The Australian government has decided to send another 200 troops to Afghanistan. I’d be interested to know people’s views about our ongoing involvement in this country.
According to media reports, the new deployment will be involved in re-construction work and will bring our troop commitment up to about 500 personnel by mid-year, after a decision to send a reconstruction taskforce to the country’s troubled southern region.
The Australian troops already there include a special forces task group of 200 and a recently deployed air component consisting of two Chinook helicopters and 110 personnel. The special forces group is due to come home in September after a one-year stay.
I gave some of my wider views on this matter in this post on my old blog site.
It’s also an appropriate place to remind of this post which details the difficulties of being politically active in Afghanistan.
There were differing views within the Democrat membership and also within our Senate team about being part of the military action which removed the Taliban. Despite my strong misgivings about the long-term consequences of war, I still supported it at the time.
Whilst invading Iraq was wrong in any case, the fact that Australia used it as a reason to withdraw from Afghanistan and that it also diverted the priorities and attention of many countries away from Afghanistan was just one more reason why it was a dumb thing to do.
Regardless or whether or not a particular military action is the right thing to do, helping a country rebuild afterwards is a crucial aspect in trying to make sure the positives outweigh the negatives in the end result. That’s why I support our re-involvement in Afghanistan now, although it does stretch our military resources even further – which is all the more reason to take most of our 650 personnel out of Iraq.
UPDATE: 10th March
The Washington Post recently reported that the director of the USA’s Defense Intelligence Agency told Congress that the insurgency in Afghanistan is growing and will increase this spring, presenting a greater threat to the central government’s expansion of authority “than at any point since late 2001.”
I received some comments from someone I know who has enormous personal experience in Afghanistan issues, including serving at government level there. Although their views about the new Australian troop deployment don’t concur with what I have expressed, I think it is useful for Australians to hear and take into account the perspective of someone who has had to wrestle firsthand with some of these hugely difficult issues. I have reproduced their comments here:
I don’t feel very comfortable with this. Of course Afghanistan needs outside support to combat the growing insurgency and to bring about security, but I think the presence of Western troops contributes to the insurgency.
It seems to me to be designed by the US as a way to deal with the problem of “overstretch” of their military forces. Due to unpopularly of the Iraqi war in Europe, Canada, Australia and NZ, they have either not committed troops there or wish to withdraw their troops. On the other hand, these countries don’t have much problem with sending troops to Afghanistan. The US wants these countries to take over the responsibility in Afghanistan, so that the US could reduce its troops there. In other words, sending troops to Afghanistan is in fact helping the US in its war in Iraq.
According to an article in the Guardian, the war in Afghanistan will last “years and years;” and it’ll most probably get bloodier and bloodier too. Sending young Australians to such a quagmire, without the hope of accomplishing much, may not be a wise policy.