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Waning national interest in Afghanistan

Is our continuing role in Afghanistan in the national interest?

Defence Minister Stephen Smith insists it is. The Prime Minister, after she finally agreed to a parliamentary debate on Afghanistan, insisted it was. Both sides of politics agree.

But the evidence that our continuing role, that the continuing loss of the lives of young Australians, the continuing expenditure of billions of dollars, will make any difference to the long-run outcome in Afghanistan remains thin. It is hard to find between Afghan soldiers turning their weapons on ISAF soldiers, including Australians, Taliban insurgents launching co-ordinated attacks in Kabul and the persistent evidence the Afghan government we are propping up is corrupt and harbours a deeply fundamentalist reflex.

At 1pm today, Julia Gillard, in a speech as usual leaked ahead of its delivery, is expected to indicate Australian will begin withdrawing later this year, once the Afghan government declares its fledgling National Army can take over security in Uruzgan province. It has the air of George Aiken’s famous advice on Vietnam, that the US should declare victory and leave, except that Australia is merely a (small) component of the overall ISAF force.

Polls consistently show deep antipathy toward the conflict on the part of voters. For several years, both major parties have blatantly ignored the views of voters and insisted on continuing with our involvement. It is time they heeded the views of voters that our involvement in this increasingly pointless conflict should end. As quickly as possible.

16
  • 1
    The Pav
    Posted Tuesday, 17 April 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Is our continuing role in Afghanistan in the national interest?

    Yes but only if our national interest is to:-
    Place our service men in unneccessary peril and continue to suffer needless casulties
    Waste scarce resources
    Alienate a people
    Repeat the mistakes of Vietnam
    Be mired in an unwinnable conflict
    and to ultimately face humiliating defeat

    The above applies in spades to Iraq

  • 2
    Rena Zurawel
    Posted Tuesday, 17 April 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    In relation to our involvement in Afghanistan, how can we define ‘national interest’ of Australia? And, in what way do we act in the national interest of the people of Afghanistan?

  • 3
    zut alors
    Posted Tuesday, 17 April 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    It’s curious that politicians are so easily influenced by unrelenting approval opinion polls but, when the electorate expresses clear opinion on something of importance such as war involvement, they don’t pay any heed.

  • 4
    michael crook
    Posted Tuesday, 17 April 2012 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    We are there and we will stay there as long as it suits our Imperial masters in Washington to have us there. Good, bad, win, lose have nothing to do with it. Our young service people will continue to pay for our American masters’ decisions with PTSD, death, injury and family destruction until such time as Washington decrees otherwise.

    You may or may not be happy with either this situation or this assessment, but if you are not happy, do something about it.

  • 5
    michaelwholohan1
    Posted Tuesday, 17 April 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Anyone who saw the doco on Vietnam(abc TV) by paul Hams based on his book, should have been staggered @! the Afghanistan paralell. The rationalle is the same , the language identical…………. 10minutes ago I heard Neil James state on ABC radio that we actually won the war inVietnam in 1968 then lost it because we gave up! Who will save us from these myth makers?

  • 6
    kennethrobinson2
    Posted Tuesday, 17 April 2012 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    This was always going to happen, DULLARD and The MAD MONK, just want Obamas approval, Just another smaller Vietnam, but just as tragic.
    Lets be friends with the YANKS, but dont let them dictate, where we will send our great DIGGERS, to fight other peoples wars, read your history, dont worry they will soon start another one, and our gutless government will join in.

  • 7
    Bill Hilliger
    Posted Tuesday, 17 April 2012 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Our next adventure as camp followers to the Americans war machine will be Iran. The villification of everything Iranian has been going for some time now, the parallels of justification for conflict is evidenced in the “modus operandi” used to attack Iraq. At least the US knows from experience the devastation a nuclear bomb(s) causes - afterall, the US is the only country to date that dropped nuclear bombs in anger on another country killing and maiming several hundred thousand civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki all those years ago. To this day, the Americans believe that callous act was responsible and justifyable killing of civilians. Furthermore to my knowledge they have never appologised to the Japanese people for that cowardly act of wanton destruction of so many civilians.

  • 8
    Salamander
    Posted Tuesday, 17 April 2012 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    The Yanks said they were leaving soon. We said we were staying longer. I don’t get any of it.

  • 9
    AR
    Posted Tuesday, 17 April 2012 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    A generation ago there was a song with the opening line US forces give the nod, it’s a setback for your country. Singer was tall, bald. Wonder what happened to him?
    In a week it’ll be Anzac Day, another episode of our troops, at the behest of the then Hegemon, being sent to imperial wars to kill & be killed by people they don’t know who never threatened them.
    Helicopters off the roof of besieged camps won’t be able to carry as many escapees as in Vietnam, given the altitude of Kabul.

  • 10
    Derek Butcher
    Posted Tuesday, 17 April 2012 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    I was in Afganistan in 1969 for 6 weeks.The people were great and I have never been able to understand why europeans want to fight in such inhospitable terrain.

  • 11
    carter maggie
    Posted Wednesday, 18 April 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    This is an incredibly complicated issue. As I understand it the situation in Afganistan was made worse by the US diverting resources to Iraq & maybe the Taliban could have been checked if we’d gone in earlier. I think its inevitable that we cannot “succeed” whatever that is, in Afganistan because of - the entrenched nature of the class system between muslim sects, fundamentalism, tribalism, corruption, the nature of the geography and weather of the country and the fact that war is a way of life - a concept alien to our culture.

    On the other-hand, can we just pretend they’re not there? Can you just abandon the people who are suffering so much? If you’ve read “The Kite Runner” you get a small glimpse into some of the issues affecting the people there. I think there’s some truth to the theory that walking away is like ignoring that festering sore on your leg. The repercussions are unknown and likely to be fatal.

  • 12
    eric
    Posted Wednesday, 18 April 2012 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Time to get out of this hellhole of a country.

    I find it strange that no one has learnt from history that is impossible to win in Afganistan.

    The Yanks have learnt nothing from the lesson of Vietnam.

  • 13
    Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)
    Posted Wednesday, 18 April 2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    @Carter Maggie,

    Australia’s role in Afganistan is only a complicated issue if you try to justify the views of the tag-team coalition of Liberal and Labor.

    If take a few big steps back from the political spin it all becomes very simple:

    Staying in Afganistan long term was never viable, especially as so many Afghan’s see us as invaders.
    The war against the Taliban was never going to be won.
    Lots of the good done, like increased female education, will be rolled back once we leave.

    Apart from proving to the USA that we will mindlessly support them, what other justification is there for the 32 Australian deaths and the hundreds of injuries?

    And think of how much humanitarian good would have been achieved if the 6 billion we have spent on this war had instead been spent on well targeted overseas aid!

    Of course the situation in Afghanistan is not good. But we don’t invade and occupy other countries which also have bad situations.

    I’m sure that our compliant media (including the ABC) will let Labor and Liberal get away with their ‘mistake’.
    Our Liberal and Labor tag-team coalition will both make a big fuss about Anzac day, and the public will ignore that our leaders sacrificed 32 dedicated Australian soldiers for no good reason and for no long term benefits to anyone.

  • 14
    Peter Ormonde
    Posted Wednesday, 18 April 2012 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Gillard…note to self…

    Next time I inherit something really stupid - say like a completely unwinnable military adventure in a completely ungovernable and unwinnable country -

    (1) I will leave it where it is and walk quietly away.
    (2) I will not simply pick up John Howard’s speech notes and continue reading.
    (3) I will not keep looking over my shoulder to see if the yanks are still smiling.
    (4) I will not go to any more funerals of soldiers
    (5) I will not pretend they died or were crippled for some sort of cause beyond arse-licking the yanks and for their active duty penalty rates.
    (6) I will stop pretending this has done anything remotely useful - for Afghanistan, for us or for the defeat of terrorism. In fact the reverse.

    Get this tattooed on your backside Julia.

    Let Steven Smith handle this crap - he fakes sincerity and belief much better than you ever could.

  • 15
    kennethrobinson2
    Posted Wednesday, 18 April 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    @PO,
    I couldnt have said it better myself, keep them coming.

  • 16
    Plane
    Posted Thursday, 19 April 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Whoa. The majority of Americans want out of Afghanistan; no longer believing the political rhetotic of why they need to be there and Julia Gillard is not solely and completely responsible for Australia’s continued involvement in Afghanistan. As P. Ormonde has banged on; politics is group effort , the entire government is in on this.

    Disgaree with our involvement in Afghanistan and with the government’s decision here but no glib analysis for people in a war situation

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