SASR - Afghanistan and Iraq

In October 2001 the Australian government announced that it was sending a Special Forces Task Group built around a SASR Squadron to participate in the campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan (designated Operation Slipper). After staging through Kuwait, 1 Squadron arrived in Afghanistan in November 2001 with the other SASR squadrons rotating in at approximately 6 monthly intervals. Once again, a troop from the New Zealand SAS was attached to each Australian SASR squadron. The SASR's main role in Afghanistan was to conduct surveillance of al Qaeda and Taliban positions, though SASR Troopers also conducted a number of offensive operations. The SASR initially operated in southern Afghanistan with the US Marines before moving to eastern Afghanistan where it played an important role in Operation Anaconda. The SASR withdrew from Afghanistan in November 2002 after all three SASR squadrons had served in the country. One member of the SASR, Sergeant Andrew Russell, was killed during this deployment when the vehicle he was travelling in hit a land mine.

The SASR provided the majority of the ground force element of the Australian contribution to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Australian Special Forces Task Group was built around 1 Squadron, with a platoon from the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and a troop from the Incident Response Regiment available to support the SASR. 1 Squadron operated in western Iraq where it was successful in securing its area of operations, including the huge Al Asad air base. 1 Squadron was withdrawn from Iraq without replacement shortly after the end of the war, though media reports have claimed that elements of the SASR have subsequently conducted counter-insurgency and training operations in Iraq.

The SASR was re-deployed to Afghanistan in August or September 2005. The Australian Special Forces Task Group in Afghanistan consisted of elements from the SASR, 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando), the Incident Response Regiment and logistic support personnel. This task group was withdrawn in September 2006. A Special Operations Task Group, including SASR, was redeployed to Afghanistan in April 2007. On 16 January 2009, it was announced that Trooper Mark Donaldson was awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia, the highest award for gallantry in the Australian Honours system, for gallant acts performed whilst serving with the SAS in Afghanistan.