Monday, July 02, 2007

Aussies in Afghanistan

The Four Corners show this week Forward Base Afghanistan described the work of Australian combat troops and military reconstruction teams. The latter are doing a 'backyard blitz' series of projects - slow projects doon't make an impact - and training schemes that are appreciated by the locals and the Afghan Government.

The Australian army officers are well-trained (cautiously friendly rather than trigger happy) and well equipped. There are only 1000 of them - but they are doing a good job. The program transcripts are here.

Afghanistan a most beautiful rugged country. The people largely uneducated, cautious and war-weary.


Mike said...

I was also watching. A very good doco, with some lessons in how so-called nation building really needs to be done; with much more attention to wiring and plumbing and bricklaying and interaction with the local communities at the ground level.

With stories these past few years about the persistence of Taliban and Al Qaeda forces in the borderlands between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the recent reoccupation of Tora Bora by Taliban forces, it's good to see some relatively good news on the efforts of soldiers there.

If only the country had had the full attention of US forces and others who were, ah, distracted elsewhere.

hc said...

Mike, I agree. My impression is that the Aussie troops are well-trained and good at looking for solutions rather than creating problems. I felt nationalistic pride.

Their good-humoured practicality even given their caution impressed me.

Anonymous said...

Fuzzflash sez...

HC: "Afghanistan a most beautiful rugged country. The people largely uneducated, cautious and war-weary."

And yet somehow, Harry, some of them manage to produce around 90%, from memory, of the biosphere's heroin. The heroin is grown, well just about everywhere; ubiquitous yet elusive like Osama, it manages to find its way out of Afghanistan to a demanding world market, as the GWOT is waged unabated.

Smells fishy to me,H.

Sure, the Aussie's are doing fine work in a hostile environment. Be interesting to see if they fare better than previous occupiers, eg. The Brits. In History's broad sweep, as empires surge then ebb, Persians have always been traditionally hard to toss on their own turf.

At least this time the Taliban are not being armed and "advised" by the CIA/US Forces, as they were against the Russkies in the Seventies. I'm sure the Afghanis are deeply grateful.

Mike said...

The impression the doco gave was that the Australian's were getting involved less in running the politics of the place and more in building the infrastructure for the place.

As for whether that's because of subtle and well-crafted Australian foreign policy based on the realisation that heavy-handed direction can backfire, or because other parties are doing most of the direction and we're left doing the grunt work...well...

Also, while we may not have been arming the Taliban this time, we have been arming the Northern Alliance this time. The decision to do so has already created some distinct problems with law and order and small-scale civil conflict.

amphibious said...

No need to go back to ancient history, the days of the Raj & british political agents in kabul.
The reluctant King tried many times in the 60/70s to abdicate but each time the capital was besieged by various tribesmen because he was the only focal point on which they could all (dis)agree. Each tribe and subtribe hate & fear each other (or just plain hate the minor groups such as Hazaris and the despised Nuristanis). From pre WWII the king had sent abroad anyone, male or FEMALE!! with sufficient intelligence to absorb western learning. In Germany (mainly) as well as Britain, France, even amerika, anywhere they could enroll, they studied hard and selflessly on tiny stipends, the males mostlyn engineering & agriculture, the women mostly medicine & education. As they began reaching a critical mass in the 70s, unable to find jobs in a feudal countryside of corrupt satraps, mullahs & merchant princes, the inevitable happened. The urban classes reached a consensus that they had a moral obligation to try to drag the rural people into at least the 15 or 16th century. Kabul & Herat, and Mazar for entirely different ethnic & cultural reasons, were well into the 20th century, women could walk freely, work and socialise. The tribesme, inflamed by the landhilders and mullahs terrified of losing their power, descended on the rural schools, clinics & hospitals slaughtering not just the staff but the clients throughout the 70s until only kabul remained (comparitively) safe. The King gladly decamped to a sybarite life in Italy and left them to it - the usual factions among the erstwhile students & eleite arose, the Russian were CALLED on for help (anyone who wants to argue with me about an invasion is welcome to try but don't bother unless you know something other than the amerikan b/s)and they were bled dry. They supplied replacement teachers, doctors and engineers in far greater numbers than soldiers until it became hopeless in the early 80s due to the US aiding the muhjahadeen (even in the last days of the Carter administration), before Raygun gave them carte blanche - whence came the taliba,Wahhabism & bin Liner.