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Australian Forces In Battle In Afghanistan


180502 Transcript Doorstop Australian Forces In Battle In Afghanistan - Brig Hannan

Event: DOORSTOP INTERVIEW Date: 18/05/2002 Slip ID: C00006985483 Time: 03:45 PM AUSTRALIAN FORCES IN A BATTLE OPERATION IN AFGHANISTAN. INTERVIEWEE: BRIGADIER MIKE HANNAN

BRIGADIER MIKE HANNAN:Okay, ladies and gentlemen, thanks for coming out on such a chilly afternoon. There's been considerable speculation about what's been happening in Afghanistan since our reports of the conflicts on Thursday night. I can confirm for you that our Forces, after successfully disengaging form those contacts, have remained in the area and are continuing to assist the British Forces in that location with the follow-up operations. There have been no further engagements involving Australians since then. Are there any questions?

QUESTION: Were the British forces sent there as part of Operation Condor to help out the Australian SAS Forces?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: The British Forces were a follow-on force, following up the contact that the Australians had on Thursday night.

QUESTION: So they were called in particularly in relation to that? I mean what prompted them to be called in?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: Yes, that's correct. They were a following force. They were following on from the contact and exploiting the contact.

QUESTION: There have been a range of suggestions in the media overseas, right through to the suggestion that there might have been a wedding party with people firing guns into the air that might have actually been shot up by our troops. Is there any - can you shed any light on that?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: We have heard some of those reports. I can assure you that our troops were where they were supposed to be. They were doing what they were supposed to be doing and doing it well. Our troops were fired on from several positions, well defended and dug in positions with heavy weapons, hardly a wedding party. And the battle lasted from midday till dusk before they could disengage themselves. So I think the facts speak for themselves.

QUESTION: There's also been a suggestion that perhaps it's been a battle between the local warlords?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: As I said to you, the Australians were where they were supposed to be doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing and doing it well. This particular battle went on for a substantial period of time and I can assure you that the firing was directed at the Australians and not at each other.

QUESTION: Were they engaged with the enemy the entire time?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: As I understand the battle, from the information we have available, which is a long way from complete, the battle went on from basically lunchtime till dusk.

QUESTION: Were they on foot or in a vehicle?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: We don't have the exact details but there were patrols on foot and there were also vehicles involved.

QUESTION: Can you give us an idea, sorry, how many there might have been?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: No, I can't.

QUESTION: What sort of terrain where they fighting over? Can you provide us with...

BRIGADIER HANNAN: It was hilly terrain.

QUESTION: High altitude?

QUESTION: What can you tell us about...?

QUESTION: Sorry, high altitude, was it?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: It was hilly terrain at medium altitude.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about Operation Condor? The British commander said that they had been engaged in attacks. Several enemy people had been killed. What can you tell us about that?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: We don't have any specific information on that. Those operations are on-going and we can't comment on those matters.

QUESTION: But Australians are involved in that as well?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: Australians are remaining to assist with that operation, and as the purpose of the Australian operations there is surveillance or the providing of intelligence to the commanders, you can imagine how the Australian experience on Thursday would be providing useful intelligence for the British follow-on force.

QUESTION: Can you say how long the Australians have been in the region?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: No, I cannot.

QUESTION: We're talking about East Paktia [phonetic]?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: I'm sorry.

QUESTION: We're talking about the East Paktia Province?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: We're talking about an area in south-east of Kabul?

QUESTION: Can I just ask, was there any New Zealanders you are aware that were involved in the operation?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: I don't have any information about that.

QUESTION: How many enemy were killed?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: We don't have any detailed information about that. The Australia Forces disengaged as quickly as they were able and withdrew from the area. Clearly they were not following up the issue of enemy killed or wounded.

QUESTION: Their early disengagement with the help of American helicopters, is that right?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: They disengaged with the assistance of the United States Air Force close air support aircraft. That's correct.

QUESTION: Apache helicopters? One report said from overseas.

BRIGADIER HANNAN: Well I can't confirm that, I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Excuse me for my lateness, but can I just get an understanding of who they were fighting?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: We're not sure of the identity of the combatants. They were heavily armed. They were using heavy machineguns, rocket-propelled grenades and a range of other weapons from dug in, defensive positions.

QUESTION: So they were anticipating the Australians coming through, were they? Is that the way it seems? BRIGADIER HANNAN: Well they were in prepared, defensive positions.

QUESTION: The Australians were fired upon first, weren't they?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any intelligence as to the numbers of the enemy forces?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: No, we don't. I can't determine what it was like on the ground, from here in Canberra, but I can reasonably assume that the Australian elements, the surveillance elements, were very concerned with their disengagement and it would have been difficult for them to determine the size of the total enemy force.

QUESTION: They would have been heavily outnumbered though?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: We couldn't comment on the numbers.

QUESTION: In terms of heavy weapons, would this be rockets and mortars, that sort of thing?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: Certainly heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

QUESTION: In this latest operation, there's a thousand people involved in it from my understanding. Is that - that seems like a fairly huge number. Does that vastly outweigh the enemy fighters there?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: Well we have no information about that, about the detail of the enemy fighters but that operation was being conducted with the benefit of intelligence, that the commanders would have on the ground and I'm sure that they've structured the force according to what they believe the need is.

QUESTION: Is this one of the largest...

QUESTION: Yes, that's what I was going to say. Is it one of the biggest? How would it compare with previous operations?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: Well we don't - I don't know that.

QUESTION: What were the weather conditions like on Thursday evening?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: I don't have specific information on the weather conditions. DOD OFFICIAL: If there are no more questions...? Thank you.

QUESTION: There's nothing more you could add, is there, in terms of detail...

BRIGADIER HANNAN: No, I think...

QUESTION: ...that we haven't asked about.

BRIGADIER HANNAN: ...we've covered off the issues on Friday's brief and today was just to assure you that some of the matters that had been raised in the press were in fact not matters relating to Australians.

QUESTION: Do you know what time the British troops got there though? Obviously it was in response to the initial attack and that happened Thursday night our time. Do you know at what point the...

BRIGADIER HANNAN: No, I don't have the specific time that they arrived.

QUESTION: They arrived at the end, or half was through...?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: The Australians has disengaged from the enemy position before the arrival of the follow-up force.

DOD OFFICIAL: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.

* * End * *


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