Aust helping Afghans take fight to Taliban

As his unit rolls out for another patrol, just days after the deadliest single terror attack in Kabul since 2011, Sergeant Noor Doost says he’s desperate to take the fight to the Taliban.

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“It’s my duty to protect my country, and as long as I have a drop of blood in my body I will fight for my country to make it safe,” he says.

But the Taliban prefers the shadows.

“If they really want to fight us they should come face-to-face, and not hide themselves.

“We are always ready to fight them.”

Sgt Doost is a member of the Special Missions Unit, a relatively new Afghan security force and part of the Kabul Garrison Command, a crucial bulwark against the insurgents, and which has been receiving advice and training from the Australian military.

The bombing last Tuesday, which came just days after the Taliban announced it was launching its annual spring offensive, killed at least 64 people and left more than 300 wounded.

The attack on the national security services during the morning rush hour, in an area close to the heart of the government and diplomatic area, comes amid warnings of spiralling violence in the war-torn country.

About 30 members of the National Directorate of Security – also part of the Special Missions Unit – reportedly died in the attack, most shot by gunmen who rushed into the complex after a vehicle packed with explosives blew up at the entrance to the compound.

Colonel Andrew McBaron is the Australian commander of the Kabul Garrison Adviser Team.

Speaking at the garrison headquarters, Col McBaron says he is already seeing results from the training and assistance program which has been in place since February this year.

Key to the program is the development of a “unified command and control structure”, Col McBaron says.

“The signs are very promising that every day they are tightening Kabul’s security.”

But amid the success come warnings that the international community cannot afford to take its eye off Afghanistan, and that the violence is set to worsen in the year ahead.

“The international community must keep their attention on Afghanistan. It’s far from being over. It’s not the time to switch off,” Jean-Nicolas Marti, outgoing head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Afghanistan told Reuters the day after last week’s blast in Kabul.

“The security situation has really deteriorated … and my prediction is a further deterioration,” he said.

“The message is (we need) to make sure that Afghanistan doesn’t become a forgotten or ignored conflict.”

Like many Afghans, Sgt Doost is an immensely proud man.

“It’s my country and I love my country,” he says, just two minutes before the Special Missions Unit heads out on patrol.

“I get very sad and I feel very bad that they are coming and doing suicide attacks here.”

“But we don’t give up.”