ABC News, September 5, 2011
Afghans hit out at Aussie kill/capture strategy
"If they force their way in and attack us during the night, people are not going to accept it,"
By Meredith Griffiths
Innocent people are being killed or forced to flee in fear as Australian special forces teams hunt Taliban commanders in southern Afghanistan, ABC TV's Four Corners has been told.
About 300 elite Australian soldiers are hunting down Taliban commanders in Uruzgan individually, targeting them one by one.
But Afghan civilians' families have told Four Corners innocent people are being killed or forced to flee their homes in fear as the Australians move through different areas, and analysts say the approach is not effective.
The Australian Defence Force says its tactics are appropriate and are constantly reviewed to try to minimise the loss of life and impact on Afghan civilians.
Four Corners has been speaking to several Afghan civilians who have lost innocent friends and families in Australian attacks.
Some, like Abdul, see the Australians as occupiers.
"If they force their way in and attack us during the night, people are not going to accept it," he said.
"They'll have to either run away or have to take their arms and fight to the last."
Some observers say Australian forces are being manipulated by Afghan factions who are out to settle personal scores.
In September 2008, special forces launched one of their missions to capture or kill a Taliban commander.
The man they actually killed was a local police chief and the first democratically elected leader of Uruzgan province, Rozi Khan.
His son, Daoud Mohammed, says the killing prompted many of his tribesmen to join the Taliban.
"People hated the Australians because they have killed our leader, who was not only a tribal leader but was our commander during the jihad," he said.
"People say if they had destroyed the whole province of Uruzgan we would have not suffered as much."
False intel claim
Daoud Mohammed thinks the Australian forces were fed the wrong intelligence by one of his father's rivals, Matiullah Khan, who is the new police chief of Uruzgan.
Afghanistan analyst Michael Semple agrees.
"The way that people like Matiullah Khan operate is extremely clever and quite often ... they spread false intelligence," he said.
"They've got people briefed to give false stories. You really don't actually know that they're doing this."
The ADF has rejected any suggestion Rozi Khan's death was the result of false intelligence and says its expectation is that Matiullah Khan acts in an impartial and professional manner and continues to be a "positive influence" for security in the province.
Mr Semple says the kill or capture strategy is not reaching the national-level leaders of the insurgency.
"As far as I can tell, every commander who has been killed in Uruzgan in this program can be classified as a local commander. They've all been rapidly replaced," he said.
At coalition headquarters in Kabul, commanders are now checking their intelligence with multiple sources and using local Afghan forces to negotiate access when doing kill/capture missions.
An Australian Special Forces commander who cannot be identified says they do get the right targets and they have killed dozens of Taliban leaders.
"So it is actually targeting those individuals that will have the most effect on disrupting the insurgency - that becomes very, very important to us," he said.
Coalition leaders say the kill or capture approach will keep the Taliban on the run and deliver an exit strategy by 2014.
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