An Australian commando was shot dead by insurgents in northern Afghanistan, officials said on Saturday, taking the death toll among the nation's troops to 18 just one week before knife-edge polls.
The 29-year-old special forces trooper, Jason Brown, was shot during a "disruption operation" of insurgent activities in northern Kandahar, said Lieutenant General David Hurley, the acting defence force chief.
Brown, who had served in the army for 10 years, was gunned down during a firefight and, though rapidly evacuated for treatment, died of multiple gunshot wounds.
"The work is difficult, costly, but absolutely necessary if we are to achieve our goals in Afghanistan," said Defence Minister John Faulkner.
This year has been the deadliest on record for Australian troops, with six deaths in little over four weeks between June and July, including three commandos killed in a helicopter crash.
Australia has about 1,550 troops in the restive southern Uruzgan province, after last year sending 450 reinforcements, but has resisted calls from Washington to provide more.
Both the ruling Labor party and conservative Liberal/National coalition have vowed to keep Australian troops in Afghanistan ahead of August 21 polls, though the coalition has flagged a more prominent role for Australia in Uruzgan if elected.
More than 140,000 mostly US soldiers are in Afghanistan fighting a nine-year insurgency by Islamic extremists looking to undermine the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.