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On assignment in Afghanistan: Karen Middleton reports
Chief Political Correspondent Karen Middleton
reports from Afghanistan as Australia formally takes over full security responsibility for
November 9: Diggers must wear ballistic underwear
Australian soldiers deployed to Afghanistan are now being issued with ballistic underwear for their psychological as well as physical well-being, SBS Chief Political Correspondent Karen Middletonreports.
Styled like bike pants and made from elastane, polyester and silk, the unisex pants protect the groin from blast damage. The double-layer 'ballistic jocks' can be hot and uncomfortable. But they are effective -- and compulsory.
Watch the story here: Diggers don blast proof undies or on YouTube:
November 6: Explosive device training for Afghan forces
Australian investigators are training Afghan counterparts to examine the remnants of exploded bombs, unexploded components and seized weapons for evidence of those who have handled them.
And as SBS Chief Political Correspondent Karen Middleton reports, they are also tracking changes in how explosive devices are constructed, to give soldiers a better chance of detecting them.
Watch this story on YouTube:
November 5: Questions about security after handover
As Australian forces draw down in Afghanistan, there are questions about the security situation they will leave behind. SBS Chief Political Correspondent Karen Middleton and cameraman Jeff Kehl travelled to Deh Rawud, west of Tarin Kowt, for a closer look at the insurgency.
They found an area marked by regular firefights and bomb blasts -- and some tension with the locals.
Watch the story here: Withdrawal raises Afghan security questions or on YouTube:
October 31: Australian troops constantly fear 'green on blue' attacks
Attacks against coalition troops by men wearing Afghan uniforms, so-called ‘green on blue’ attacks, have become a constant threat for Australian troops in Afghanistan. SBS Chief Political Correspondent Karen Middleton is embedded with Australian forces in Uruzgan province. She spoke to Australian and Afghan soldiers about the ‘insider threat’.
Watch the story here: Afghanistan - Dealing with insider attacks or on YouTube:
October 30: A troop’s best friend
With homemade bombs still the biggest threat to Australian forces in Afghanistan, the explosive detection dogs play a crucial role. The dogs aren't bred for the job but are recruited sometimes from the pound - for their retrieval drive. And the best ones risk their lives for the love of a tennis ball, reports Chief Political Corresondent Karen Middleton from Afghanistan.
Watch this story on YouTube:
October 29: Chaplains provide comfort for troops
Along with Australian soldiers deployed in Afghanistan are a number of chaplains – men of God, non-combatants that bring Christian ministry to the soldiers they serve with. Chief Political Correspondent Karen Middleton, embedded with Australian troops in Uruzgan Province, meets the men of peace who help the soldiers through their darker days.
October 28: The band plays on
Most soldiers go to war to fight, but some go to play music. The job of the members of the US 3rd lnfantry Division band is to lift morale and also to farewell the fallen. Some of them were at the Australian base at Tarin Kowt. Chief Political Correspondent Karen Middleton reports from Tarin Kowt.
October 26: Troops farewell fallen digger
EXCLUSIVE REPORT: Australian troops in Afghanistan have farewelled 24-year-old Corporal Scott James Smith from South Australia. The special operations task force group soldier was killed in a bomb blast in Uruzgan province earlier this week. The ramp ceremony took place at the Australian base at Tarin Kowt.
October 25: Are Afghan forces ready for handover?
Australia has begun winding down its operations in Afghanistan, pulling its forces back from their forward bases to their main hub at Tarin Kowt. SBS cheif political correspondent Karen Middleton and cameraman Jeff Kehl take a look at how ready the Afghan security forces are to take over when coalition forces leave. They found that while in some regions the skill is there, sometimes the will is not.
October 24: Mates remember fallen digger
Australian forces in Afghanistan are preparing to formally farewell their fallen colleague Corporal Scott Smith, with a ramp ceremony at Tarin Kowt later this week. But some of his mates are already holding their own memorial services at bases around the country. SBS Senior Political Correspondent Karen Middleton and cameraman Jeff Kehl attended an informal service last night for a man his comrades called a brother in arms.
October 23: How do Aussie troops deal with IEDs?
The latest death of an Australian soldier has reinforced the threat of Improvised Explosive Devices or IEDs.
IEDs are one of the leading causes of death for Australian troops. Of the 39 soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2002, 14 have been victims of IEDs.
WATCH: Karen Middleton and cameraman Jeff Kehl joined Australian and Afghan troops on a mission to detonate a roadside bomb.
October 22: Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan
Defence has confirmed an Australian soldier has been killed in an operational incident in Afghanistan.
WATCH: Karen Middleton reports from Uruzgan Province, with details of the death of an Australian soldier killed by an explosive device in Afghanistan.
LISTEN: Andy Park speaks with Karen Middleton in Afghanistan as news breaks that an Australian soldier has been killed in Uruzgan province
October 21: Karen Middleton takes a walk through Tarin Kowt military base
Karen gets a behind-the-scenes view of daily life in Uruzgan, where Australian soldiers live and work.
WATCH: Daily life at Tarin Kowt
Afghan leaders meet to discuss nation's future
Australia's top diplomats have joined Afghanistan's ministers and officials for a conference on the country's future.
lt's the first of its kind, a bid to link the provinces of southern Afghanistan with each other and the government in Kabul.
With so many national leaders present in one place, the conference has created a security nightmare.
Afghan soldiers and police lined the route between the military base and governor's compound, which was bombed last year.
WATCH: Karen Middleton discusses security conference.
October 19: Australian troops to take over security of Uruzgan Province
Australia has formally taken over full security responsibility for Uruzgan Province in Afghanistan, after a hand-over ceremony at the base in Tarin Kowt, reports Chief Political Correspondent Karen Middleton from Afghanistan.
Australian Colonel Simon Stuart now assumes command of the combined coalition forces in Uruzgan as the US draws down its troops.
The move allows Australian forces more control over the plans for transition – pulling the forces out by 2014.
In a simple, and mostly symbolic, ceremony in Tarin Kowt, control is transferred from American to Australian forces. In Uruzgan province, Australia is now in charge.
WATCH: Karen Middleton explains the timing of the handover:
At the ceremony Australian, American and Afghan military and civilian officials gathered, along with those from the other nations working here – Slovakia and Singapore.
“Uruzgan is a broad church and we must all work together for our common purpose,” said the incoming Australian commander, Colonel Simon Stuart.
In the wake of “green-on-blue” attacks, there is an emphasis on Afghans and their coalition partners fighting together against a common enemy.
Uruzgan’s provincial governor Amir Akhundzada has offered Australia his condolences for the loss of its men at the hands of an Afghan soldier.
‘We condemn these cowardly actions’, he says. ‘We know Australian forces and representatives of the government and people sacrifice their lives here and make great efforts to help the Afghan people.”
The ceremony has been a long time coming for the Australian forces in Afghanistan. In the 11 years of this conflict – and the seven years in this province – their political masters have never before allowed them to take the lead. But with the United States now drawing down, their time has come.
The Americans are wishing them well but assuring the provincial authorities they aren’t being abandoned.
“Today is an historic day as we witness the transfer of authority,” said Major-General Robert Abrams, Commander of US 3rd Infantry.
“Our Afghan partners, you do not stand alone. There remains work to be done and we will be here to do it with you.”
IMAGE GALLERY: Karen Middleton in Afghanistan
But they won’t all be there. The Slovaks who guard the base are leaving as well. Australians will do that job, too.
Governor Akhundzada is confident his forces can manage the threat as others depart.
The Australian mission is now ‘transition’ – getting ready to be out by 2014.