Aust-Afghan operations ‘changed markedly’

Australia’s military intervention in Afghanistan has changed markedly since federal MP Andrew Hastie criticised operations as “poorly conceived” two years ago, the commander of Australia’s operations in the region says.

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A former SAS troop commander, Mr Hastie completed a tour of Afghanistan in 2013 and a year later warned in an essay that innocent people would be killed.

But Air Vice Marshal Tim Innes, who commands Australia’s operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan, says while Mr Hastie is entitled to his opinion things have “moved on and changed markedly” in the years since.

“I’m very confident that our troops over there now are making a very positive contribution in Afghanistan in stabilising their government from what has been a tough time and still is a developing and tough time over there as far as security goes,” he said.

He also admitted there was significant ground still to be made.

Mr Hastie’s comments were made in an essay as part of a scholarship application in January 2014 but surfaced on News Corp Australia websites on Anzac Day.

“It is not ideal when you feel the weight of national policy impact upon your immediate judgment and decisions in the field,” Mr Hastie was quoted as saying in the essay.

“Australia had sought to minimise its military contribution at every turn in Afghanistan (raising the question of what we were trying to achieve).”

He reportedly claimed the stakes were too high to allow a union of “poorly conceived policy and military means”.

“People will be killed – and often times they will be innocents.”