AN AUSTRALIAN Special Forces soldier has been killed in Afghanistan while on his seventh tour of the strife-torn country.
Defence force chief General David Hurley said the 40-year-old Perth-based soldier, who had a military career spanning 22 years and six operations, was shot in the chest by insurgents in the Chorah Valley on Monday.
The man, who General Hurley described as a "soldier's soldier", was part of a partnered mission with the Afghan National Security Forces to target a known insurgent commander.
Continued attempts to resuscitate the wounded soldier proved unsuccessful. General Hurley confirmed the soldier was wearing body armour.
No personal details were available at the request of the soldier's family.
The death brought to 33 the number of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
It was the first Australian fatality in the country this year.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard admitted the death of "another brave soldier" would again raise questions about Australia's military involvement in Afghanistan, which began 11 years ago in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York.
Ms Gillard said while the death was a "dreadful blow" for the nation, it served to highlight the significance of Australia's mission in Afghanistan.
"This is a tragic, incredibly difficult day. We are all absorbing tragic news," Ms Gillard told reporters in Darwin.
"But this tragic incident is part of what we are doing in Afghanistan because that mission is so important to our Australian nation.
"We went there to make sure that Afghanistan would not continue to be a safe haven for terrorists.
"That continues to be our mission, which has a defined purpose and defined timeline."
Ms Gillard announced earlier this year Australian troops could withdraw from Afghanistan within 12-18 months as local forces took over security in Oruzgan province.
This timeline could be extended depending on the success of the transition, although in May the government confirmed the target of withdrawing troops by 2014 or earlier was on track.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith joined the Prime Minister in offering condolences to the soldier's family, adding the news would "reverberate through the Swanbourne and Perth community".
General Hurley said the soldier, who joined the army in 1990 and joined the Special Air Service Regiment in 1995, was respected by fellow soldiers and regarded as a "highly professional operator".
He also extended his sympathy to the soldier's family and friends.
"Words cannot ease the overwhelming grief they feel today but I hope they can find comfort in the knowledge that this soldier served his country with pride and distinction," General Hurley said.
No other details of the incident, nor the ongoing operation, were available.
AUSTRALIAN DEATHS IN AFGHANISTAN
- February 16, 2002: Sergeant Andrew Russell, 33
- October 8, 2007: Trooper David Pearce, 41
- October 25, 2007: Sergeant Matthew Locke, 33
- November 23, 2007: Private Luke Worsley, 26
- April 28, 2008: Lance Corporal Jason Marks, 27
- July 8, 2008: Signaller Sean McCarthy, 25
- November 27, 2007: Lieutenant Michael Fussell, 25
- January 4, 2009: Private Gregory Sher, 30
- March 16, 2009: Corporal Mathew Hopkins, 21
- March 19, 2009: Sergeant Brett Till, 31
- July 18, 2009: Private Benjamin Ranaudo, 22
- June 7, 2010: Sapper Jacob Moerland, 21
- June 7, 2010: Sapper Darren Smith, 26
- June 21, 2010: Private Timothy Aplin, 38
- June 21, 2010: Private Scott Palmer, 27
- June 21, 2010: Private Benjamin Chuck, 27
- July 9, 2010: Private Nathan Bewes, 23
- August 13, 2010: Trooper Jason Brown, 29
- August 20, 2010: Private Tomas Dale, 21
- August 20, 2010: Private Grant Kirby, 35
- August 24, 2010: Lance Corporal Jared Mackinney, 28
- February 2, 2011: Corporal Richard Atkinson, 22
- February 19, 2011: Sapper Jamie Larcombe, 21
- May 23, 2011: Sergeant Brett Wood, 32
- May 30, 2011: Lance Corporal Andrew Jones, 25
- May 30, 2011: Lieutenant Marcus Case, 27
- June 6, 2011: Sapper Rowan Robinson, 23
- July 4, 2011: Sergeant Todd Langley, 35
- August 22, 2011: Private Matthew Lambert, 26
- October 29, 2011: Captain Bryce Duffy, 26
- October 29, 2011: Corporal Ashley Birt, 22
- October 29, 2011: Lance Corporal Luke Gavin, 29
- July 2, 2012: SAS soldier, name yet to be released