Another Afghan National Army soldier has opened fire on his fellow troops, wounding three Australians — just 10 days after a rogue Afghan soldier killed three Aussie soldiers in a similar attack.
ABC News is reporting that the latest incident occurred at a base in Oruzgan province, adding that the soldiers suffered non-life-threatening injuries, the ABC reported.
It is the third time this year that an Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier has targeted Australian troops this year, The Age newspaper reports.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith said Wednesday that it was too early to say if it was a Taliban-backed attack or an individual acting alone.
"We don't want to, and can't, rush to judgment. It's always difficult to get to motivation," he told Sky News, adding that it would be easier if the shooter were captured alive.
The Afghan soldier was reportedly pursued by his countrymen but escaped in an ANA vehicle.
Recent polling shows support for Australia's involvement in the Afghanistan War is waning, with a recent opinion poll showing three out of four people want Australian troops home.
(Down Under reports: Australia reaffirms commitment to unpopular war in Afghanistan)
The Oct. 29 deaths of Captain Bryce Duffy, 26, Corporal Ashley Birt, 22, and Lance Corporal Luke Gavin, 27 — one of Australia’s worst losses in Afghanistan — after an ANA soldier went on a shooting rampage, sparked a days-long discussion of Australia's commitment to the US-led war.
Another seven Australian soldiers were wounded in that attack, one with life-threatening injuries, and were reportedly recovering in Germany, while an Afghan interpreter also lost his life.
Australia has about 1,500 troops in Afghanistan, and the Australian Government says it remains on track to hand over control of security to Afghan forces in 2014.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard made a surprise visit to Afghanistan in the days after the Oct. 29 shootings to praise the bravery of Aussie troops, flying in to Tarin Kowt — where the soldiers were killed — to share a barbecue lunch with soldiers stationed in the southern Camp Holland base.
The US commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John R. Allen, meantime, has urged Australia not to give up faith in the war, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
Allen, who assumed command of the International Security Assistance Force in July from General David Petraeus, said continued involvement in the Afghan war could be defended ''in ways that provide clarity that some conflicts never can.''
''The direct line relationship between safe haven for the incubation of extremism and how that extremism can be manifested overseas is the perfect example over here,'' he said, shortly after meeting the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, at the security force's headquarters in Kabul.
Smith, meantime, recently told the ABC that it was important Australia remained in Afghanistan.
"What we don't want to do is to leave a vacuum in Afghanistan, particularly the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area where we'll again see, if we're not careful, breeding grounds, training grounds for international terrorism," he reportedly said. "We have been on the receiving end of that."