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Meanwhile, on the Afghanistan front

Australian troops in Afghanistan are engaged in reconstruction efforts in Oruzgan province. This is in the south of Afghanistan. It isn't the worst province in the place by a long shot, but the neighbourhood isn't terribly good either. They are protected by the Dutch contingent.

This differs from the situation in Iraq, where it was Australian troops with the protective mission. We took over from the Dutch, assisting the British to protect Japanese engineers engaged in construction work. The Japanese have since pulled out, but anyone with a sketchy knowledge of Australian history could see this as public relations disaster just waiting to happen.

So far, the Australian Army hasn't had anybody killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. This is in great contrast to Canada, which I believe has lost 70 soldiers, and the Netherlands, which lost ten just last week. Of course, we're never more than one helicopter crash away from this.

Now the Dutch are talking about pulling out. This would mean no top cover. In particular, no attack helicopter support. The Australian Army's Tiger attack helicopters are not yet fully operational. The diplomats are looking for someone else to take over but apart from Britain, Canada, the US and the Netherlands, most NATO countries have rules of engagement that won't let them go out in the rain.

(Does anyone know anything about the Dutch government's policy?)

Foreign readers might be surprised to know that the Australian presence in Afghanistan attracts little controversy here (as opposed to the commitment in Iraq). Kevin07 has promised to withdraw from Iraq, but not Afghanistan. At least, not if we can find an ally with attack helicopters. The main problem is that the Army is committed to four theatres of war (Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands) without really having the resources for even one.

The Army has been on a major recruiting drive. The latest is the Gap year. Increasingly, the Gen Y practice is to take a year off after finishing high school. Now the Army is offering Gap Year food and lodging, with the chance to qualify for an overseas trip. If you understand the Australian teenager, you'll realise why this has been such a huge success.

Diggers' Afghan dilemma as ally wavers

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
jthijsen
12th Sep, 2007 04:39 (UTC)
(Does anyone know anything about the Dutch government's policy?)

From what I've been able to read in the newspapers here, the Dutch government doesn't even know its policy just yet (not unusual for this particular cabinet). The majority of the Dutch population wants for us to pull out (not me, I think we're doing valuable work there, protecting the general population from the craziest fanatics ever), but the government is also concerned with relations between our and other countries. So far, the intent is to pull out next year, but the government is desperately seeking for someone to replace our boys. It's not yet clear whether or not we'll stay if those attempts fail.

But AFAIK we didn't lose ten guys last week, but just five during the whole time we were there, and one of those was a suicide.
(Anonymous)
12th Sep, 2007 11:12 (UTC)
The Dutch have lost ten soldiers since August 2006. Not in one week.

And the Dutch will stay but a third country will have to take over some jobs. Like for instance the Apache attack helicopters and Chinook heavy lift copters that the Dutch provide. The strain on those units is incredibly high and they could use a brake after August 2008.
hawkeye7
12th Sep, 2007 12:52 (UTC)
The Chinooks the Australian Army can provide; attack helicopters are the problem.Canada has already turned us down. I believe that Norway is being approached. If they can hang on until August 2008, Australia can probably swing attack helicopters as well.
jthijsen
12th Sep, 2007 19:53 (UTC)
I read in the newspaper today that the decision to stay or pull out will be made within the next few weeks. Keep your fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, you have no idea how cross I am with the socialist party, which advocates pulling out immediately. These guys claim to stand up for the little guy, but are perfectly willing to leave the people of Afghanistan to the tender mercies of the Taliban (who kill anybody who disagrees with them or just looks at them crosswise or in the case of women, walks outside unescorted by a man) and the terrorists they like to host. Bah, and to think I actually once considered voting for these spineless cowards. All they care about are poll results.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )