home will generate, along with the politician-heavy funeral and memorial service, is bound to ramp up the ferocity of debate here over the future role of Australian troops in the 'War on Terror'.

The Labor Party is currently planning to withdraw most of the combat troops from Iraq in 2008, should it win office, but leader Kevin Rudd recently committed to an ongoing deployment of troops to Afghanistan.

Some 1000 Australian soldiers are based at Camp Holland, in the Oruzgan province, according to ABC News.

More than 50% of Australians now oppose Australia's involvement in military action in Afghanistan.

Presumably the Taliban are well aware there is a federal election drawing near in Australia. The death of the soldier is likely to return Australia's involvement in the 'War on Terror' to the top rung of the pre-election campaign issues.

Australian troops have endured massive fighting against the Taliban in recent months, killing dozens of militants. More than six Australian soldiers have been injured since June in gunfights with the Taliban.

The fatal IED attack yesterday has been reported have specifically targeted Australian troops.

The Taliban would clearly know who the Australians are, and what their uniforms and vehicles look like.