Australian Defence Force (ADF) operations and the size of the forces deployed have varied and ADF involvement has included two major areas of activity: Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf. These activities have seen the deployment of naval, air and land forces that have taken part in combat and combat support operations as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
On the eleventh of September 2001 Islamist terrorists attack New York City and Washington D.C., killing nearly 3,000 people. By November 2001: The first Australian forces are committed.
Jack in Afghanistan
A landlocked multiethnic country located in the heart of south-central Asia. Afghanistan. Lying along important trade routes connecting southern and eastern Asia to Europe and the Middle East. She has long been a prize sought by empire builders, and for millennia great armies have attempted to subdue her, leaving traces of their efforts in great monuments now fallen to ruin. The country’s forbidding landscape of deserts and mountains has laid many imperial ambitions to rest, as has the tireless resistance of its fiercely independent peoples—so independent that the country has failed to coalesce into a nation but has instead long endured as a patchwork of contending ethnic factions and ever-shifting alliances.
Rivalries between imperial Britain and tsarist Russia helped form the modern boundaries of Afghanistan in the late 19th century. Modern Afghanistan became a pawn in struggles over political ideology and commercial influence during the late twentieth century. She had suffered the effects of civil war exacerbated by military invasion by the Soviet Union. In subsequent struggles, an Afghan communist regime held out against Islamic insurgents, and a movement of religious students, known as the Taliban that soon fell under the influence of a group of well-funded Islamists led by an exiled Saudi Arabian, Osama bin Laden.
The capital, Kabul, A serene city of mosques and gardens during the storied reign of the emperor Bābur (1526–30), founder of the Mughal dynasty, and for centuries an important entrepôt on the Silk Road, Kabul lay in ruins following the long and violent Afghan War. So, too, fared much of the country, its economy in shambles and its people scattered and despondent. By the early 21st century an entire generation of Afghans had come to adulthood knowing nothing but war.
Afghanistan is completely landlocked. Because of both its isolation and its volatile political history, it remains one of the most poorly surveyed areas of the world and as a result navigation by friend or foe has been difficult over the centuries. Afghanistan’s shape has been compared to a leaf, of which the Vākhān strip, nestled high in the Pamirs, forms the stem. The outstanding geographic feature of Afghanistan is its mountain range, the Hindu Kush. This magnificent backdrop creates the predominant spine of Afghanistan from northeast to southwest.
Not far from Kabul it spreads out and continues westward forming a number of natural barricades and segues to caved regions, used infamously over the centuries by insurgents for their nefarious means. The most recent by the Taliban in Jack Carpenter's conflicts with them during his time in Afghanistan. Several large rivers cross the southwestern plateau; among them are the Helmand River and its major tributary, the Arghandāb.
Most of Afghanistan lies between 2,000 and 10,000 feet (600 and 3,000 metres). Along the Amu Darya in the north and the delta of the Helmand River in the southwest. It was in this beautifully and deceptively serene yet not serene perspective that Jack would confront his four significant battles, both personal and patriotic, in defining his future.
What made Jack's leadership and subsequent victories all the more hard-won was Afghanistan's unforgiving climate. She suffers extremely cold winters and hot summers, typical of a semiarid steppe climate. There are numerous regional variations, however, that make deployment logistics to these fronts almost impossible to plan and deliver. While the mountain regions of the northeast have a subarctic climate with dry, cold winters, the mountainous areas on the border of Pakistan are influenced by the Indian monsoons, usually coming between July and September and bringing maritime tropical air masses with humidity and rains.
Strong winds, like maelstroms delivering unannounced pandemonium to the allies' war efforts, blow almost daily in the southwest during the summer. Local variation raised the degree of difficulty manifold for Jack's Squadron as they moved through changes in elevation from hills and mountains and back down into valleys surrounded by enemy strongholds disguised as caves.
Winter weather strongly influenced by cold air masses from the north and the Atlantic low from the northwest brought snowfall and severe cold in the highlands and rain to the lowlands. Speaking of rainfall, in the mountains the annual mean increased from west to east. In the Sālang Pass of the Hindu Kush, annual rainfall has been known to exceed 53 inches (1,350 mm). Jack's forces experiencing nearly half that in a single month during battle. The summer months are hot, dry, and cloudless everywhere but in the monsoon region. The climate driven hardships saw many squadrons like Jack's pushed to their limit of durability, with critical concentration for survival threatened to the threshold of limitation.
Afghanistan - Australia at War (Again)
Afghanistan - The Unforgiving Country
Jack Carpenter entered the war on terror fresh from RMC Duntroon in 2005. The details of his battles and their consequences fictitious by necessity, as they are based on true stories, their sensitivity respected in all aspects of the conflicts.
Operation Slipper, as it was named, was notable for the first Australian combat deaths since the Vietnam War, and to date all casualties had occurred during operations in Afghanistan. Forty-One Australian soldiers killed, and two hundred and sixty-one wounded, the majority since October 2007.
Since the beginning of time there have been many 'Jack Carpenters', and many men and women who will have served under a 'Jack Carpenter' and fought alongside a 'Jack Carpenter'. Men and women who have sacrificed small and large slices of their life, and men and women who have sacrificed their lives in totality and prematurely, selflessly, for causes that they didn’t fully understand. Causes that may or may not have directly involved the freedom of their homelands. These young men and women must have often wondered where these journeys into their futures would lead, not yet arriving at adulthood to realise their childhood dreams, nor their potential had they have not made these sacrifices in whatever course they decided to take.
Jack Carpenter's first book is dedicated to these selfless individuals who have made it possible for our children and our children's children to live in freedom in a democracy that owes so much to so few.
Jack's Time in Afghanistan
Jack's four tours of Afghanistan spanned almost six years and four major engagements. Even his first deployment as a young Lieutenant just out of Duntroon, a baptism of fire, if you will. Thrust into the fray in what appeared to be a benign political baby-sitting assignment, turned into an attack by the Taliban on their first Forward Operating Base.
The next three tours became increasingly horrific. Dahmeld, Baghran and Delak. Each one providing Jack with greater challenges, both operationally and personally. His second tour saw him swiftly promoted to Captain and CO of his squadron. But this made the killing and loss of mates and soldiers no more palatable.
Placed in charge of the entire operation during his final tour, destined to be the defining conflict in the war on terror with the Taliban, Jack had triumphed operationally, but once again, suffered personally.
Jack lay in his bunk that night of the final engagement, tossing and turning, recalling all of those official Defence and unofficial newspaper reports put together thousands of kilometres away. All quoting high-level Defence members and politicians.
Turning to all the things he had read where these detached people all put forward any theory that would rationalise where they were now and where they might be heading with the war on terror, Jack remembered vividly more than one politician relating the elation of victory yet maintaining the grief for those lost. A nowhere statement, he thought at the time, that gives no solace to me or any of the thousands of men at the front line, nor the families who have lost their loved ones.
Jack’s recollections of these had twisted even further into a vortex of the unexplained. He had read about the resilience of the Australians in Afghanistan, in the face of on-going crisis and the need to maintain their presence long after what had transpired that day. This was the real low point for Jack, his thoughts spun like fairy floss, not sweet but laced with the sourest, unpalatable medicine possible. I can’t believe the number of these reports coming from home that would quote defence members and politicians dangling the carrot of honouring our dead mates to have us keep on returning to complete the fight on terror. They just don’t get it!
Tomorrow would be just another day, or would it? Five years returning for the same drug. Senseless fighting and maiming in the guise of the war on terror. No. Jack had made his decision. A decision that would define his pathway through life, and there was nothing Lt. Col. Hughes could do about it - or was there?
Read the full account of Jack's time in Afghanistan in 'The Vytautas Pursuit', Jack Carpenter's debut thriller.