The West

The head of the peak body for returning soldiers has called for an end to Australian troops training Afghan soldiers overseas after the latest "friendly" attack left three soldiers dead.

Young Diggers president and Vietnam veteran John Jarrett said deaths caused by Afghan soldiers turning on their coalition allies were harder to accept than when a soldier was killed in combat. He also believed the rules of engagement for soldiers in combat situations were "too strict".

Mr Jarrett said Afghan soldiers should be brought to Australia for training and sent back to Afghanistan to train their troops.

"I think it's easier to accept when a soldier is killed in a combat situation," he said yesterday.

"This training of Afghan troops, I disagree with that.

"They should bring a number, like eight or 10 or 12, to a training camp in Australia for 10 or 12 weeks and train them and then let them train their troops.

"Why put our troops in this sort of situation? If a soldier is killed in combat that's really, really bad but it's more acceptable than a soldier being killed by one of his students or an ally.

"That's worse than friendly fire - it is an act of betrayal."

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Mr Jarrett said he expected soldiers on the ground would be feeling frustrated and angry.

"Soldiers go over there for the combat - that's what they're trained to do," he said. "This sort of thing, it just sickens them."

Fellow Vietnam veteran and former SAS soldier Peter Fitzpatrick said the deaths would have an effect on troops' morale.

"It certainly would have an impact on morale and I think the big issue is the trust between Afghan and Australian forces, even though these are rogue elements," he said.

"It creates a great deal of uncertainty.

"There's always a greater sense of the unnecessary waste of life, a greater sense of unease that people have died in an underhanded way rather than dying in combat."

He said the deaths brought back memories of the terrible losses in Vietnam.

The West Australian

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