Blog - Visit to Afghanistan
Posted on Friday, 18 November 2011
This week I paid a brief visit to our armed forces in Afghanistan. It was about a fortnight after three Australian members of the Mentoring Task Force had been killed by a rogue member of the Afghan army and about a week after another three had been seriously wounded by another Afghan soldier.
Obviously, incidents like this shake people’s faith in our mission. That’s why the Taliban is so keen to try to infiltrate its supporters into the Afghan security forces. Given the nature of Afghan society, the wonder is not that incidents such as this have occurred but that there have not been more of them. The Australians I met spoke highly of their Afghan allies, the vast majority of whom they regarded as worthy brothers in arms.
Thanks to the work of the ADF’s Mentoring Task Force, the Fourth Brigade is now among the best in the Afghan army. On the day I was there, Afghan special forces were just returning from a successful mission with their Australian counterparts to destroy a multi-million dollar drug cache. Undermining the Taliban’s ability to fund its operations and to buy support from locals is now a key part of the international coalition’s counter-insurgency strategy.
There is little doubt that the security situation is improving. The insurgency still has the capacity to inflict casualties using roadside bombs, to carry out civilian massacres and to assassinate officials of the Karzai government. The military advice, though, is that the Taliban’s ability to engage in direct combat with western military units or even the Afghan army has been seriously degraded.
In Uruzgan, more schools and clinics are open, many girls are getting an education for the first time. The road between Tarin Kowt and Chora has been sealed and local villagers, in a pattern which echoes Iraqis’ turning against the insurgents, are reported to be increasingly turning on the Taliban. The transition from largely western to largely Afghan security forces will take time.
The Afghan government will almost certainly need military and financial support for many years. Still, the establishment of a more humane Afghan government that’s capable of denying its territory to anti-western terrorism is both possible and important.
Whatever the future holds, there’s no doubt that the Australians there have acquitted themselves with courage and professionalism in the very best ANZAC tradition.
18 November 2011