Army chief lets fly at Diggers’ assassin

AUSTRALIA’S top soldier has voiced the anger of his troops at the assassination of three Diggers by a rogue Afghan soldier, branding it “murder” at a time when the men were defenceless.

Chief of the Army Lieutenant General David Morrison spoke out as bereaved family members joined military top brass, representatives and members of the fallen Diggers’ units and a guard of honour to mark their sad arrival home at the Amberley Air Base, west of Brisbane.

“Let’s not gloss over this in any way, shape or form,” General Morrison told reporters, as relatives of the men spent some private time with their flag-draped caskets.

“What happened to the three soldiers who have just returned to Australia here at Amberley this afternoon was murder.

“Murder when they were defenceless at the end of a long day of training the Afghan National Army, which is an absolute requirement if Afghanistan is to be given the type of security that we all want it to have.”

It is the second time that the army chief has presided over a repatriation ceremony for Australian victims of so-called “green-on-blue” killings by Afghan soldiers.

And General Morrison said he recognised that the deaths of Lance Corporal Stjepan “Rick” Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Private Robert Poate had provoked legitimate debate about the ongoing presence of Australian troops in Afghanistan.

“But I would like to just say this: a debate is absolutely appropriate in a great democracy such as ours, and in fact if there wasn’t a debate we wouldn’t be exercising that democracy.”

However, it was not appropriate that the army joined the public discussion about its role in Afghanistan, he added.

“The mission is the one that has been given to us by the democratically elected government of this country and I support the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in their stance here 100 per cent,” General Morrison said.

“I am deeply sorry for what has occurred to these soldiers and, of course, to their families.

“But I am also very proud of the way the soldiers of the Australian Army are performing in Afghanistan now in the service of their nation.”

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