More Aussie troops to Afghanistan – UPDATED

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.

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34 Comments

  1. “which is all the more reason to take most of our 650 personnel out of Iraq”.

    The Iraq deployment is also a nation building exercise at the moment. Nearly all those troops are guarding Japanese engineers doing their work to help rebuild Iraq.

    It seems you would support the removal for no other reason than to see it fail.

  2. Our policy with Afghanistan was never rebuilding anyway. We were there for the “war on terror” not Afghanistan. The Australians attached to the US at the time were to make that clear. Sending over troops for rebuilding to Afghanistan is a big change in policy.

    Personally I think we should be leaving Iraq, we can make no difference there and are nothing more than a flag. Instead we should be sending the foucs of our military capability to Afghanistan.

    We can go back to our original policy which was eradicating Al Queda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Leave rebuilding to the US, UN, NATO and Europe. It is not our strength, nor was it ever our policy.

    The Howard government has flip-flopped big time on this.

  3. sigh …. no wonder it’s so hard to have constructive debate.

    The post is focused on Afghanistan, not Iraq, but in response to the pc person, for the record:

    1 Unlike virtually everyone else who opposed the invasion of Iraq the Democrats, under my leadership, repeatedly supported keeping our troops there once the initial phase of the invasion was over, as we had an obligation to help rebuild the place and get it back on its feet. There is ample evidence of this stance, so I won’t bother providing links here.

    2 The specific mission with the Japanese is due to conclude soon, which would be an appropriate time for those troops to withdraw. It wouldn’t be appropriate for us to pull out part way through this task given that we have already provided a commitment of support – I didn’t think it was necessary to provide this sort of detail in my original post but obviously it was.

    3 Whilst it was important for us to provide troops to help rebuild – and we still need to provide other forms of ongoing support – the evidence is fairly clear from how things have developed in Iraq that having continuing military presence from those western nations involved in the original invasion is a net negative in restoring stability. That being the case, we should pull out. It seems a strange position to support keeping troops in for no other reason than political propaganda value at home.

    4 I notice that the Dept of Defence website states that this Operation consists of 1320 Australian Defence Force personnel – not the 650 I quoted from the newspaper report. Not all of these would be on the ground/water in Iraq, but it would seem that a substantial proprtion of them are.

  4. Sigh too
    I maintain that your observation of Iraq is very superficial. There is more building effort required as there is in Afghanistan. Yet it’s your political preference to see the Iraqi project fail.

    I’m sorry to say you simply don’t understand the ramifications if Iraq fails. It’s that serious.

  5. pc:
    I do understand how serious it is if Iraq fails. That’s why I think most troops should be withdrawn.

    (although, I must say it’s going to be a rocky road regardless. It’s one hell of a difficult mess to fix up, and it goes much more widely than whether our troops stay or go – as the overnight mosque bombing shows. The destructiveness of the original invasion – including the effects caused by people now being able to see that the lies that underpinned it were deliberate and calculated – will be apparent for decades to come. Unfortunately, that stupid action can’t be reversed, so we have to deal with thinsg as they stand now)

  6. Your suggestion would be like ignoring the Japanese attack in the Pacific and sending all our troops to fight Europe.

    Andrew says
    “Whilst invading Iraq was wrong in any case”

    I says.
    It would by default mean that you would have supported the continuation of Saddam’s rule, which indeed is a shocking postion for an elected representative to take.

  7. “The destructiveness of the original invasion – including the effects caused by people now being able to see that the lies that underpinned it were deliberate and calculated”

    There was very little destruction from the invasion. Most of the killing has been done by an insurgency bent on causing mayhem and killing western troops. The objective is to create dissatisfaction in the west and turn the project into a failure.

    Your position and stance helps these thugs in their objective. They are using people like you to sow seeds of dissent and help it fail.

    In other words you are on the side of the Iranian regime along with their cohorts in Syria.

    This is a shameful position to take. Everytime you take this public position it empowers these thugs to take aim at our troops.
    It is shameful.

  8. I believe we bit off more than we could chew in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Both countries have been bombed to rubble, we have an obligation to fix the infrastructure we broke, but because we contributed to the mess our forces are resented.

    Should we be in Afghanistan? If we’re going there to be genuinely constructive then yes, but only if Afghanistan wants us there, and only if our purpose is explicit. Unfortunately the ulterior motives of the West in the Middle East have proven dodgy and destructive in the past. If our presence there was likely to engender the sort of resistance and resentment we’ve experienced in Iraq then maybe we should consider some alternative contribution, although I’d advise against wheat.

  9. sorry – I didn’t realise we were meant to be debating down at the Alexander Downer level of primary schoolyard name calling, where ‘opposing a war’ = ‘supporting a tyrant’.

    Given that the invasion of Iraq – along with the appaling way the post-invasion task has been handled – has led directly to a massive increase in the power and influence of the Iranian regime, it’s a bit rich for the pro-war mob to accuse others on “being on the side of Iran” (and Syria too for good measure apparently).

    The fact that the best that most of the pro-war mob have been able to do in response to any criticism or suggestions for different approaches is to chant “you’re a Saddam supporter” as loudly and continually as possible gives a good indication of why the post-invasion period has gone so badly.

    In the UK and even in the USA, many pro-war supporters have been prepared to be publicly critical of much that has happened since the invasion and have called for things like troop withdrawals. For some reason, it seems that in Australia we are stuck just with Downer-level debate and the political correctness police throwing inane smears at anyone who tries to have any sort of informed discussion.

  10. “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.”

    The troops in Iraq are Infantry/Cavalry and those going to Afghanistan are mainly Engineers. I’m not sure how you can compare the two.

    And we’re only talking about very small numbers of troops.

    The Australian Army has 26,000 full time soldiers and another 17,000 reservists. If we can’t have 650 soldiers in location A and 200 in location B then we’re really in trouble.

  11. Don’t blame it on Downer. It’s not name calling when I say the position you take is that you support the Ba’athist regime. It’s the only conclusion one can draw.

    It is interesting how you bring Iran into the picture when we all know they would have continued with their weapons development even more so if the coalition weren’t in the next paddock.

    I adore your logic. I accuse you of aiding and supporting the enemy and you blame it on Downer! That would have to be the most convoluted logic and distortion I have seen for a while.

    “throwing inane smears at anyone who tries to have any sort of informed discussion”.

    Our enemies closely watch your criticisms of the war effort and they play on these weaknesses. You’re simply aiding the enemy.

    The position you hold is identical to the one held by the American Democrats: You support the troops but not the war. This is the biggest load of nonsense and a transparent ploy by your mob to assist in damaging the war effort so you score political points with the wider public.

    Let me tell you it doesn’t work. The people can see through this and are aware of your motivations. They may not like the war effort, but they can see the damage you are causing.

    Iraq is a bigger fish than Afghanistan. If the Iraq project fails the next possibility is a nuke exchange with Iran. Take that to bed and sleep with it.

  12. Well, I coukd try and sleep with it, although with so many warmongering zealots in power around the world, it’s getting a lot harder to get a decent sleep.

    I’m not quite sure what “the Iraq project” is, or how we are supposed to know when it succeeds or fails. However, if the people running “the Iraq project” think things are going well there, when Iran now has much more political power and influence in the region than they did a few years ago, then I sure hope someone else takes control of the “project” very soon.

  13. And you think your sly criticisms are helping any in respect to what’s happening with Iran?
    Tell you readers what the Iranians are thinking every time they read a western politician is sitting on “their side of the fence”.

    What effect does it have on them? You think there is a slight chance they see become even more optimistic that there are enough 5th columnists in the west that would help them with their efforts.

    Compare and contrast what a united front would like like to the Iranians. Or isn”t that part of the strategy to win re-election?

    What you are doing is exactly what the Western left was up to during the 30’s with Germany. Criticisms at that time were taken by the Nazis as as an useful pointer to take territory.

    The problem is that this is not new to you as I would expect you to know this important part of history. This is what it so shameful. You are fully aware of the consequences of your actions.
    Thanks for helping out starting the next nuke exchange!!!!

  14. In case you aren’t aware of waht happened during the 30’s I suggest you take a short walk to the library as there are many books detailing the actions of the western left helping Hitler’s rise in the 30’s.
    Take a bucket with you as it may become useful after realizing what certain western politicians are doing!!!!

  15. Afganistan. Unusual situation. The deployment was going to happen by someone regardless. That country needs alot of help from the international community. As an ex-soldier I would probably relish the chance to go over there and do something. It is still a little worrying though. Why. Mainly because of the forward planning side of this conflict. Where was it? Why did we draw down from there in the first place? Was this a military screw up or a political screw up? Either all. We need the troops there. There is alot going on in that area of the world that needs immediate attention. Oh by the way our army has depleted manning numbers. I still stay in contact and I know that numbers have been down all across the board for a long time. And deploying troops isn’t as easy as looking at overall numbers. The military looks at dozens of factors. A lot of what if’s. ( Other conflicts , battalion manning numbers, battalion readiness, etc ) So I wouldn’t say the military is in trouble. However the goverment itself really doesn’t want to send thousands of troops into conflict also, unless the what if’s, are covered too. And the fallout for the goverment with loss of life that could occur. They certainly don’twant that. Anyway, my two cents worth.
    Iraq, is just plain messy. I don’t know what we could do there. If they keep killing each other they may finish the job for us. Pardon me for sounding a little jaded. Hey I think Pandora’s box has been opened and who knows where this will end up. I would like to add that Iraq won’t end in a nuclear exchange. Bet you a thousand bucks on that.

  16. I would have thought the only reason at all, and a justifiable one froma purely pragmatic point of view, to get involved with either Mission was to gain leverage and potential future help from the yanks.

    Forget all the rest of the hyped up moralism. Given the way we got no favours from the yanks on the AWB mess, why didn’t sonmeone ask for Volker to be leaned on – then most of us will never know if the yanks will ever help us. We might find out if the Indonesians look south, hopefully not in our lifetimes.

  17. I don’t have a problem with us deploying troops to Afghanistan. We never finished that job properly anyway – the Afghan government has asked for help – and while Iraq at least had some infrastructure until we bombed some if it and the insurgents have continued to bomb it ever since (with perhaps exception up north where the Kurds had a no fly zone which kept Saddams choopers out they way) Afghanistan had decades of decay. Plus it’s become a big centre for narcofinance which goes straight into coffers of undesirables, including terrorists. Not an easy task but. It will be years and years.

    Iraq? Plenty of time for Iraq. We will be arguing about Iraq and still sending troops when we are on our death beads – if it doesn’t self implode first. The best I could hope for in terms of a “united Iraq” is something akin to Pakistan. And that’s me being optimistic.

  18. pc police – arguing for a 100 yrs about your pro-war stance is not what this post is about & a lot of what you said,was merely flaming a.b. – do it on your own time. If you want to say all that stuff go get a soapbox at Speaker’s Corner, or a blog of your own, and make your comments more succinct, you need to have some consideration for the other readers.

    I’m not sure that it is necessary to pull the troops out of Iraq to strengthen the effort in Afghanistan, I feel they are two separate and distinct issues.

    However, clearly there has been a lot of criminal activity by some coalition troops(as opposed to
    o-z troops) in Iraq, and that, rather than support in Afghanistan, would be my reason for considering that they should withdraw – support in Afghanistan might seem a more constructive use of our troops’ efforts.

  19. Afghanistan has been broken for the past 30 years and Australia has had some weird reactions to that. First we boycotted the Moscow Olympics because Russia invaded then we totally ignored the suffering of the people for the entire Russian deployment.

    The US on the other hand trained Bin Laden and his cronies to kick out Russia – they became the Mujihadeen who employed a scorched earth policy of rape, pillage and destruction and then morphed into the Taliban who employed a scorched earth policy of rape, pillage, massacres and destruction of minority groups like the Hazara people and some of the Tajiks. Australia ignored all of that except to lock up the tiny number of refugees who managed to escape it all.

    Then came the TAMPA and suddenly Afghans were the most evil, sovereignty invading scum of the earth ever known and had to be sent to Nauru – except of course it was found that they were only refugees from hell.

    All during that of course the US were wining and dining the heads of the Taliban along with Unacal Oil to get a pipeline across Afghanistan to get the oil and gas – Robert Baer even says now that Unocal were writing the “intelligence” reports that the CIA then rebadged and called their own – and Australia still ignored their plight.

    The Taliban were locking up women and beating them, refusing their girls the right to go to school – so we did it when they arrived here escaping it.

    In the invasion it is now pretty well known that the plans for the invasion were being drawn up in July 2001 and were on the table with Pakistan on 10 September 2001.

    In October 2001 we helped to bomb the place into rubble, something I totally opposed. Just because some Arabians blow up the WTC doesn’t give us the right to blow up Afghanistan because it starts with the same letter.

    Anyway then we got the gorgeous Gitmo Bay, and it turns out now that most of the people there are not from Afghanistan, and Afghanistan had nothing to do with the WTC but still only 13 % of the population have water, the girls can’t go to school, 26% of the children under 5 die, 60 women die in child birth every day and Australia wants to send a lousy 200 extra people making it just 500 – to do god knows what.

    5 million people in Afghanistan have no decent housing – we send 200 people for rebuilding. What?

    How about sending 5,000 with $10 billion in aid to really be useful.

    As for Iraq – god help those people now.

  20. Afghanistan needs help, it has asked for help. We were involved in the original attacks that led to the overthrow of the Taliban so I think we have a continuing responsibility to help in reconstruction. I’m glad we are committing 200 troops with engineering expertise to help.

  21. I assume that senseless stream-of-consciousness blatherings like marilyn’s are not par for the course here.

    The government you, Andrew, seem to regard as ‘war mongering’ has caused this country to play a significant role in the liberation of East Timor from Indonesian rule, liberation of Afghanistan from the most vile theocratic fascism, and the Iraqis from an actual NSDAP state. I assume you know that the Ba’ath Parties in the Arab world are a direct copy of the old Nazi Party, and that Haj Amin al-Husseini was the man who imported that political ideology in to the Middle East, where it still thrives.

    It is always amusing to watch the modern left (specifically in the form of such disgusting toads as george galloway) supporting Arab NSADP regimes. Of course, modern socialism and NSDAP socialism have very much in common, so that does not surprise me at all.

    ANY removal of such regimes is to be appluaded – and it is a responsibility handed to us by the Enlightenment to assist the societies such ghastly regimes have brutalised.

    MarkL
    Canberra

  22. Andrew

    Would Marilyn be a typical supporter of the party?

    Marilyn

    Just a little history for you.

    The Americans never supported Bin Ladin in Afghanistan. The tradional allies of the Americans were always the Northern alliance. They used the same allies to turf out the Taliban.

  23. Mark, I think the Enlightenment responsibility you are referring to has also been called “the white man’s burden”. That is a dubious tradition to appeal to. Many have seen it as noble, yet history has shown that it is usually a pretty facade for actions – like the invasion of Iraq – that are not so pretty. When criticised, the war-makers respond that it may not have been a nice thing to do, but it was their duty. This has happened time and again. And now you, and many others, are playing right into their hands.

  24. pc police, some history for you. The Northern Alliance was – is – a bunch of unindicted war criminals.

  25. Damian:
    “Mark, I think the Enlightenment responsibility you are referring to has also been called “the white man’s burden”. ”

    Ye Gods and little fishes, do they even teach history these days??

    The term ‘the white man’s buredn’ comes from an epic verse written by Rudyard Kipling to commemorate the US seizure of colonial control over the Philippines in 1898, and it is an appeal for them to teach, guide and look after the rights of the Filipinos, and not to exploit them. It is an appeal to altruism – to spreading civilisation against barbarism.

    The ‘fruits of the enlightenment’ refer to little things which seem to have escaped your notice like the notion of rule of law, personal liberty, the right to retain one’s earnings, no taxation without representation, freedom of religion, separation of church and state, habeus corpus, democratic government, freedom of speech etc etc etc

    All the things you enjoy right now in Australia, dear Damian.

    And the things which are expressly forbidden to the individual in fascist, communist, socialist and theocratic states. In Israel, Fiji or Australia, one has freedom of religion and speech. Try that little stunt in Syria, Cuba or Saudi Arabia and you will be very dead, very fast.

    But you CAN now try that stunt in Afghanistan or Iraq, with little chance of getting killed (check out the numbers of independent newspapers in Iraq if you do not believe me, and there is no reason you should, but YOU can check this out for YOURSELF), and now 40,000,000 more people can sample these things, whereas trying to do so before they were liberated from outright fascism would have gotten them killed.

    Got the idea now?

    Think this is a bad thing?

    MarkL
    Canberra

  26. Oh, Dame-o. ‘Unindicted war criminals’ – mind explaining that? They, at least, fall in to the category of tribal warriors under the LOAC, and they had a command structure – still do.

    Use references to LOAC, please.

    MarkL
    Canberra

  27. Mark I don’t know what planet you come from but please wander off back to it please or listen to some common sense.

    1. The Taliban didn’t go anywhere and if you had ever known any Afghans you would know that.
    2. The Afghan people are worse off now than ever.
    3. The Taliban were supported by the US, even had holidays in the US courtesy of Bush.
    4. Yes the Northern Alliance only became allies after the Taliban annoyed the US, before that the US didn’t want anything to do with them.
    5. The CIA trained Bin Laden and the thugs to get rid of the Russians.

    As for Iraq – Saddam was crippled apart from the money he got from us.

  28. Marilyn, you are so ignorant I doubt you lack the synapse it takes to make even one neuron.

    The Taliban didn’t go anywhere and if you had ever known any Afghans you would know that.
    COMMENT: SO their hosting, funding and supporting Al Qaida was lost on your tiny mind. I expected as much.

    The Afghan people are worse off now than ever.
    COMMENT: How true – from the theofascist perspective. Their women can walk the streets without being whipped, girls can be educated, homosexuals are no longer stoned to death, music is allowed, sport is allowed, 2,000,000 Afghan refugees have returned home, their economy has grown 30% in thw last year, and the roads are being fixed. ACCORDING TO YOU THIS IS ALL BAD. I love the way you support theocratic fascism. What a NICE person you are. You are a National Front member, I assume? Or perhaps ‘White Power’?

    The Taliban were supported by the US, even had holidays in the US courtesy of Bush.
    COMMENT: That explains why we invaded them, then! Obvious – to an idiot. Prove ANY of this, any at all. Note that comments by other raving moonbats on Daily Kos are not ‘proof’. personally, I think you are simply lying.

    Yes the Northern Alliance only became allies after the Taliban annoyed the US, before that the US didn’t want anything to do with them.
    COMMENT: So what?

    The CIA trained Bin Laden and the thugs to get rid of the Russians.
    COMMENT: An ancient lie, oft disproved. The US and NATO powers (including the French!) armed and trained certain of the old Mujahideen through the Pakistanis in the 1970s and 1980s to fight the SOVIETS (not the Russians) who had conducted an unprovoked war of aggression against their ALLY, and conquered them.

    Your grip on history is negligible – kind of like your grip on reality.

    MarkL
    Canberra

  29. Yeah, yeah Mark L. That’s why hundreds of thousands of Afghans are leaving, why women are now raped instead of being beaten, why only 13 % of the people have drinkable water, about 5 million are homeless, 26% of children under five die of disease and hunger, girls still can’t go to school, women still wear the Burka as protection against the warlords, 90% of all the dope in the world is grown in Aghanistan while the world fiddles, the Taliban didn’t go anywhere.

    ånd on and on. Mark get a life mate that involves something more than using bile against me.

    By the way the US financed the mujihadeen 6 months before the Soviet invasion. Our new age peacemonger Jimmy Carter no less, the US financed and supported Bin Laden and were business partners with his family with both Bushes and so on.

    Get a grip man.

  30. Actually Mark Bin Laden led the Northern Alliance, he had nothing to do with the Taliban at all because the Taliban only came about in the 1990’s – years after the Russians were booted out.

  31. I may have left this a little late, but have to quickly reply to Mark L.

    Why so patronising, Mark? Do you think your tone will endear others to your argument? Do you get a kick out of it?

    And before lecturing others about their grasp of history, I suggest that you read about precisely how the US spread civilisation to its little brown brothers in the Philippines (your example).

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