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Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan war’

(French, present participle of revenir, to return – when used in English curiously it is more dramatic, from the dead, like the recent film or book.)

Ok, you’ve been afraid to ask, why has the strident voice from Kookynie been quelled since this time last year. Rumours that KC was bought out by Murdoch almost came true as we were very willing to sell out for a small consideration, but negotiations fell over when Rupert insisted we go quiet on his Jerry Hall liaison. I wonder what fine qualities he has to keep pulling these babes, huh?

Nah, we’ve been too busy realising the Great Orstralian Dream out here in the back of beyond. With no shortage of deserted blocks to snap up, we decided to DIY a new shack, thus expanding Kookynie’s housing stock by about 25%. So it’s done, home beautiful is extant. We’re here for the long-haul, mate, not speculation, unless of course a property developer offers a motza. Have a gander below and swing by when you’re next heading north from Coolgardie.

So time now for keeping you abreast of the latest wonderings, which brings us inevitably to today’s sacred rendez-vous with history, and the temptation to recycle last year’s Anzac Day diatribe. But I’ll resist it, and simply mention ‘Unnecessary Wars’ by Henry Reynolds, just released, which traces Australia’s ignominious tradition of uncritically joining in faraway imperialist or neo-colonial wars at the behest of our great and trusted allies. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s bound to add more grist to my over-full mill of anti-war resentment and resistance.

So instead of wallowing in the faux sentimentality and over-wrought nationalism of ‘remembrance’, I recommend that we do ourselves and future soldier generations a service, by reading Henry’s book. And think about what was actually achieved in those foreign lands where our boys made the supreme sacrifice. Yeah, that was think, not feel.

Have a trawl through KC’s archives on our most recent war in Afghanistan. Objective conclusions about Australia’s involvement are rarely discussed, and the lack of debate when we commit to war perplexing indeed. Henry may help to elucidate these blind-spots in the national psyche and political DNA.

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Australia’s military is finally pulling up stumps, so to speak, in this blighted land. Our longest war (12 years) has been declared over. New PM Abbott was on the ground there to wave the flag and send the troops home by Christmas. He admits that it did not end in victory, but will not admit defeat either. He hopes that Afghanistan is ‘better for our presence’.

Vain hope and dishonesty are bad enough, but it seems that the new Australian government will also drastically reduce future aid there. The contradiction is flagrant and so cynical. The logic is that warlords and Taliban will resume control and so disbursements of aid cannot be realistically overseen as our government would wish. Even the fate of Australian-built schools in Oruzgan is unknown and their futures problematic.

The plain, painful truth is that our ‘war’ in Afghanistan has achieved little of lasting value. In fact with the reversion of the country to traditional tribalism and Taliban control, it has to be considered a monumental defeat – an exorbitant foreign failure that cost 40 Australian lives, 260 wounded and $7.5 billion. The damage and cost in Afghan casualties of our operations has not been quantified.

So, it’s a wrap and retreat in the Land of the Afghans. And adieu! To god indeed! Shame on successive Australian governments for spinning the pretense of progress with their weasel words, and sacrificing Australian and Afghan lives. Lest nobody forgets!

And a pox on both major political parties for their fawning attitude to Uncle Sam. So, until he again rings the tocsin of terrorism and sends us off to war in another poor corner of the world, it’s probably more au revoir.

Digger & flag

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Gosh, time flies when you’re entertained by political giants Julia and Tony doing their ‘I’m gunna rip your throat out’ routine and other pathetic attempts at boosting their terminally low polls. Now Tony flips seamlessly from rottweiler to statesman-in-waiting and the punters are again treated as mugs. Speaking of punters, add in doses of Barangaroo buffoonery from Junior Packer about his proposed casino and ever-smiling Tom Watercloset making football like horse racing. And you see why national affairs have been beyond ridicule and satire.

So for a few months KC staff has been taking a well-earned and unannounced sabbatical. Oh, and by the way, our sustained campaign against the Australian war in Afghanistan has finally cut through with the PM acknowledging our contribution to shedding light on this misguided adventure. Not! But check for yourself by reading KC analysis over several years and you’ll see that the futility of Australia’s intervention and sacrifice is finally coming home to roost as we head for the Afghanistan exit already clogged with our allies. If you’re sceptical about history repeating itself, read William Dalrymple’s new book.

During the break we did some serious cocooning (remember that voguish term of yore) in the Kookynie family home, and spent time smelling the desert peas. After an overdose of TV renos programs we decided to indulge in a modest and sustainable kitchen make-over. Made from 100% recyclable materials and architect-free, it’s already the envy of Kookynie’s other three residents, which of course is the whole point. Anyway, enjoy, whatever, like…..you know!

Gwalia kitchen

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KC has been an ardent critic of Australia’s Afghan intervention since its misguided inception in the time-honoured tradition of following Uncle Sam. We have traced its tragic misadventures, and Australians’ apathy in the face of their government’s supine attitude and increasingly threadbare rationales. Our human toll is now 39 Australian soldiers killed and hundreds wounded. Cataloguing the massive cost and loss of life to Western allies, and the long-suffering Afghan people, would fill today’s column, so I’ll keep it simple. And not bother with quotation marks around the weasel words of our political and military leaders.

The war will not be won, terrorism will not be deterred, our mission will not be finished, democracy will not be installed in Afghanistan, the job will not be done, Afghani women will not be saved from sharia-style treatment, the Afghan army will probably not be ready to control its territory, and most importantly the Taliban will not be suppressed. On the contrary, evidence points to its ascendancy, with both the Karzai government and US negotiating with Taliban leaders for a semblance of cover to withdraw occupying allied forces.

A final shred of flimsy rationale for Australia’s ongoing military engagement fell away this week, with the announcement that our command had suspended joint operations with their Afghan protégés. This follows the most recent so-called ‘green on blue’ incident where an Afghan Army soldier turned his gun on Australian comrades, killing three of them. Australia’s training role in Oruzgan province, purportedly preparing the Afghan army for duty after our withdrawal, is effectively in tatters. No amount of weasel words can hide that fact.

Aussies really are a weird mob. Polls have consistently shown that over 60% of us are now against this bad war, and yet protest is mooted, almost non-existent. As commented previously, we have conflated notions of sacred Anzac respect with support for whatever our diggers are doing. But ironically this lack of criticism allows the government to get away with its lies and tokenism, as its leaders attend soldiers’ funerals. It does not respect the deadly commitment of our soldiers. Of course nobody wants to say that lives have been sacrificed in vain. Wake up Australia! What have we learnt from our long history of fighting our allies’ wars? No more Australian lives should be sacrificed to such a transparently misconceived cause. To make matters worse, pundits now forecast a gradual decline into civil war in Afghanistan. My anger just keeps growing.

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NATO governments & allies (International Security Assistance Force), including us, are gathering momentum for a stampede to the Afghan exit, strategy or not. Or ‘faster beat in the retreat’, as the SMH put it before Xmas. The French have moved forward their departure (despite our clever Foreign Minister Rudd declaring only last week that this would not happen), following the recent killing of four of their troops by another rogue Afghan colleague and wounding 15 others. Like the French, everyone is now canvassing withdrawal by 2013, instead of 2014. By the end of this year ‘drawdown’ of foreign troops will total 40,000, including 33,000 Americans from their June total of 101,000. President Karzai wants foreign contractors, including security companies, out next month.

US Congress committee reports a total 70 allied troops killed and 110 wounded by Afghan government soldiers. Afghan civilian casualties are estimated at 10,000 in the last five years alone. US casualties total 1,800 killed and 150,000 wounded, France 82 killed, Australia 33 killed and 218 wounded.

The usual weasel words ‘going the distance’ or ‘doing the job’ or ‘completing the mission’ are no longer worth repeating. Now it’s about ‘transitioning’ or ‘handing over’ to Afghan security forces. Negotiations with the Taliban are well under way. We’re just not sure who’s negotiating. The bottom line is that we will not go the distance, or do any lasting job or complete any of those shifting mission objectives of the last ten years. Afghanistan faces an uncertain future, like Iraq, in the vacuum that we create by our presence and departure.

A reminder of US (and our) involvement in this latest foreign military adventure in Afghanistan may be helpful. Originally the Taliban were financed and supplied by the Americans to fight the Russian occupation. Following 9/11 and Taliban refusal to give up Bin Laden without some evidence, they became synonymous with Al-Qaeda and henceforth US mortal enemies too. First big mistake! Meantime the US also massively supplied Pakistan with arms and dollars, even while its notorious Inter-Services Intelligence was harbouring and abetting Taliban, and probably Al-Qaeda, safely across the border in bases in Pakistan. Go figure!

At the same time, the corrupt Karzai government and its recycled Taliban provincial governors and their cronies, were flourishing under the manna of US hand-outs and contracts, plus the thriving opium cropping and trade. Former commander of allied forces in Afghanistan, retired General Stanley McChrystal, confessed that the US held a ‘frighteningly simplistic’ view of the country and its history when it declared war on the Taliban in 2001, and that they didn’t even try to learn Afghan languages. Furthermore he said that ten years later the US lacks the know-how to bring the conflict to a satisfactory end.

Politics will determine ISAF exit strategies – first and foremost the looming US Presidential elections, where Obama needs to announce US withdrawal for 2013. US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta is even fudging to mid 2013. Australia will of course independently come to the same conclusion. Former US ambassador to Afghanistan retired lieutenant-general Karl Elkenberry estimated that the ‘sustainment cost’ of Afghan army and police forces will be $7 billion in 2014, three times Afghan government revenues. Somehow Elkenberry remains hopeful, and NATO is talking of ongoing support beyond 2014. Unfortunately without foreign military protection, civilian aid projects may be withdrawn too. There is no happy or snappy conclusion to this tragic saga. As the French would say, ‘quoi qu’il en soit’ (no matter what), the Taliban are well-placed.

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Angrier over Afghanistan

I am very angry about our ridiculous war in Afghanistan. What is wrong with us (Australians)? We get outraged when our cattle are not slaughtered properly in Indonesia, and yet we meekly accept another three Australian soldiers killed this week in Afghanistan in that useless military adventure. Total death toll: 32.

What’s worse is that this latest episode demonstrates again why the stated reason for being in Afghanistan is a sham. As previously reported our war aims have segued seamlessly from rooting out Al-Qaeda, to bringing democracy to a blighted people, and now mentoring the Afghan army to look after their own security. In this incident an Afghan soldier turned his gun on our troops on parade and shot dead three of them, in the back. The whole Afghan barracks in that base have now been disarmed, while someone works out who can be trusted further. Most previous Australian fatalities have occurred from improvised explosive devices. This conflict is a bloody national disgrace.

Gillard intones the usual platitudes about grief and mourning, and Defence Minister Smith makes a lugubrious statement about reviewing how our troops engage with the Afghan army. Politicians from both major parties continue to parrot ‘staying the course’ and ‘completing the mission’. They make me feel sick. Such dishonesty is an insult to the families of our dead soldiers. We don’t even know who our allies are there, and have no damn idea of how they will perform when we’ve finished mentoring them.

Politicians and media have conflated woolly notions of Anzac tradition into an omerta of uncritical support for a misguided military engagement, which has now lasted ten bloody years. So nobody dares (except The Greens) to raise a dissenting voice, for fear of being labelled unAustralian or disloyal to our troops. This is childish nonsense – our involvement in this war needed vigorous and ongoing debate from the start. And now that the emperor’s clothes are so clearly in tatters, it has to stop before another Australian life is needlessly sacrificed in a futile war. Bring the troops home now!

 

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Our involvement in this endless conflict has now cost the lives of 29 Australian soldiers and more than 200 wounded, over its ten years. In 2009 we discussed Australia’s strategy dilemmas, expert opinionstroop surges, and the corrupt Afghan government and shocking reality there, explained by Malalai Joya (currently in Australia again, as guest of the Melbourne Writers Festival).

The same arguments still hold, but the Australian body count keeps rising. Mission creep has been a constant. Our reasons for being there (apart from unconditionally supporting our US ally in whatever military adventure they undertake) have seamlessly segued from a general ‘war on terror’, to rooting out Al-Qaeda, denying them bases, fighting the Taliban, mentoring Afghan security forces, protecting Afghan women and even humanitarian efforts. Meanwhile the corrupt Karzai government fiddles elections, trades in opium, under the protection of the NATO coalition forces, and more. Now, finally the government is negotiating with Taliban leaders about some sort of settlement. In other words, the ‘enemy’ will come into the fold, or tent, without mixing metaphors. Working out friend and foe, as allegiances shift and re-form, is probably beyond us non-Afghans.

Australia’s sacrifice has made no real difference and our troops know it. Channel 7 Sunday  program questioned them and their embarrassment was palpable. Discussion about the war’s effectiveness and outcomes is stymied by our reluctance to admit any unnecessary loss of life and injury. Media questioning is absent and our political leaders on both sides maintain a kind of misplaced omerta, mouthing the same platitudes of regret at every new Australian troop death. Reverence for fallen soldiers is almost religious, but their avoidable deaths are a matter for deep shame, and our silence allows the scandal to continue. What tactical purpose they serve patrolling the countryside constantly exposed to IEDs (improvised explosive devices), which have killed the most, also remains a mystery. Our history of participation in others’ unwinnable wars continues apace.

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