Dutch to review SAS claims

The Dutch defence force will review claims that its personnel refused to help Australian special forces soldiers ambushed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, Defence Minister Stephen Smith says.

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The claims were made in a new book by ex-SAS soldier Rob Maylor, extracts of which were published by News Ltd on Friday.

The book refers to an incident on September 2, 2008, in which an Australian special forces unit came under heavy fire from Taliban insurgents.

Mr Maylor claims two Dutch Apache helicopters refused to descend and help by returning fire.

Mr Smith on Friday said the Australian Defence Force (ADF) had contacted its Dutch equivalent, which indicated its intention to review the claims.

He confirmed two Dutch attack helicopters were present during the incident but said Australian troops had fire support from US and UK helicopters as well as US F-18 jets.

“The ADF has contacted their Dutch counterparts who have indicated their intention to review the claims,” Mr Smith said in a statement on Friday.

“The incident, as it has been reported, goes to the detail of operational procedures and rules of engagement.

“As is the case in such matters, I take the professional operational advice of the CDF (Chief of the Defence Force).

“It remains my view that the Dutch have made a very important contribution in Oruzgan,” Mr Smith said.

“Australia greatly appreciates the efforts of the Dutch forces in Oruzgan and the close relationship that we developed with them.”

Mr Smith said ensuring sufficient helicopter support for troops was crucial and that Prime Minister Julia Gillard had raised the issue with senior military commanders during her recent visit to Afghanistan