Sections

Services

Information

UK United Kingdom

Are we really staying in Afghanistan to preserve our reputation?

Last week Australia experienced its worst day in terms of combat deaths since the Vietnam war. The tragic deaths of five diggers were mourned by our Prime Minister with words of sorrow, followed by her now rote promise that the deaths would not turn Australia from its present course in Afghanistan. In particular, Australia is “there for a purpose and … will see that purpose through”.

But increasingly, that purpose seems to be to maintain a military presence in the country until the end of 2014. Which, of itself, seems rather arbitrary and pointless. There is little evidence that an acceptable and irreversible level of stability will be achieved in Afghanistan by that date. If there is, it is incumbent upon our government to present such evidence to Parliament on a regular basis.

Three of the dead were killed by a rogue Afghan soldier, which brings to seven the number of Australians killed in this way. The training of the Afghan army is the main talk being undertaken by our troops. Such “green on blue” attacks, according to the ABC’s 7:30 report, are responsible for 14% of coalition dead this year. The US has now suspended the training of Afghan police in order to vet the trainees. While this process may be necessary, it certainly decreases the chances that Afghan forces will be adequately trained by the time coalition forces, including Australia, are due to leave.

Vetting assumes that the “turncoats” are Taliban infiltrators. Yet the ABC reported that only one quarter of the killings are believed to be caused by infiltration. Other “turncoats” were acting under duress, with reports the Taliban may have threatened their families' lives.

Most worryingly, many of the killings have apparently been caused by genuine friction between Coalition forces and their Afghan trainees. As “green on blue” incidents mount, it’s hard to see such animosity decreasing. Furthermore, this morning the Afghan government condemned Australian troops for conducting a raid in pursuit of the rogue soldier, in which two Afghan civilians (or, perhaps, Taliban) have been killed. While Australia claims the operation had Afghan approval, such apparent “misunderstandings” will do little for relations between coalition troops and the Afghan people.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr let the cat out of the bag on Sky News on Sunday morning. He said it would harm Australia’s image if we were to bring our troops home early. It would shame us in the eyes of our Coalition partners and the Afghan government (even though the latter seems to have no shame).

Clearly, France doesn’t feel that way, as President Hollande pushes forward with an election pledge to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2012 after four of its troops were killed earlier this year. But perhaps the French can be dismissed as “surrender monkeys”. After all, Carr intimated it is not in “the Australian character” to withdraw early.

So there we have it folks. It’s important to stay in an 11 year old war that seems increasingly futile to preserve some stereotyped “image” of Australia as a loyal and brave ally that “sees it through”. But surely it’s more important to never lose sight of whether “it” is achievable. Furthermore, “punching above our weight” is fun when it comes to Olympic medals, but do we have to apply that principle to fighting wars?

Strangely, recent history indicates that “image” plays a key role in keeping us in a war, but not in keeping us out of war. After all, concerns over “image” didn’t prevent Australia from engaging in an illegal war in Iraq (or in investigating our role in that disaster).

Of course, that paradox is explicable if the image concerns are about impressing one ally in particular, our superpower mate the US. The same US whose “image” has taken a mighty battering due to the way it has fought the “war on terror”, of which Afghanistan is the centrepiece of a constellation including torture, rendition, Gitmo, an illegal invasion of Iraq and now drones. And there is arguably a fine line between being known as a reliable ally and being taken for granted.

Julia Gillard claims that an early withdrawal would dishonour the dead. With rare bipartisanship, Tony Abbott agrees. But the policy behind that rote speech guarantees that it will be delivered again and again. Perhaps it dishonours our troops to keep them in harm’s way in order to preserve Australia’s image as a loyal ally in an increasingly discredited war on terror.

Join the conversation

68 Comments sorted by

  1. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    I get the feeling that Gillard is increasingly uncomfortable by the Afghan business. That Abbott endorses her commitment should be cause enough.

    But what do they think they will be leaving on the due departure date? A secure modern democratic state in which the rights of minorities and women are protected? Yeah right.

    Had the ISAF invasion been more thoughtful - been about making Afghanistan a safe place, rather than punishing the Taliban and Al Qaeda, we wouldn't have sent a single soldier…

    Read more
    1. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      "I get the feeling that Gillard is increasingly uncomfortable by the Afghan business."

      Yes, she was that on 7.30 last night. When asked why the action was in Afghanistan when Al Qaeda training occurs in Pakistan, the Philippines, and Indonesia, she said that's where they started and various empty rhetoric. I wish just one interviewer would pursue her faulty logic. She would never get away with stating the real reason which is obligation under ANZUS.

      report
    2. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      So cash is the answer, Mr Ormonde.

      Send them cash, and the Taliban would stop filming the execution of unfortunate women wrongly accused of adultery.

      Send them cash and the Taliban would set up schools and encourage girls to attend to learn to read and write and think.

      Send them cash and the Taliban will be our friends and treat women with respect.

      Why don't you send them your cash Mr Ormonde?

      Gerard Dean

      report
    3. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      I would rather invest some money buying the loyalty of Afghan warlords than sending my son Mr Dean. Do you have any sons or daughters Mr Dean? You reckon that they would be a good investment?

      I don't and history I'm afraid is on my side.

      No one but no one has managed to invade Afghanistan and hold it. At best the "governments" have held Kabul and a couple of the larger population centres but essentially Afghanistan is a nation in name only.

      It is in reality a network of shifting loyalties and alliances dominated by ethinic clans and warlords - gangsters in essence.

      And money is all they really care about Mr Dean.

      So put your outrage about executions aside and give us your answer to how the Afghan situation should be resolved and by whom.

      report
  2. Robert Tony Brklje
    Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

    retired

    The continued Australian presence should be governed by the performance of the country defining the action in Afghanistan.
    The US with it's random drone fired missile mass murders, ill behaviour of their troops, aggressive random home invasions, is continually creating a core of conflict.
    Afghanistan is a country whose populace is still obsessed by ideas of vengeance and long running feuds, be they family or local community based. The US incompetent behaviour is continually generating new combatants…

    Read more
    1. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Robert Tony Brklje

      Another Anti American rant by a non-thinker.

      And you know what, when you meet Americans do you rant so much? Do you attack them? No, you talk about your how wonderful your trip to New York was and how Manhatten is full of Australians.

      Then you will talk about the latest films, American of course. Then pick up your iPad and iPhone and use the internet, all American ideas of course. Fly to Europe on a Jumbo burning JetA1 fuel, all developed and made by Americans and listen to blues music, and rock and roll, and rock and jazz and ....

      I am sick of this. Face it. We all know Americans aren't perfect, but the level of hatred directed against them is clearly over the top.

      Try some balance.

      Gerard Dean

      report
    2. Yuri Pannikin

      Director

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Gerard, I see you noticed!

      No, not too much balance on The Conversation in these matters. I try to even things up. Welcome aboard.

      report
    3. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Actually Gerard Dean I really like yanks like Michael Moore and Joe Bageant. The latter once wrote:

      "“The four cornerstones of the American political psyche are 1) emotion substituted for thought, 2) fear, 3) ignorance and 4) propaganda”
      in Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War.

      My time in NYC was terrific. Ordinary New Yorkers are some of the friendliest street level people I've ever met. Indeed, I also really approve of some American political practices. I especially like their habit of shooting their presidents so it's not all bad.

      report
  3. Lynne Newington
    Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Researcher

    Let's hope Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu never publicly refuses to stand on any platform with us down the track, as he did with Tony Blair recently over the Iraqi invasion.
    Bring our young men home.

    report
  4. Anthony Nolan

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    "Our reputation"? Whose reputation? If "our politicians" were genuinely interested in creating a stable, decent, democratic state in Afghanistan they would be allocating the money used to maintain a military presence to the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan whose member's courage and fortitude is boundless:

    http://www.rawa.org/index.php

    Go on. Read it and weep.

    report
    1. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      And guess what would happen to the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan if the American and English and German and French and Australian soldiers walked out.

      They would be shot by the Taliban. Naturally the perverts would film the execution on a camera phone like they recently did for a woman accused of adultery. And the rest of the Afghani girls would be dragged out of school and sent home to be beaten by illiterate thugs.

      Think about it - and weep.

      Gerard Dean

      report
    2. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Gerard,

      "If" ISAF walked out??? There is no "if" - there is only when. And you are dead right - the Taliban will very quickly control everywhere outside Kabul and they will be worse than ever if possible.

      What a pathetic failure this "mission" has been from start to inglorious finish.

      And we will spend our time and money making sure the victims of the Taliban don't come here ... we don't really care about them at all.

      report
    3. Yuri Pannikin

      Director

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, I can see you would rather these things fail just to have a swipe at the US. It's much too early to say how things will turn out.

      BTW, there are 1.5 million women in Kabul. The Taliban were in charge in 2001. They are not now, and are unlikely to control Kabul again.

      But you don't care about that, do you?

      report
    4. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Yuri Pannikin

      Yuri - do you have any references or strategic basis for your assertion regarding Kabul? Be MOST interested to read it please.

      And I would appreciate it if you did not imply that I am wanting "these things" to fail ... I am simply stating the facts Yuri - that when we retreat as planned and ISAF no longer polices the countryside, the warlords and Taliban will retake their country and topple the corrupt puppet in Kabul as they have done throughout their history. Afghanistan cannot be controlled - not by us. not by Kabul.

      And contrary to your suggestions regarding my motives, this makes me very sad indeed for the decent folks who will be again subjected to these medievalists and gangsters. They will pay the price for our political and military failure.

      report
    5. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Gerard Dean,

      You're shooting from the hip, mate. Had you bothered to read even half of the content at the RAWA site I linked you'd have noted that the sorts of things that happen to women and children in Afghanistan happened before foreign troops were present ... and continue to happen regardless of their presence now. Troop presence only adds another danger ... from the foreign troops.

      report
    6. Yuri Pannikin

      Director

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter,

      Read around, there are expert opinions, but my sense is that (as you often refer to) the non-Pashtun alliances, along with economic and logistics support from the withdrawing ISAF countries should be enough to keep the Taliban in the countryside, and perhaps even participation in central government by least fundamentalist elements of the Taliban. Not ideal, but Kabul at least a refuge of some rationality, and worth the effort. After withdrawal, other major powers, India in particular…

      Read more
    7. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Yuri Pannikin

      Geez Yuri I'd really appreciate some of these sources you're not quoting here.

      Yep the 2012 Taliban won't be like the Taliban of the 1990s - back then they were just grinding the Russians into a fine paste with western support. Now they've defeated the world, the USA in particular. And they know who and where their enemies are.

      Seriously Yuri have a read of the history of military adventures in Afghanistan. Nothing has changed. Nothing is new. The English tried to install and prop up a…

      Read more
  5. Marilyn Shepherd

    pensioner

    And Carr is also very happy not to accept the refugees from the wars we started.

    report
    1. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      Sorry?

      What war did we start? There are hundreds of thousands of young Afghanistani girls and women who know that the ony thing that keeps them from dragged from school to enforced illiteracy and sexual enslavement at the hands of a nation run by the Taliban.

      The only thing that gives them a chance to learn to write, to think, to dream, in fact to be like you is a few thousand brave soldiers carrying rifles.

      Don't you care about Afganistani women?

      Gerard Dean

      report
  6. Russell Walton
    Russell Walton is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired

    Of course we're staying in Afghanistan "to preserve our reputation"---as a loyal ally of the US and, as a loyal ally, we acquire America's enemies.

    Look how successful "paying the premium" was with Britain, 60,000 dead In WW1 and abandonment in WW2, let's hope the Americans will be more reliable.

    report
    1. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Russell Walton

      Mr Walton, the Americans WERE more reliable! Who do you think defeated the Japanese Imperial Army? Wwe stopped them on Kododa, but there was no way we could defeat them.

      The Japanese Imperial Army was arguably history's most despicable, brutal and vicious force unleashed on the world.

      When next you see Japanese wiping their eyes over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, spare a thought for the 330,000 men, women and children who were raped to death, hung, garroted, starved, buried alive and tortured for…

      Read more
    2. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Strewth, really goin' orf tonight mate. You may have noticed the depth of friendship that now exists between Australians and Japanese. Oh, no hang on, you haven't. well, it's like this, it's called reconciliation; the friendship is genuine and frequently sponsored by WWII vets from both sides. But look, keep the hate hearth burning mate. Rusty Nails and Bruce Ruxton will be proud of you.

      report
    3. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Anthony...

      Looks like they've nodded off. Or the nurse has come around and wheeled them off to bed. Off to dreams of glory and the rallying cry of battle. I wonder if they've ever really heard it?

      report
    4. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Mr Nolan

      Mr Nolan. I do not hate the Japanese. I fact I have visited Japan on several occasions and often remark how I enjoyed my time there. I am merely explaining that the Japanese during WWII were dreadful until they were soundly defeated by the Americans, a defeat that saved millions of Chinese from continuing starvation and death.

      The reason I comment on the collective amnesia is that at dinner while in Japan, the conversation came around to the war. One gentlemen looked at me strangely…

      Read more
    5. Russell Walton
      Russell Walton is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Mr Dean,

      I assumed that the context was clear, more reliable in the future. I generally agree with your comments on the Japanese, however they're not relevant. My point was, the Americans defended Australia because it was in their strategic interest to do so, they were not our allies prior to 1942. We were loyal allies of the British, but they had other priorities, to them Australia was expendable.

      The notion that by inviting ourselves to America's wars we're guaranteeing support in the future is a fantasy.

      report
    6. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Don't you mean Nanjing? In fact, as a long standing member of the peace movement, I'm well read and informed about war and WWII in particular. If you want to continue kissing yankee arse because of their role in WWII then you be my guest while I maintain my independent thinking.

      report
    7. Yuri Pannikin

      Director

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, actually, I was watching Clint Eastwood's film about J. Edgar Hoover. A surprisingly good pic and quite even-handed, considering that Clint's destined to be Romney's defence minister ;-)

      You lot would already be in Gitmo playing cards with chains around your ankles under Hoover. (And you wouldn't be thirsty!)

      At least the anarchist communists of the time took the fight to them -- bombings, shootings etc, right in US heartland, as did the Communists in Spain to the Fascists of the time. You lot would roll over, spend your time blathering on blogs with anti-war, anti-US, appeasement pap and achieve nothing.

      Whatever happened to the Left with some guts?

      report
    8. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Yuri Pannikin

      Not about guts Yuri - it's about being smart and patient.

      In the old days of the "gutsy" left people thought they could fight their way to freedom, mostly they had no option other than to fight - in self-defence or in a vain hope that one could change things by force or violence. A military solution.

      A lot of them l got killed Yuri - or executed or hounded out of the debate, out of work, out of the movies and literature and discussion. By blokes in cocktail frocks with blackmail and secret…

      Read more
    9. Yuri Pannikin

      Director

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I should make it clear that I am neither a Hoover nor Jones man (in the political sense of course).

      Hoover was a very interesting character in many ways, though, and he reigned over a fascinating and tumultuous period in American life. Hoover versus al Qaeda would have been very interesting.

      report
    10. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Yuri Pannikin

      Your not just saying that because of their fashion and fishnets aren't you Yuri? :)

      Hoover... interesting? Yes I guess. in the sense that Hitler, Beria and like monsters could be called "interesting".

      As for a "virtual" military contest between Hoover and Al Qaeda that would have been interesting. Aside from anything he would have been about 140 years old by my reckoning.

      I'm not sure how good Hoover was once he was outside of the USofA... his forte was terrorising, threatening and subverting his own country. He used the fear and secret forces of the US to change and stop its history. That was his concern - not global geopolitics - the rest of the world was an afterthought.

      Still I'd imagine that ploughing a 747 into Hoover's nursing home might not have had the same visual impact for Osama.

      report
    11. Yuri Pannikin

      Director

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, sometimes it's interesting to consider the influences and complexities of human character and behaviour -- for art's sake, no? In that sense, Hoover (and the people around him) was very interesting, and on the scale of harm, you would not place him with Stalin, Mao, Hitler or Saddam for example.

      I was not suggesting he should have taken the G-Men to external war, only that the internal US organisation required for 9/11 to be successful may not have eluded Hoover and his attention to detail. All speculation of course.

      There's nothing wrong with a little fishnet, just ask Alexander Downer. And no, I prefer a little black number of fine taffeta, just above the knees. (I had to look up 'taffeta' - true!) We better leave this, we'll be getting into trouble.

      report
    12. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Yuri Pannikin

      What's this "we" business Mr Pannikin? I'll never think of you in the same way again Yuri.

      I don't know if we'll ever fully discover the depth of Hoover's influence on the direction of the US... but it is a curious thing that even in a democracy ( a limited one true) it only requires one well placed protagonist to change history, destroy peoples' lives and dictate to elected politicians.

      A poisonous period in the world. We must ensure that can never ever happen again.

      Black taffeta indeed! ...talk about chintzy!

      report
  7. John Davidson

    Retired engineer

    So we are going to send more soldiers to be killed because pulling out now would leave the relatives of soldiers already killed feeling their soldiers have died for nothing?

    report
    1. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to John Davidson

      Yes, that's what they argue. It is, of course, a form of the "two wrongs make a right" argument.

      report
    2. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      You blokes are modern day "Appeasers". They are the people in the 1930's who cozied up to Russia and Germany. They forbid their government to intervene when Hitler started bullying and threatening his neighbours. They forbid their government to re-arm, so when Hitler's armies strode across Europe, England and Canada and Australia were poorly armed and equipped.

      The result - about 30 million deaths by bullet, bayonet, bashing, gas, starvation and medical experiment.

      Gerard Dean

      report
    3. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Are you seriously suggesting that the Taliban have plans for world domination? Have you called the AFP with this information? Are their Taliban agents hanging around the phone booth down your street? Are they alwaaaays there, murmuring their sinister foreign tongue? Dudes with bald heads and beards everywhere?

      You've got it bad mate. Make sure you abuse the next woman wearing a burqa. That'll teach em.

      report
    4. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Mr Nolan

      Thanks for the considered comments. If you read my comments, I have consistantly highlighted the disgusting behaviour of the Taliban toward women, which you have somehow twisted to infer I don't like woman.

      On what basis do you criticise me when you tell me to ' abuse the next woman wearing a burqu. That'll teach them."

      Try thinking sensibly about the issues at hand.

      Gerard Dean

      report
    5. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      There's a big difference from sucking up to bullyings and not getting involved in the fights they start. But with war, it's also the case that more than one thing starts it and more than one thing can end it, yet to the so called victor go the spoils. The wealth of the US was partially built on the back of WW2. Meanwhile, those 30 million people that were murdered included people from more than one country killed by more than one army. Yes, Hitler and Stalin were bad guys, and so was the Emperor…

      Read more
  8. Yuri Pannikin

    Director

    I would emphasise that Australia was a target of the Taliban/al Qaeda alliance prior to 9/11 and the action in Afghanistan. This is well documented.

    Bin Laden warned Australia over our commitment in East Timor. Then came the Bali bombings, with at least two of the Indonesian Bali bombers known to have been trained in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

    We are not in Afghanistan solely because of the US alliance. Unfortunately, the Gillard government is too dumb to explain this.

    Even so, I agree that the debate about withdrawal is worthwhile.

    report
    1. Sarah Joseph

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Yuri Pannikin

      It may not explain our initial engagement in Afghanistan. But 11 years later, with Al Qaeda largely based elsewhere, I wonder?

      report
  9. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    Ms Joseph,

    I note that you have an interest in human rights law. Unfortunately, the other commentators on your article have conformed to the norm on The Conversation without exploring the multiple sides of the issue.

    There are many reasons our soldiers are in Afghanistan:

    - We fight to avenge the crimes that the disgusting, women hating, freedom hating Taliban have visited on innocent people worldwide.

    - We fight to stand by our major ANZUS treaty member, our ally, the United States…

    Read more
    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      No Mr Dean - you are proud that other Australians do your fighting for you... like all armchair generals and sabre rattlers. A caricature come to life in Glen Iris.

      Incidentally I think you are confusing the Taliban with Al Qaeda ... last time I looked the Talibs haven't ventured too far from home to perpetrate their atrocoties - let alone doing so worldwide. But hey who's going to quibble about facts.... they're all the same aren't they these foreign islamic devils?

      Less sherry, more reading Gerard.

      report
    2. Sarah Joseph

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Mr Dean,

      If we are in Afghanistan to save women & children, why didn't we go in before 2001, and why then are we scheduled to leave in 2014? And we're fighting a Taliban created out of the Mujahedin that grew up on US support fighting the Russians.

      Of course one praises the defeat of Hitler, but do you feel the same way about the wars in Iraq or Vietnam?

      I am no US hater but it does no good, to my mind, to view them only with rose-colored glasses. Or to just assume a war is "good" and "just" because we're fighting it.

      report
    3. Sarah Joseph

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      I should add that I find your 4 justifications for our presence in Afghanistan disturbing.

      1 seems factually wrong.
      2 is a recipe for mindless obedience because we're grateful for 1942.
      3 is barbaric & ... I'm afraid I feel the same way about 4. It's hardly a point of honour to participate in most wars. The saving grace is that it's not actually true, given the preponderance of civil wars.

      report
    4. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Well, we all are proud of Aussie troops doing a good job but sensible people ask whether the purpose is achievable or worth the risk to the troops. My view is that it is not. It is unwinnable by military means.

      Bring 'em home, it ain't working.

      report
    5. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to Sarah Joseph

      @Sarah,

      re: "is Barabaric"

      I am not sure what you think the Taliban rule was like? Have you any idea of the brutality of the Taliban's rule?

      Recent beheadings, the murder of a woman because two taliban fighters could not decide who was to have her, the whole stone age rule that they wish to inflict AGAIN on the afghan people! Not to mention that the Taliban will be far worse if they gain control again!

      So you are seemly happier to let the Taliban have its way and brutalize the Afghan people again.. That would make you feel better? Let just leave them there because that is not war, Is it!

      I stand with Gerard and am proud that our troops have stood for peace in the past and proud that they are there to help the afghans keep their freedom.. War is ugly, but sometimes the alternatives are far worse.

      report
    6. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      No Joseph, I think anyone who follows these things knows exactly what the Talibs were/are like ... and despite all our best efforts they will still control the country once we leave. A pointless expensive failure. And you are dead right -the aftermath of this war will be a renewed and unchallenged Taliban wreaking revenge on the collaborators and the city.

      A stupid strategy, badly carried out, without clear purpose. Again.

      report
    7. Sarah Joseph

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      Joseph,

      My comment re "barbaric" was in response to Gerard's idea that it's justified to fight wars to (a) train our soldiers and (b) show people that we fight. Both of those things (which I don't actually believe to be true but was just responding to Gerard) show zero respect for the Afghan people - they are mere pawns for Australian training or bravado. So the comment was irrelevant to the barbarity of the Taliban.

      Re the Taliban, I have serious doubts that the war effort, esp given its end date of 2014, will succeed. 11 years & the Taliban can still raise mayhem. And you write as if we're incapable of losing. Iraq was hardly a great success & remember Vietnam.

      Finally, that barbaric Taliban is arguably an American creation with its funding of the Mujahedin. Not a lot of love for women's rights if it meant engineering a defeat of the Russkies,

      report
    8. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to Sarah Joseph

      @Sarah

      re: "pawns for Australian training or bravado."

      seriously, on what basis do you make that claim? you seem to have no regard for the afghan people, just leave them there and let them suffer.. They can always catch a boat to Australia..

      Iraq is hardly a success? I do not know if the Iraqi people would say that.

      Look i marched for peace and i certainly look for alternatives to war. But freedom has come at a price and there are time in history when good men have had to give up their lives so that we can now have this discussion, whether you believe that or not. This holier than thou judgmental commentary is only possible because of these good men's fight..

      Sorry but laying blame at americans, casting unfounded accusations at Australians involvement and just wanting to abandon the afghan people is what? sounds like you are part of the Taliban PR machine

      report
    9. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Sarah Joseph

      "Re the Taliban, I have serious doubts that the war effort, esp given its end date of 2014, will succeed."

      Indeed, Joseph's arguments are entirely academic because Afghanistan will be left to its own devices in a few years anyway.

      report
    10. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      @Peter,

      I agree that the fight seems hardly worth it and freedom is certainly against the odds..

      I suspect that these wars cost us no matter what.. Can you blame people trying to get on a boat, risking their lives to get here? Unfortunately the whole country can not escape!

      and just as Iraqi people have some sort of free society, at least there is still hope for the afghan people's freedom.. every new year of freedom that they earn they surely have a better chance of staying free.. surely after ten years now and with building their own defense force they atleast have a chance of keeping their freedom.

      report
    11. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      "the afghan people, just leave them there"

      Yes, that's our plan. So what's your point?

      report
    12. Sarah Joseph

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      Joseph, will you please stop reading my comments devoid of the context in which they were written. It is the second time you have done that in two posts.

      This whole stream was in response to the comments of Gerard Dean. He, not me, gave 2 out of 4 justifications for war as follows (paraphrased)

      1) we fights"controlled wars" to give our troops experience. (Australian training)
      2) we fight to show that we fight so people know not to attack us. (Australian bravado)

      Please check what I'm responding to before verballing me. I don't actually believe those justifications to be reality: I repeat they were Mr Dean's contentions to which I was responding.

      As for Iraq, I doubt many Iraqis see the invasion, resulting in hundreds of thousands of their deaths not ours, and ongoing instability, as a success. Are they now better off coz Saddam is gone? I think the jury is out on that. And in working out that equation, those dead can't be forgotten.

      report
    13. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      Joseph,

      You and I obviously have very different ideas of freedom. For me, freedom suggests you can walk down the street for a pint of milk and have a reasonable certainty you'll get home with it. Everything else is secondary.

      The original idiocy behind the US invasion of Iraq was that they would topple Saddam, instal a government based on the US based Iraqi National Council and be out in two months, leaving a place that looked something like Texas but with more teatowels.

      Of course it rapidly…

      Read more
    14. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to Sarah Joseph

      @Sarah

      I would say there are many examples of "devoid of context" and suggest that your paraphrase of Gerard Dean's comments as an example.. Never mind this is the nature of language which is always an approximation and this subject is far too important to allow our own feeling, beliefs and ego to over-ride the fact that these poor people's lives are at stake and they should be allowed to live in peace and dignity.

      Yes the "dead can't be forgotten", and the past can not be changed, either…

      Read more
    15. Sarah Joseph

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      I believe my paraphrases are fair. At least they have context (so are not devoid) as they relate back to the post to which this stream reples. They explain my comments which I believe you misrepresented with no context at all.

      Regardless of your arguments, we apparently are walking away in 2014. And I fail to see that things will be markedly better at that time. Esp now that training is suspended so progress is slowed.

      Yes. You're right that it is more complex re Iraq. But my point is that that country is to my mind no better off after the US led military illegal adventure, indicating the dead died in vain. As I think they are now doing in Afghanistan.

      report
    16. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Sarah Joseph

      Not just in vain Sarah - the whole thing has been completely counter productive.
      Not just a failure - a loss... not for us, but for them and for hope for another generation or two or more. 2014/2015 will be an ugly time in Afghanistan I suspect.

      report
  10. Russell Walton
    Russell Walton is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired

    If the US and its allies really were serious about "saving the Afghans" by "bringing democracy" they would use (say) 500,000 troops and spend 30 years on the project---any one volunteering? As to the death toll and destabilisation resulting from the invasion and occupation, has anyone asked the average Afghani (or Iraqi) whether they were prepared to sacrifice their lives, and those of their families to Western notions of democracy and progress.

    report
  11. Antonio Manuel Santos Cristovao

    logged in via Facebook

    Enter in a country, killing their people, send drones from a soft chair far away and still get "good" image and "good" explanation is a remarkable media and propaganda result. Who loves fair life and freedom need keep cool mind.

    report
  12. duncan mills

    Social Ecologist

    While my service in Vietnam as a conscript was reluctant, I accept the proposition that an elected government in dialogue with parliament, is in the best position to decide complex issues such as military action. Government alone has the rescources: intelligence, geopolitical strategy advice and military capability.This is not to say that this dialogue must be conducted in as clear and open and transparent way as possible.

    In the case of Afganistan I am guided by, of all people the families of…

    Read more
    1. Yuri Pannikin

      Director

      In reply to duncan mills

      Duncan said: "We will have shown that we will not tolerate ideological extremism and that that there will be consequences to such terrorism."

      Yes, a very important point. When calculating results from such actions this is often overlooked. Winning is not always about measurable territory or political results. A comparison needs to be made with the putative consequences of not doing anything -- appeasement in other words. I hate to think of what Afghanistan would be like now with Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri still running the Taliban with the support of ISI spivs. And of course the terrorism threats to the wider world.

      report
    2. Sarah Joseph

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Yuri Pannikin

      But Yuri, the question of staying after 11 years is different to the question of getting rid of Al Qaeda in 2001 - which has largely been achieved.

      report
    3. Yuri Pannikin

      Director

      In reply to Sarah Joseph

      Sarah, apologies for not replying previously to your point. Yes, I concede this, and we do need to debate the timing of withdrawal. Sooner may be better than later. I am not in a position to judge this.

      al-Qaeda still exists in the region as a disparate ideology, even if languishing in the border regions and under constant drone attacks (sorry). But you are correct. I doubt that even if al-Zawahiri is still alive, he could mount any actionable alliance with the Taliban. I may be wrong, though.

      report
    4. duncan mills

      Social Ecologist

      In reply to duncan mills

      To tease out the issue of honour and its implications a little further.

      Honour to me means to take pride in ones trustworthiness and reliability as a member of society, as a fellow human being. In the case of Afgahnistan, yes it is vital we give it our best effort and keep our word. Maybe for reasons beyond our control democratic government may collapse again but they will respect us if we stay the course, but they will know that we are trustworthy and moderates will gain strength know they have…

      Read more
  13. Emma Anderson

    Artist and Science Junkie

    "Perhaps it dishonours our troops to keep them in harm’s way in order to preserve Australia’s image as a loyal ally in an increasingly discredited war on terror."

    Yep. It also dishonours the thousands of dead Afghani civilians that have died as a consequence of this war. Early on, people who disagreed with the invasion of Afghanistan saw it becoming a war of attrition. Take heed, Cassandra was again correct.

    report