Taliban completely disrupted and on the back foot
CANBERRA - Australian Defense Force chief on Tuesday hit back at growing calls for the withdrawal of Australian troops from Afghanistan, after announcing the fourth death of an Australian in the past two weeks. On Tuesday morning, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston announced that combat engineer Sapper Rowan Robinson was killed during a mission to destroy a massive weapons cache in Helmand province on Monday night.
The 23-year-old was on his second tour of Afghanistan and his death takes the number of Australians killed in Afghanistan to 27 since 2001.
Public support for the war has been dwindling, as Robinson is the fourth in the past two weeks.
However, Houston said Australia should not consider an immediate withdrawal, adding that Australian forces are making significant progress.
"Why would you pull out when you are making the best progress you've ever made?" he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
"You have the Taliban completely disrupted and on the back foot. Why would you do it?
"The Taliban in Uruzgan is totally disrupted and that's because of the efforts of our people working very effectively with the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police.
"We are doing very well in a military-achievement sense... unfortunately along the way we will lose soldiers -- we are fighting a war."
Prime Minister Julia Gillard offered her condolences to the soldier's family, and said Australian troops face a difficult task in Afghanistan, particularly as they enter the local fighting season.
She also reassured the nation that Australians were not fighting an "endless war."
In a rare show of bipartisanship, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott backed Gillard's position.
"I have been now to about a dozen military funerals. I make a point of saying to the soldiers there, the senior officers and the rank and file -- what do you think? How do you feel?" he told Fairfax radio on Tuesday.
"And not once as yet has one of them said to me that we should get out.
"They are often in tears of grief over their fallen comrades, but they all think they are doing a good job. Not one has said to me, 'Look, this is all too hard -- we should get out'."
Australia currently has about 1,500 troops in the country, based in the southern Uruzgan Province. (Xinhua)