Australia’s Afghan War

Retired Major-General Jim Molan was chief of operations of the multinational force in Iraq in 2004, and criticised for orchestrating a repressive push into militant territory at Fallujah resulting in violent battles and civilian dead. He’s no shrinking violet, so his thoughts on Australia’s role in the Afghanistan war are worth quoting in summary form.

“Counter-terrorism is only part of our justification (meaning alliance politics)…Being in a war is about achieving a result in the conflict…Our minimalist approach means our soldiers will perform brilliantly until the war is lost…The coalition failed to deliver on aid promises and training of local police and military…So Afghanis see no benefit from the presence of foreign troops”.

“Australia’s contribution has been cloaked in rhetoric and confusion. It is delusional to think that, even in Oruzgan province, the coalition (in this case 3150 Australian & Dutch troops) can protect the people, develop institutions of state, provide jobs and education, create Afghan battalions and police and hunt those that need to be captured or killed, with the resources that we have allocated. But that is what we have to do”.

“Recent presidential election results raise doubts about whether the war and our small part in it are being run well…Australia’s actions show that we intend to do the least we can…Our greatest vulnerability is lack of resolve”.

While Molan therefore calls for “strong strategic decisions and resourcing”, he also concedes that “apart from practical military problems, we face a deep moral question of continuing a conflict that we are not serious about resolving”.

We cannot accept any longer to just be there, to satisfy US alliance perceptions. Our presence can in fact have deleterious effects on the local scene – it is not necessarily positive, even on a small scale. Broad Australian acceptance of long-term nation-building in Afghanistan with many more troops and mounting Australian dead is not going to happen. So the general’s analysis and assumptions lead us to logically (and morally) conclude that it’s time to leave!

Previous reports on Afghanistan are available here.


    1. Guetta’s comments are wishful thinking based on theorising and a war against ‘islamisme’. Be distrustful of wars against ‘isms’. The General is totally about experience on the ground, and his logic simply leads to a different conclusion. The illegitimacy of Karzai’s election only makes matters worse.

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