The exclusive relationship between the 2nd Commando Regiment and the DEA FAST was attributable to one senior officer from the 2nd Commando Regiment in particular, and for the purposes of this article, he will be referred to as “Rick.” Rick understood that whilst the SOTG was incredibly adept at achieving one of its main objectives of killing insurgents, we were not really reinforcing these effects by attacking their targetable critical vulnerabilities (TCV), the likes of which included their ability to finance their operations.
Our modus operandi (MO) during earlier rotations consisted predominantly of exceptionally long vehicle operations where spending four, five, and six weeks at a time patrolling through southern Afghanistan was not uncommon. At the time, the pendulum was swinging away from vehicle-based patrols and QRF operations to a more offensive deliberate action (DA) strike role, but it was only just starting to move. Our targeting during the early rotations were predominantly historical in context and provided little room to generate any kind of effects on insurgent TCVs. The lack of air assets meant that our historical targeting was a byproduct of our limitations due to the fact that, at the time, our FE operated exclusively as a ground assault force (GAF).
This leads me to Rick’s second point—which was addressed in my previous article—that being the Australian government did not fully enable the SOTG by providing dedicated air assets. Without a doubt, our biggest hindrance was a lack of helicopter support to the SOTG’s counter-insurgency and counter-leadership operations. While our country’s initial CH-47 Chinook helicopter detachment—which operated out of Kandahar Air Field as Task Group 633.7—was deployed to primarily support the Special Forces Task Group (the SFTF was the predecessor to the SOTG), the detachment was re-tasked in 2006 to support the wider NATO effort in the war. The re-tasking coincided with Australia’s initial withdrawal of the SFTF, which made sense as the aircraft and crews could still provide support to the war even though the government believed that the role of our special operations forces was over.
Even though the CH-47D and its 110 personnel from the 5th Aviation Regiment had already been re-tasked, the priority of the detachment was promised to be “given to Australian activities” above all else. In all of my experience deploying to Afghanistan, however, this was far from reality. The aircraft were placed in a pool of coalition air assets which needed to be ‘bid’ on by competing task groups for mission allocation. Operations and potential effect would essentially be weighed up, with air assets being allocated to those which were considered to be the most important.