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Anzac Day low key in Afghanistan

Published: 11:42AM Wednesday April 25, 2007 Source: AAP

Australian soldiers in Afghanistan can look forward to an Anzac Day commemorated with two cans of beer and a meal served up by their officers.

And, to ensure the day is a relaxing as it is possible to be under the circumstances, their officers will man the guard
positions throughout the day.

Commander of the Australian task group in Afghanistan's Oruzgan province Lieutenant Colonel Harry Jarvie said a traditional Anzac dawn service would also to be attended by members of the Dutch task group which operates from the same camp.

"We are going to take a break..." he told ABC Radio.

"The senior officers are going to be doing the cooking for breakfast and the security pickets so that the soldiers can have a break.

"They will get a two-beer per man ration - which is extraordinary because we don't normally have alcohol here in the theatre - but all the conditions are in place to make sure our security is looked after while these guys can have a short break."

Australia has 400 troops in Afghanistan, most with the engineering task group engaged in reconstruction work around the city of Tarin Khowt.

That number will soon rise to more than 1,000 with the deployment of a special forces group and support elements.

Lieutenant Colonel Jarvie said their region had been relatively quiet lately, although it remained a dangerous place.

"There is always a threat where we are operating at the moment," he said.

"Our team has just returned today after a five-day mission out into the local areas and doing some work in a couple of towns.

"But generally, we were very well supported and well received.

There is no doubt there are undertones of intimidation and threats from the opposing militia forces."

Lt-Col Jarvie said it was evident from the engagement of Australian troops with the local people that their efforts were appreciated.

He said the locals were sick and tired of the anti-government forces threatening and trying to intimidate them and not giving them anything.

"Given the opportunity the local people will want to see more government institutions and support provided. Ultimately our job is just to make the Taliban irrelevant," he said.