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Why are we in Afghanistan at all?

I noted a few weeks ago:

Afghanistan was always going to be a harder fight than Iraq.

It is also a fight that must be won – not just for the people of Afghanistan, but for the people of Pakistan. If Afghanistan falls, Pakistan will be in danger.

If Pakistan falls, the world will be in danger.

In theory, the allies are not there to defeat the Taliban themselves. They are there to assist Hamid Karzai’s government defeat the Taliban.

President Obama’s recent announcement of a ‘surge’ of 30,000 troops should help.

Except that:

  1. Obama has told the Taliban when he expects US and allied troops to be gone – in eighteen months’ time.
  2. Karzai has said that he expects it will take 15 years to diminish the military abilities and policitcal influence of the Taliban to the point they are no longer a threat.
  3. The Obama administration has made it clear they have no confidence in Hamid’s competence or honesty.

A confrontation with Iran is now almost inevitable. The US and its Western allies must take action to prevent an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel, and to stop any nuclear threat to Europe.

If they wait till Iran makes Israel a wasteland, as Iranian President Imanutjob has repeatedly said he intends to do, it will be, well, too late.

If they act before it is too late, even if their actions are limited to removing Iran’s capacity to make nuclear weapons, they will be accused of a crusade against Islam, of being imperialist aggressors, etc.

This means that even though Hamid was re-elected only with the help of massive electoral fraud, it is currently politically unthinkable for the US to attenpt to bring about a regime change in Afghanistan.

It is not unthinkable that the UN could refuse to recognise the result of the election, and push for new, properly supervised elctions which include all members of Afghan society including the Pashtoon.

But as we have seen over the last couple of weeks in Copenhagen, the UN couldn’t organise a cock-up in a brothel. So it’s probably a good thing that the head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, and the UN Security Council, are keeping their eyes and mouths firmly shut.

But where does that leave the allies?

Australia’s contribution is weak, to say the least.

Prime Minster Rudd’s offer to balance the US commitment of 30,000 new troops by sending a few police officers and some aid advisors has confirmed the unofficial code-name ‘Operation Token Presence’ for Australia’s contribution.

Having said that, it is important to note that the contribution made, and the cost borne, by Australian service men and women in Afghanistan is out of all proportion to their numbers and to the commitment of their political masters.

Despite Prime Minister Rudd’s earnest hopes, a pre-Copenhagen commitment to an emissions trading scheme was never going to make him a statesman on the world stage, or be an example other nations would find anything other than laughable.

But a renewed commitment by Australia to the effort in Afghanistan really could make a difference, and be an example which other allies might follow.

If we are serious about the need to defeat the Taliban, Australia must make a genuine commitment of fighting forces to Afghanistan.

if we are not serious, we should just get out, stop playing games, and stop risking the lives of young Australians in a conflict we have no intention of winning.

That would be embarrassing. But it would not be as embarrassing as our current limp wristed and pointless ‘Operation Token Presence.’

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