Ten years since Shah Wali Kot

Louise Liddiard-Smith 09 June 2020
  • History & commemoration

A reflection on a recent battle

When you think of Australia’s involvement in historic battles of note, it is easy to focus on those from WWI, WWII and the Vietnam War, including Long Tan, the landing at Gallipoli and the attack at Fromelles.

But what about battles from more recent theatres of war?

This 10 June will mark 10 years since the start of the Shah Wali Kot offensive during the War in Afghanistan. The offensive was part of Operation HAMKARI, which aimed to disrupt the Taliban’s influence in their traditional stronghold of Kandahar City, which they had controlled since 1995.

Ten years since Shah Wali Kot

Image courtesy of Department of Defence

The battle of Shah Wali Kot raged for five days and included both Australian and US Defence Force members, as well as support from the Afghan Special Police. When the dust settled, as many as 100 insurgents were believed to have been killed. There were no civilian casualties and just one Australian soldier was wounded. 

Major General John Cantwell – the commander of Australian forces in the Middle East at the time –stated that the operation had “dealt a major blow to the insurgent forces and their commanders and made a major and direct contribution to ISAF security operations focused on Kandahar province and its nearby districts.”

A total of 13 awards of bravery were issued as a result of the Shah Wali Kot offensive, included the Victoria Cross for Australia for Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith.

Sadly, less than a week after the Battle of Shah Wali Kot ended, on 21 June 2010, a Blackhawk helicopter crash in the northern Kandahar Province killed three Australian commandos and a crew member. A further seven Australians and one US crewman suffered serious injuries.

RSL Queensland stands ready to support all veterans who are experiencing the impacts of operational service. If you need assistance, please contact us on 134 RSL.