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Published: ABC Drum Unleashed

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Australian troops are in Afghanistan because American troops are there. If Australia was serious about reducing the threat of terrorism it would withdraw.

US, Allied and NATO troops are seen as an army of occupation, a cause of harm and instability; although not without some practical benefit as drug couriers and users. Dutch authorities were concerned at drug use amongst their troops.

With more troops, retired Australian General Jim Molan believes the war winnable.

But with the Taliban supplied, trained and supported by elements of the Pakistani Army and the Inter Services Intelligence organisation, Molan does not spell out how victory might be obtained and secured.

Pakistan, India and Iran are the keys. Any major attack on Pakistan by the US and its allies could invoke an opportunistic reaction from India and a hostile response from Iran. US policy in Afghanistan is checkmated.

All agree that the Taliban is a poor alternative to the corrupt and drug driven Hamid Karzai government, but sadly that is the reality – an expanding reality, which Molan would be wise to factor into his assessment.

Debate or no debate, a supine Australian government is locked into Uruzgan Province until the US withdraws from Afghanistan or until it releases the ADF from its contract. Australia is in Afghanistan to fulfil the terms of what it believes are the terms of its alliance with the US. (Former prime minister Howard invoked the ANZUS Treaty when committing troops to the region).

It remains a fundamental belief amongst politicians and some influential defence planners that Australia needs to curry favour with the US in order to invoke an immediate and knee jerk response from the US should Australia be threatened or attacked. The fact that this is increasingly unlikely by a financially challenged and politically cautious America has yet to be factored into the political, planning and popular perception pertaining to the United States in Australia.

On agreement to anonymity advisers admit the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable but that Australia will stay in order to demonstrate to the US and anyone else who cares about these things that Australia has sticking power and can be relied on to see things through and all of that stiff upper lip nonsense in a situation that sees Australian troops mercenaries and hostages, once again, to political fortune. The Australian troops in Afghanistan are good soldiers, men and women both, they deserve better.

There are good reasons for Australia to carry through an independent policy on Afghanistan and announce our own plans and schedule for early withdrawal. The first should be to prevent further deaths and injuries to Australian service personnel including the damage to mental health.

It would be wise to remove service personnel from a culture and environment where drugs are easily obtained and tolerated and traded by the government they are there to defend.

Withdrawal would save the Australian taxpayers money which might be better spent on assisting to equip a restructured Defence Force. The dollars being spent in Afghanistan at the moment are wasted dollars.

Australian strategic interests are not being served through our involvement in Afghanistan and as noted are likely being harmed.

It would do no harm to show the US Administration that we are quite capable of reaching independent foreign policy decisions. There is never any respect for a patsy, which is what Australia has been for the past 10 years in relation to America’s flawed response to 9/11. For instance no checks have been applied on Israel sufficient to stop policies of genocide toward the Palestinians and to prevent West Bank settlements.

In view of Australia’s Quixotic quest for a seat on the Security Council it would do no harm in Africa, the Middle East, Sub Continent and parts of Asia, including Indonesia, for Australia to present a well argued case and withdraw from Afghanistan at a time of its own choosing after consultation with the parties with which it has been engaged.

Inevitably the Karzai regime will collapse and no doubt Hamid Kazai and members of his family, including his unbelievably corrupt half-brother, Ahmed Wali Kazai, will flee to Switzerland to escape the Taliban and enjoy their ill gotten gains.

The money Australia is spending on training units of the Afghan will wash away after the US withdrawal and the inevitable collapse of the Karzai regime. When the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, the army attached to the puppet regime disintegrated and various bits hived themselves off to various warlords. There is nothing to suggest that such a rearrangement will not occur again, given the real and underlying nature of politics in Afghanistan