Now Australia is going to the Strait of Hormuz, let’s look back on Afghanistan

My reply to K. Rudd’s speech which was attached to a covering letter expected to explain our involvement in Afghanistan. This was Australia’s first debate regarding Afghanistan, 9 years after we first invaded.

Dear Mr. K Rudd,

I have made comments on this speech.  I hope it adequately conveys my utter disgust at the Australian Govt., regarding the disgraceful War in Afghanistan.  History will judge you badly, as it always does when invovled in US led wars over the last 50 years.  The Afghan people deserve better! 

I can only take from the attachment of an old speech that the Australian Govt., certainly not the people, are ignoring or giving tacit approval of  the ‘Kill Team’, the drone attacks. ‘Special Forces’ committing night raids (this includes Australian Forces) killing predominately civilians and Australian Troops posting racist remarks on Facebook.  

You are supposed to be a Christian.  If your behaviour is Christian, is it any wonder a so called Christian man would burn the Qu’ran?  Please remind me, who are the terrorists?

No wonder you worked so hard for the Libyan No Fly Zone, you just love war, don’t you?  Do you think if the US notices how much you love war, you just might get your old job back?  The US has lost all credibility on the world stage, they are seen as war happy imperialists, and apparently we want to be just like them.  The people (intelligent ones) no longer rely on the corporatised media nor politicians for their information, so we aren’t buying your war.  That goes for the people across the globe.  The people know better than their governments, that is why democracy was set up in the manner it was, so the people could stop wrong headed politicians.  The American people know it, as do the British and any of the other ISAF peoples involved … not in my name Mr. Rudd et al!! 

I am ashamed to be an Australian although I love this land.  I now know there is no point observing ANZAC Day, our solemn oath being ‘Lest we forget’… we have already forgotten, haven’t we?

Gail Malone

Parliamentary Statement on Afghanistan Speech … Canberra 21 October 2010

Last Friday I met with 15 foreign ministers from around the world to discuss and to make decisions on our future support for Pakistan.

A few days later, Special Envoys from around the world, including Australia, gathered in Rome to deliberate on future policy towards both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

From these and other nations we now have a combined coalition force in the field of some 120,000 troops from 47 nations.

  • Some 80,000 Americans
  • Nearly 10,000 Brits
  • 4,500 from Germany
  • 4,000 from France
  • 3,500 from Italy
  • 2,500 from both Canada and Poland
  • 1,500 or so from, Turkey, Spain and Australia
  • And of the troops from these nations, more than 2,000 now lie dead, 21 of them Australian. Many more brave Afghan soldiers and police have also died serving alongside their coalition allies. And civilians?

I say this at the outset because the debate we are having today in this parliament is a debate being held in democracies around the world, asking:

  • Why are our troops, police and civilians in Afghanistan?
  • Is the current international strategy in Afghanistan effective?
  • Are our national contributions to that strategy capable of measurable success?

It is right that democracies have this debate. Not that it’ll change any minds, but debating makes it look, to the people, like you haven’t already made up your minds…

But my starting point is that in doing so we are by no means alone – for we are all in this together. Might is right.

And how we resolve our debate affects other contributing nations — many of whom are watching our deliberations very closely. Resolve debate??? You have already decided!

Already in the course of the debate this week, a number of questions have been raised by members about our effort in Afghanistan and the rationale for it. Or lack thereof.

I intend to make a real effort to provide candid and measured answers to these questions. That doesn’t mean you will.

Nine years into this hard war, and six years of continuous Australian military engagement, what is our national mission in Afghanistan today?

Put simply, it is to help protect innocent people, including innocent Australians, from being murdered by terrorists. Oh please!! What about innocent Afghans?

Put simply, it is to support our friends and our allies in achieving this mission. Well yes, I get that, vying to be a major world power…

Put simply, it is to work with them to defend, maintain and strengthen an international order that does not tolerate terrorism. Except when it is us doing the terrorising…

All other purposes, associated with our mission in Afghanistan (including, for example, helping the Afghan people to develop a viable Afghan state) flow from these three primary purposes. So, why have the US installed the corrupt Kazai Govt.?

These primary purposes are also alive in the international legal instruments which underpin our presence there.

Following terrorist attacks in Washington and New York on September 11, UN Security Council Resolution 1386 of December 2001 authorises the establishment of an international security force in Afghanistan. How this has been expanded on, let me count the ways…

In the Australian Parliament, a unanimous resolution of this House formally invoked articles 4 and 5 of the ANZUS Treaty and the commitment of Australian forces in support of United States-led action against those responsible for the terrorist attacks. Might is right … dare I mention, we are supposed to live in a Democracy, why were the people not consulted?

Australia’s actions in Afghanistan since then have been anchored in these two resolutions — bringing together the full moral legitimacy of the UN system with the enduring commitment Australia has under the US alliance. We still aren’t ready to stand alone, on our own two feet.

Some have argued that there has been mission creep in Afghanistan since those earliest days, or at least that the mission has become confused in relation to its original purpose. Oh really? I would say they were correct!

If that were so, then it is difficult to explain why such a fractious international community would have so consistently renewed the mandate for our continued military operations in that country. Might is right!

At a more practical rather than legal level, others have argued that with the defeat of the Taliban regime in Kabul in early 2002 (and subsequently in the major centres in the south and in the west) that the mission was complete.

Again we would disagree, because the Taliban insurgency, while repressed for a period, returned with a vengeance following the flawed decision of 2003-2004 to provide an insufficient troop presence in Afghanistan, while the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia undertook the invasion of Iraq. Flawed decision, surely not?  We went along with it, with gusto. Will we say the same of Afghanistan in a few more years?

In other words, a violent Taliban insurgency rebounded, the same Taliban that had given succour and support to the terrorists who had launched their murderous attacks on innocent civilians in 2001. So we, launch our murderous attacks on civilians, but because of a useless UN, we have a veneer of legitimacy!

A further argument which is now advanced by some is that our continued and collective military presence in Afghanistan in fact incites the insurgency, rather than effectively combating it. I’d argue that, facts seem to back it up too.

But this argument fails to deal with the counter-factual that if coalition military operations in Afghanistan were to now cease, the Afghan Government’s authority or lack thereof and reach would be undermined — and were that to occur, the ability of a successful Taliban insurgency to again offer support for global terrorist organisations would increase. The costs to the Afghan people themselves — who have already endured 30 years of conflict — would also be significant. More significant than what is happening to them now?

Still another argument is that all that has been achieved has been a “bubbling out” of al-Qaeda and related terrorist organisations to new operational bases in other countries. There is not such a BASE, lots of people hate the West and for good reason, hence terrorists and terrorism.

But once again, that argument does not deal with the counterfactual Here we go, gobbledegook of what would happen in the event of a premature international departure.

This would most likely precipitate the erosion of the Afghan Government’s authority What authority? and reach, and add, once again, Afghanistan to the list of other states around the world where terrorist organisations have a high level of freedom of operation.

There is, however, a more important point to make about the argument and its assumption that no effort is being made by allied governments to monitor, contain and wherever possible, interdict terrorist operations in other centres around the world.

The truth is that massive intelligence and security assets are being invested on a daily basis in multiple centres round the world across the Horn of Africa, the wider Middle East, South and South-East Asia as well as within the domestic populations of target countries — including Australia. Is this the same kind of ‘intelligence’ that got Iraq invaded?

This in turn leads to a further question raised in this debate which, put simply, is as follows “is the world a safer or more dangerous place from terrorist threat than was the case nine years ago?”. More dangerous, for Muslims that is …

Again it is important to engage in an analysis of the counter-factual. Counter-factual with a hyphen this time ooooo!

Had we not toppled the Taliban If they’re toppled, why are we still there? regime and had we failed to then prevent it from returning to power, what would have then occurred across the border as terrorists sought to perpetrate more 9/11s, more Madrid and London train bombings and more Bali bombings? If we keep on invading Muslim countries we will have more, no one would invade Ireland, would they? … I have to add, this speech is appallingly written … but I digress …

The truth is that our continued operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban, to deny the return of al-Qaeda and its allies to Afghanistan, combined with coordinated counter-terrorism operations around the world, have helped in preventing the repetition of a series of large-scale September 11 type attacks. So you say, any proof?

Of course there have been many near misses — in fact many more than the general public is ever likely to know. Of course there have … we’ll wait for the truth from Wikileaks, if you don’t mind.

The problem is, the success of an effective counter terrorism strategy is much harder to recognise than its failure.

In summary, we argue that the counter-terrorism argument underpinning the continuing mission in Afghanistan remains valid. So you say …

Afghanistan does not represent the totality of the international coalition’s global counter terrorism strategy.

It does however represent an important part. I bet it doesn’t and I’m sure Afghanistan is thrilled to be so important.

And if Afghanistan was to fall, the global counter-terrorism challenge would be rendered much more difficult than is currently the case. Proof?

A further reason for our continued military engagement in Afghanistan is our alliance with the United States.

Some have argued that this represents an invalid basis for our engagement. I think lots do …

The Government disagrees. Noted!

The Government has never regarded the alliance as a blank cheque in our dealings with the US. hahahahaha!!!

That is why, when in Opposition, we opposed the Iraq war and committed to the withdrawal of combat forces should we succeed in being elected to office.

And that is precisely what we did. But that wasn’t for over 12mths after the election and most other countries where leaving as well …

The Government’s policy towards Afghanistan was different, and for two reasons:

  • first, the UN Security Council authorised the creation of an international security force (which it did not do in the case of Iraq);
  • and second, the ANZUS alliance was formally invoked (which was not the case in Iraq).

These arguments aside, however, the Government has stated both in the 2009 Defence White Paper and the Government’s National Security Statement to the Australian Parliament that the US Alliance is fundamental to Australia’s overall national security. Well, that makes everything just hunky dory then.

The dense fabric of defence, diplomatic and intelligence cooperation which occurs within the framework of the alliance is of great strategic importance to Australia. Extremely dense!

It cannot be replicated elsewhere. Thank Heavens for that!

Therefore, the Government does not apologise for a single moment for invoking the alliance as a relevant consideration in our continued engagement in Afghanistan. Didn’t think it would …

Further, Australia has broader international obligations to support an international order which confronts terrorism head-on, rather than ignoring it.

As noted above, UNSC resolution 1386 authorises ISAF’s mission under Chapter VII of the Charter, the chapter which governs “the use of force in defence of international peace and security.” Was international peace and security at threat? I doubt that very much …

In fact, article 2 of resolution 1386 actually calls upon member states to, and I quote, “contribute personnel, equipment and other resources to ISAF”, un-quote,  as well as explicitly authorising member states to take, and I quote, “all necessary measures”, unquote, to fulfil its mandate.

Once again it should be noted that this resolution has been renewed on ten occasions since then.

The point here is that, if we are serious about our obligations to maintain a stable international political order, it follows that responsible states are in fact obliged to act under the UN Charter, rather than this simply being a matter of discretionary choice. Since when … we didn’t in Iraq! Who decides who is or isn’t a responsible state, Kevin?

It is for this reason that 47 states are now members of ISAF, including 19 non-NATO members.

It is also the reason why more than 70 countries and international organisations attended the London Conference on Afghanistan in January this year, and around 70 attended the Kabul Conference in July — including Islamic countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well as the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

In short, we are not in this alone. Might is right!

We are part of a collective international effort aimed at defending the at times fragile international order. Well, our version of it …

Of course, it is a matter for each state to determine what resources they dedicate to the collective security task assigned to the international community by the Security Council.

Some are doing much more than others. Lift your game slackers … you aren’t killing enough Muslims!

Just as others have varied their commitments over time.

But the core principle at stake is one of defending an international system based on collective security — the same system which, for example, provides the international legal authority for the outlawing of terrorist organisations worldwide and the authorisation of national actions against such organisations. There’s that international system again … and who’s security exactly?

As a middle power vying to be major power,  which has long-exercised global responsibilities stuck our bib in other’s fights, it is appropriate that Australia also play its part rather than freeloading on the international system.

Freeloading is not in our nature. We are vying to be a major power or at least best mates of one!

The next question to consider is a practical one — namely the content of the current international strategy in Afghanistan and Australia’s role within that strategy.

There are four key elements to the current international strategy in Afghanistan:

  • first, counter-insurgency operations to degrade the capability and will of insurgents; Leaving would do that!
  • second, a transition to the Afghan Government  taking lead responsibility for its own security;
  • third, negotiation and, where possible, reconciliation with insurgents within the country to bring about not just a military solution for the country’s future, but more importantly, a political settlement as well; and
  • fourth, effective engagement with Pakistan in order to give genuine effect to the political and military goals outlined above. So long as they do exactly what the US wants. You know, like handing back CIA murderers for blood money.

As noted by the Prime Minister on Tuesday It should have been me, transition is core to the coalition’s strategy — both nationally and in Uruzgan province.

This entails training the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police to, What? Shouldn’t we have started that a long time ago in time, take on lead responsibility for the maintenance of national and local security. Because its going to be in a shocking state when we go.

It also requires assistance to the Afghan Government to enable it to deliver basic health, education and infrastructure for the benefit of ordinary Afghans and, as a consequence, to foster support for the Afghan Government. ??? Afghans, you will support your corrupt Govt. 

A number of contributors to the debate have argued that whatever is done to enhance the capacity of the Afghan Government, its weaknesses are such that it cannot deliver real benefits. You think?

They argue that the Afghan government is so flawed on a number of fronts (from corruption through to the treatment of women) that it is no longer a Government worthy of international support. They are right, but you guys put them there.

Certainly the Government in Afghanistan has a number of failings. ???

And in the course of this parliamentary debate some have raised examples.

Nonetheless, it is important once again to apply the counter-factual test. ??? Because he really can’t say lies, we all know better

Were the withdrawal of international support now to result in the loss of authority of the Afghan Government, a return to anything approaching the previous Taliban regime would, from the perspective of the Afghan people, be infinitely worse against practically all measures compared with the imperfect situation they now have. Maybe we should ask them?

At the same time we are not resting there, as we seek to support continued reform by the Afghan Government through our aid program. See everyone’s got their hand in the cookie jar. 

Negotiation and reconciliation represent another arm to the international strategy in Afghanistan.

Australia recognises that reconciliation and reintegration is a matter for the Afghan people. Because once we are gone, f*$k them!

It must be led and owned by the Afghan Government That we have already established is corrupt and needs to be consistent with conditions set by the said corrupt Afghan Government — namely: acceptance of the Afghan constitution; renouncing of violence and the severance of links to international terrorist groups. Well, someone’s got to renounce violence and it ain’t going to be us. 

It will be critical to ensure that these undertakings are met and observed in practice. ???

Negotiation and reconciliation are complex processes that can only succeed if the necessary military and political environment is in place. We already know the political isn’t in place but military, is that really necessary for negotiation and reconciliation?

In practice that means applying military force against the Taliban leadership as part of a hard headed strategy, which reinforces the political negotiation and reconciliation processes with clear military resolve — in other words, to talk from a position of strength rather than weakness. Well, what have we been doing all these years?

The international community, including Afghanistan’s neighbours, has a role in supporting such efforts.

There have been some preliminary signs that some senior Taliban leaders may be beginning to consider taking the path towards negotiation.

President Karzai said earlier this month that the Afghan Government had been holding unofficial talks with the Taliban for some time. Note: already established they’re corrupt

 In recent days, General Petraeus see above note has confirmed that the US and NATO have facilitated some contact between the two.

This is encouraging, but we must recognise that the negotiation and reconciliation process is likely to be long, complex and inevitably the subject of setbacks. We intend being there until the cows come home …

A further arm of the international strategy on Afghanistan concerns Pakistan. The truth is that Pakistan has a highly permeable border with Afghanistan. Oh really?

This has meant that hostile Taliban forces have been able to move freely between Pakistan and Afghanistan to conduct attacks against ISAF, Afghanistan and Pakistan forces.

The Government of Pakistan has cooperated with ISAF to take action against elements of both the Taliban in Pakistan and al-Qaeda.

However, there is still scope for Pakistan to do more, particularly against the Afghanistan Taliban and al-Qaeda.  Closer cooperation between ISAF and Pakistan is essential if this vital element of the international strategy is to succeed.

As both the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister have outlined in their statements to the parliament, Australia is deploying a coherent strategy in Afghanistan in concert with the international strategy outlined above. Yes, we get it, we are to continue killing Muslims. 

I don’t propose to repeat the detailed contents of our own strategy here. Why not?

Our special forces are applying pressure to Taliban insurgents with telling effect. But what are they ‘telling’ exactly?

Our military and police training programs in Uruzgan are substantial.

Our development assistance engagement of some $120 million in 2010-11 through AusAID, both nationally and provincially, is also making a measureable difference to education, health, infrastructure and governance, which has been detailed by others. See above video on Aid Corruption.

Our diplomatic engagement in Kabul where we seek to inject an Australian view in the central deliberations in both ISAF and the Afghan government through our highly capable Ambassador Paul Foley and his team of diplomats and aid officials. Australia is well served by these first class officers. Vying to be a major world power.

For those who have argued in this debate that our military forces be withdrawn now, and our development assistance program be enhanced instead, it must be borne in mind that all our aid workers require significant force protection in order to do their job, force protection currently provided by the ADF and our US allies. Because Afghans are really pissed at us because we keep killing them.

On reintegration, we have committed $25 million to the Afghan Government’s nationwide Peace and Reintegration program that focuses on creating the conditions among communities for the reintegration of insurgents who are willing to lay down their arms and return to their communities. See above video on Aid corruption

And as for Pakistan, Australia is a founding member of Friends of Democratic Pakistan. Yet, we say nothing about the drone attacks … some friend!

We run a significant development assistance program, worth $120 million over two years (in addition to the $75 million the Government is providing in flood relief) you already know about the video. Australia is also the second largest trainer abroad of Pakistani military officers including in counter insurgency techniques. Because we’ve had a lot of hands on practice.

Taken together, the Government believes this is a credible, integrated, political, military, economic and diplomatic strategy for Australia which reinforces the overall ISAF strategy. You don’t really care what the people think …

Of course, any such strategy and the financial resources committed to it must be the subject of continuing review (as will occur at an international level at the upcoming Lisbon Summit).

Mr Speaker, my contribution to this debate has not sought to replicate those of the Prime Minister or the Defence Minister.  

Instead it seeks to complement those statements — particularly in relation to the international dimensions of the Afghanistan conflict. Well, they’re international now you and your mates are involved!

It also seeks to add to the debate by responding to various concerns raised by other contributors to the debate — and in a manner which seeks to be constructive.

The Australian Government is fully seized to the difficulty of our mission in Afghanistan.

This is a hard war, not an easy one. ??? Why, because Afghans fight back?

A fact underlined by those who have lost their lives in their country’s service, those who have been wounded and those families who have suffered terribly as a consequence. Australia continues to be well served by our men and women in uniform. But, but….the Afghans … soldiers have a choice to be soldiers, civilians have no choice!

More casualties will occur, including the real possibility of civilian casualties. Definite possibility, that’s how modern wars are.

Our responsibility as a Government is to maintain bipartisan support for our troops in the field and to maximise the wider support of the Australian and international community. Good luck with thatthe people of the international community … remember us … you work for us! We are not happy about this.

Once again this will not be easy.

But our mission is clear. Sorry, what was it again? I’m not real clear.

As is our strategy. As above.

And the resources we have committed to it are significant.

At a personal level, I am also very mindful of General Cantwell’s recent remarks that now is not the time to lose faith.

For the reasons I have outlined in this statement to the parliament today, I agree with the General.

Australia will stay the course in Afghanistan. So stop writing us letters, we don’t care what you think!


  1. Karen Taylor said:

    Here here!
    I completely concur.
    People want Peace.
    Finances in a mess, you think wets going to raise revenue, with another war.
    I’d say “Make Australia Great Again”, but I dare say, we’ve not been great, never, since our short sighted ancestors invaded this once well cared for land.
    I love my country, but am absolutely sick and tired of our corrupt governance/dictatorship and Policing/Bullies.

    • Hi Karen, I feel the same, I love this land. Shame it’s run by gangsters.

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