An Australian soldier has died in Afghanistan in a non-combat incident, taking the death toll for 13 years of involvement to 41.
Australia’s 41st soldier to die in Afghanistan lost his life in what defence describes as a “non-combat related incident” in the headquarters building in Kabul.
Defence hasn’t revealed what happened or released the soldier’s name.
He was a lance corporal in the Sydney-based 2nd Commando Regiment serving with the Australian headquarters at the main coalition base at the Kabul International Airport.
It’s understood he was a veteran of multiple tours of Afghanistan.
Defence force chief Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin said Australian personnel had secured the site for Coalition military police to collect evidence for the Australian Defence Force Investigative Service.
“It is critical that we let this investigation take its course, to examine the evidence and establish the facts rather than to speculate about the details or circumstances surrounding the incident,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Air Chief Marshal Binskin said the soldier’s colleagues found him in an administration building with a gunshot wound around 2pm Afghanistan time on Tuesday.
He was taken to the nearby medical facility for emergency medical treatment.
“Sadly, the soldier’s injuries were too severe and he later died surrounded by his mates,” he said.
Asked about post-traumatic stress disorder in the defence force, Air Chief Marshal Binskin said: “I am confident in what Defence does in the mental health space.”
That remains an ongoing challenge for defence and for the Department of Veterans Affairs, both directing considerable resources at developing effective mental health services for serving and former personnel.
In 2013, former Middle East commander, retired major General John Cantwell, warned of a looming tsunami of PTSD among those who have served in recent operations.
Defence has offered its condolences to the soldier’s family and friends.
So did Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss who described this as tragic considering Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan had largely ended.
“We don’t know a great deal about the details as yet but I certainly extend sympathy to the family and friends of the soldier whose life has been lost. Our feelings are with the family,” he said.
Australia has now ended involvement in combat operations in Afghanistan but some 400 personnel remain in a variety of jobs, including headquarters staff and Afghan National Army (ANA) mentors.
There’s also a significant security presence to guard against both Taliban or insider attack.
The last Australian soldier to die in Afghanistan was another Commando, Corporal Cameron Baird, killed on June 22, 2013 and subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross.