AUSTRALIA has been taken by surprise by a snap decision by NATO to cut back on operations with the Afghan army because of the coalition's high losses from ''green on blue'' attacks.
The move to curtail joint on-the-ground operations throws the coalition's military strategy into disarray and could further undermine public support in Australia for the war.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith last night was seeking urgent clarification of the decision, announced in Washington.
He is expected to make a statement to Parliament today on the ramifications for Australian forces training Afghan soldiers.
The move to curtail joint operations comes after a surge in the number of so-called ''insider attacks'' by Afghan soldiers and police officers.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who returns to Parliament today, attended a funeral in Perth yesterday for Sapper James Martin, who was killed in Afghanistan when he and two comrades were shot dead by a rogue Afghan soldier while they were off duty last month.
The funeral will be held today in Quilpie in south-west Queensland for Lance Corporal Stjepan ''Rick'' Milosevic, 44, who was gunned down alongside Sapper Martin and Private Robert Poate in Oruzgan province on August 29.
NATO says 51 coalition soldiers have been killed by Afghan soldiers and police this year.
The suspension of joint operations threatens the plan to train an effective Afghan army to hold off the Taliban after the total withdrawal of foreign troops.
Greens leader Christine Milne last night renewed her party's calls for the withdrawal of all Australian forces.
''With mistrust growing, green on blue attacks escalating and little prospect of the situation improving, it is past time that we brought all troops home. The Greens are calling for a date to be set to do so,'' she said.
Neil James, of the Australia Defence Association, said last night the order may not have a dramatic impact on the operations of Australian troops.
He said the details of the order were still unclear, but it appeared the Australian commander of forces in Oruzgan province would make the final decision on how joint operations with Afghan troops continued.
''It's being taken on a case-by-case basis regionally, and the effect on Australian operations in Oruzgan is not yet clear, but may not be as great as it may be in other areas,'' Mr James said.
General John Allen, the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, ordered a stop to joint combat operations and patrols ''until further notice''.
The decision took the UK government by surprise, just a day after Defence Secretary Philip Hammond spoke in Parliament in defence of NATO's continued work with Afghan troops. Whitehall sources said British commanders were caught unawares.
Chief US military officer General Martin Dempsey said ''insider attacks'', in which four American and two British soldiers were killed at the weekend, were a serious threat to the campaign against the Taliban.