Daily Revolt

December 16, 2007

Australian Defense Minister: "We're losing Afghan war"

This Australian cabinet minister is saying what I've believed for some time, that if continue at this pace the Taliban will recapture Afghanistan:
NEW Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon says the war in Afghanistan will be lost unless NATO and its close allies change tactics, overhauling military and civil programs designed to bring stability to the country.

Mr Fitzgibbon's blunt warning was delivered to a closed-door meeting in Scotland of eight defence ministers, from the US, Australia and six other NATO nations with military forces in Afghanistan.

His comments reflect the classified intelligence assessments presented to the former Howard government in recent months, which have painted a bleak picture of the military situation facing NATO and its allies as they battle Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

Like in Vietnam we won the battles but lost the war:
"We are winning the battles and not the war, in my view. We have been very successful in clearing areas of the Taliban but it's having no real strategic effect."

Labor came to power with a promise to withdraw Australia's combat troops from Iraq but to continue the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

NATO and its allies have about 33,000 troops in Afghanistan. Australia's military contribution now totals about 1000 troops, including special forces and RAAF personnel, mostly stationed in Oruzgan province.

Not enough troops, no real strategy:
"We are lacking in Afghanistan a coherent plan for the country," a senior defence source told The Australian. "The command chain is confused. We (ISAF) don't have enough troops on the ground. We don't have proper co-ordination between our military and civilian goals and actions."

He said Australian and NATO troops had been doing good work in clearing out insurgents but did not have the overall capacity to hold ground in key areas of southern Afghanistan.

In Oruzgan, Australian special forces cleared much of the province of insurgents in 2005 only to find the Taliban returning after their withdrawal.

"We are just so frustrated that so many other NATO countries are not making a contribution," Mr Fitzgibbon told The Australian last night.

Mr Fitzgibbon also told his colleagues in Edinburgh, including US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, that while NATO and its allies had been successfully "stomping on lots of ants, we have not been dealing with the ants' nest".

"We need much more than a military response," he said. "This is largely about winning the hearts and minds of the more moderate of the Taliban and other sections of the Afghan community.

"We need more political advisers in the civil service. There is no administrative infrastructure.

"We need more training for the Afghan army and the Afghan police. We need someone there as a senior envoy co-ordinating this overall strategy."

Mr Fitzgibbon said until now, NATO and its allies had been providing a military and reconstruction response but had failed to successfully deal with the "big picture" in Afghanistan.

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