Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (OMLT)

Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (OMLT)

Government Sources

Afghan and Australian Forces Offer No Let-Up against Taliban Insurgents, Media Release, Department of Defence, MSPA 190/09,15 June 2009

The Commanding Officer of the first Australian Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force (MRTF – 1), Lieutenant Colonel Shane Gabriel, has praised the growing capability of Afghan soldiers following the successful completion of a combined Afghan-Australian cordon-and-search operation. Lieutenant Colonel Gabriel said the Afghan and Australian forces recently completed ‘Operation Zamarai Lor’ (Tiger Scythe) in the Miribad region of Oruzgan Province, to the east of the MRTF’s main base at Tarin Kowt. Lieutenant Colonel Gabriel praised soldiers from the 2nd Kandak of the Afghan National Army’s (ANA) 4th Brigade, who are being mentored and supported by Australia’s Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT).

Government announces increase in ADF forces in Afghanistan, Media Release, Department of Defence, 30 April 2009

The Government announced a decision to enhance its military and civilian commitment to Afghanistan and specifically its intent to strengthen the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

The increased contribution will be made up of:

  •  two additional Operational Mentor and Liaison teams (OMLTs) of approximately 100 personnel;

Australian soldiers wounded in engagement with Taliban, Media Release, Department of Defence, 25 March 2009

Australian soldiers conducting a dismounted patrol led by the Afghan National Army in Oruzgan Province, were engaged in a contact with Taliban insurgents who used an Improvised Explosive Device, Rocket Propelled Grenades and small arms fire on Tuesday, 24 March 2009.

Three Australian soldiers from the Australian Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT) patrol and a coalition interpreter were wounded in the engagement. Their wounds were caused by fragmentation from the Improvised Explosive Device. It is not known what caused the device to activate.

The OMLT patrol returned fire and coalition close air support was provided during the engagement.

Media conference by chief of the defence force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston regarding the death of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan, Defence Speech, Department of Defence, 17 March 2009

One of the things that we’re doing, as part of the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team activities, is patrolling in the areas that the Afghan National Army are holding. So we go out and we do patrolling. As they were patrolling they were engaged by the insurgents, and they returned fire, and that’s when the casualty occurred.

As the weather improves there will be more fighting. That’s the pattern we’ve seen over the last few years; and we’re probably seeing more Taliban activity now than we did through the middle of the winter.

The OMLTs have been going for quite a while now and I’ve been very pleased with the progress that we’ve made but, again, I would stress that the environment that we’re working in is a dangerous environment and, from time to time, we are going to come up against the insurgents and there will be engagements.

Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (OMLT) Programme Factsheet, NATO in Afghanistan, September 2007

  • OMLTs’ provide training and mentoring to the ANA forces. They also serve as a liaison capability between ANA and ISAF forces, co-ordinating the planning of operations and ensuring that the ANA units receive necessary enabling support (including close air support, casualty evacuation and medical evacuation).
  • OMLTs are composed of 13-20 personnel (depending on the ANA unit it is partnered with) from one or several countries. Each OMLT is normally deployed for a minimal period of six months.
  • There are currently 52 OMLTs operating in all five regions of Afghanistan. While OMLTs earmarked for ANA Corps HQs and Garrisons do not deploy from their assigned locations, Brigade and Kandak OMLTs deploy with their ANA partner units1 across the country.  

Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (OMLT) video, ISAF, 28 February 2008

This video explains what OMLTs are, what their mission is, and their importance to NATO’s overall effort in Afghanistan.

Analysis and commentary:

Diggers in Afghanistan stew in hot and heavy armour, Ian McPhedran, CourierMail, 5 October 2009

AUSTRALIAN soldiers fighting on foot in Afghanistan are at risk because they have to wear heavy, hot body armour designed for vehicle operations in Iraq.

Troops say the armour, known as the Modular Combat Body Armour System (MCBAS), was so heavy and inflexible that at times they could not even adopt the correct firing position to use their weapons.

Afghan force patchy, 8 years on, Matt Brown, ABC News, 23 July 2009

While the Australians have been developing their own local expertise, respected counter-insurgency adviser, Dr Daniel Marston from the Australian National University, says the Australian Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams need more training in counter-insurgent warfare. Dr Marston has heard concern from within the Army, as well as from its American and British allies, that Australia does not place enough emphasis on counter-insurgency education and training, and is not as good as its commanders might think it is.

Dr Marston has deep respect for many of the Australians he has encountered. But his doubts reflect those held in the northern hemisphere that the importance of counter-insurgency – the most consistently significant form of warfare in much of the past century and this century – has not been institutionalised in the Australian military in the same way it has been in the United States and Britain.

The Department of Defence says “the ADF has developed a world-class counter-insurgency training mindset, based on years of operational experience in places like Vietnam, Malaya, East Timor and Iraq. The experience that has shaped the way soldiers train today should not be underestimated, or disregarded as irrelevant”.

The department says soldiers get six months of training before they leave, including basic language training in “Dari and Pashtu”, but it did not directly answer a question about whether the soldiers have any contact with people of Pashtun heritage (the majority group in southern Afghanistan) before they enter Afghanistan, like many of their American counterparts.

In a new initiative, Air Chief Marshal Houston says members of the Australian command team in Afghanistan will also attend a counter-insurgency course run by the CSTC-A, the multinational training group. The Defence Department told the ABC that course lasts four days. All new team members will be sent through the course but the department did not say how many people that would involve.

As for the Afghan troops, after 10 weeks’ basic training the recruits get assigned to a province. There are supposed to be three infantry battalions in Uruzgan. But nearly eight years after America and its allies invaded and toppled the Taliban, the new Afghan force is a patchy one. Once they get to level one they can go out patrolling on their own. That means the battalion is capable of “partially conducting primary operational missions, but still requires assistance from, and is reliant on, international community support.”

The Australians are mentoring the second battalion, which is also at level three. The fourth battalion is a combat support group, which handles things like reconnaissance, combat engineering and artillery. It is being mentored by the Dutch and the new Australian team being sent in will take over soon. A sixth unit handles the Brigade Headquarters, another unit mentored by the Dutch which the Australians will also try to improve as time wears on.

When he announced Australia’s beefed up commitment, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd referred to a highway security battalion – a vital task but there is no detail to hand about who would be responsible for that.

“Counter-Insurgency: possible not advised” is the title of a chapter in a recent book by the ex-Australian Army expert on counter-insurgency, David Kilcullen.

More troops, more deaths, PM says, Brendan Nicholson, The Age, 30 April 2009

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said an extra 450 troops would be sent to help train the Afghan army so that it could take responsibility for national security in the face of the increasing threat from extremists.

The soldiers in the Operational Mentor and Liaison Teams, dubbed “omlettes”, fill one of the most valuable and dangerous roles in Afghanistan. The instructors are “embedded” with Afghan army units, often in small stone forts in territory the Taliban wants to control.

Late last month one of the mentors, Corporal Mathew Hopkins, was killed by the Taliban in the Chora Valley. In a separate incident, three other Australian instructors and an Afghan interpreter were seriously wounded in a Taliban ambush while patrolling on foot with the Afghan army.

Expect more Afghanistan deaths says Kevin Rudd as force boosted to 1550, Mark Dodd, Australian, 30 April 2009

Australian reinforcements include about 100 soldiers comprising two additional mentoring teams bringing to three the total number of ADF training teams in Oruzgan. Their main job would be overseeing the training of a 3300-strong Afghan National Army brigade, Mr Rudd said.

Training unit heading for Afghanistan, Max Blenkin, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 June 2008

Australia’s new training unit heads into Afghanistan in October to undertake a job which will carry considerable risk, defence force head Angus Houston says. The Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (OMLT) – known colloquially as an omelette – is still preparing for the task of training up an Afghan National Army (ANA) battalion of some 600 soldiers.

 See also


Project coordinator: Richard Tanter
Page maintained by: Arabella Imhoff
Ronald Li
Updated: 22 February 2010