KABUL, Afghanistan, May 27, 2015 - It takes bravery to tackle explosives, and Australian military experts are continuing to help their Afghan allies to take the blast out of the fight.
Last year, improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, claimed more than eight lives per day in Afghanistan.
These devices range from rough, cobbled together contraptions, to sophisticated gadgets capable of killing or maiming dozens of people in an instant.
Three Australians are among the team of counter IED advisers trying to help the Afghan government stop the carnage.
Flight Sergeant Dean Maher, an adviser to the Afghan Ministry of Interior, is one of those advisers currently deployed on Operation Highroad, Australia’s contribution to the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.
Resolute Support is focused on training, advising and assisting the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, or ANDSF, and Afghan security institutions.
Maher advises at the Central Training Centre in Kabul, which delivers both the Explosive Ordnance Disposal, or EOD, and Improvised Explosive Device Defeat courses.
“EOD training deals with unexploded ordnance found in the public domain. It could be from previous conflicts or the current troubles,” he said. “IED training deals with specific devices created by the insurgents to attack coalition forces and the ANDSF.
Maher said his role is to engage with his Afghan counterparts and address any training issues they might have.
“I help ensure the tactical-level instruction is being carried out correctly, that there are no issues with the training, they have the correct number of instructors and other aspects of training delivery,” he said. “Training is also facilitated through coalition contractors mentoring Afghan instructors."
Maher said CIED trained personnel in the ANDSF are needed now more than ever.
“The IED trend certainly isn’t decreasing,” he said. “Here in Kabul we mainly see a vehicle-born IED threat whereas in wider Afghanistan we see what we’ve been facing for some time now in the victim operated and radio operated devices in places like roadsides and areas where the ANDSF usually patrol.”
On completion of their training the students go out into the field to put their skills to work, highlighting what’s at stake for the Afghan people.
“Once the students graduate from this training they’ll immediately return to their provinces as they come from all over Afghanistan,” Maher said. “They’ll return to their normal places of duty and begin field operations immediately.”
With the change from combat operations to the train, advise and assist Resolute Support mission, NATO and coalition forces are focused on leaving Afghanistan able to support itself.
“We’re supporting this training to make sure that when the coalition leaves Afghanistan, the Afghans have a sustainable training capability for the future,” Maher said.
“The current mission has a schedule to have the training entirely led by Afghan instructors by the end of 2015.
“I believe they’re on track to meet that.”
Australia has about 400 troops in Afghanistan assigned to Resolute Support. Overall there are about 13,000 NATO troops from 41 nations contributing to the mission.