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No direction home

By Kellie Tranter - posted Friday, 10 June 2011

We lost another soldier this week.

That's 27 dead and 181 wounded since 2002. Figures don't include soldiers suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

Still, our defence chief says Australia shouldn't be considering an immediate withdrawal. "Why", he said, "would you pull out when you are making the best progress you've ever made? You have the Taliban completely disrupted and on the back foot. Why would you do it? ...The Taliban in Uruzgan is totally disrupted and that's because of the efforts of our people working very effectively with the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police."

A United States Government Accountability Office report, released in February, noted that:


...As of September 2010, IJC reported that none of the 163 Afghan National Army (ANA) rated was independent and capable of conducting the full spectrum of its missions without coalition assistance…

Our ADF is charged with the responsibility of training and mentoring the Afghan National Army 4th Brigade in Uruzgan province. It may be faring a little better, but we don't know because no-one asks. Who pays members of the 4th Brigade, and how much? Will they continue to be paid after coalition forces withdraw, and if so by whom? If not, will they still be willing to fight? What are the Brigade's desertion rates? Its ethnicity? Literacy rates?

People, including ours, might be working together effectively, but the insufferable conditions and destruction continues and the death count climbs. More than 200 young soldiers from countries all around the world have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year, along with uncounted "insurgents" and undoubtedly even more Afghan civilians.

The voices we tend to hear from the Afghan people aren't singing songs of praise and thanks so much as asking that foreign troops leave their soil so that they can make their own efforts towards self-determination. Earlier this year The New York Times reported on the US withdrawal from the Pech Valley:

What we figured out is that people in the Pech really aren't anti-U.S. or anti-anything; they just want to be left alone," an American military official familiar with the decision told the Times. "Our presence is what's destabilizing this area."

And without slighting the efforts or the sacrifices of foreign soldiers and Afghans who are "working together" for their greater purpose, there are many who say that propping up President Karzai and his notoriously corrupt regime does not warrant spilling the blood of our fine young soldiers or innocent Afghans.


In fact 62% of Australians have had enough of this war and want the troops to come home within six months.

Three in five Americans also think the decade long war should be ended and their troops brought home. They see billions of dollars that the country can't afford being thrown at the war in Afghanistan, while the country is ravaged by financial and other crises and 47 million Americans – well over one in 10 - are living in poverty.

With such widespread opposition why do our governments pursue such an unpopular agenda? The people protest from the start but the government insists we go and later insists that we stay, and go and stay we do. It's almost as though once the juggernaut's set in motion it becomes an unstoppable force on a single destructive course, oblivious to putative changes in destination along the way and blind to the damage it wreaks.

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About the Author

Kellie Tranter is a lawyer and human rights activist. You can follow her on Twitter @KellieTranter

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