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Mission creep in Afghanistan
Mission creep in Afghanistan
The International Institute Strategic Studies has just released a Strategic Survey 2010: The Annual Review of World Affairs
Dr John Chipman Director-General and Chief Executive The International Institute for Strategic Studies, London reports:
Strategic Survey 2010 does not seek to lay out a new comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan. It does however argue that for Western states to be pinned down militarily and psychologically in Afghanistan will not be in the service of their wider political and security interests. The challenge of Afghanistan must be viewed and addressed in proportion to the other threats to international security and the other requirements for foreign-policy investment. With economic, financial and diplomatic activity moving at such a pace and with such varied outcomes internationally, military operations in general have to be all the more carefully considered. Precision and adaptability will be essential watchwords. For heavy, large, military deployment, the longue durée will be seen as an attitude for other times, other centuries.
The Afghan campaign has involved not just mission creep but mission multiplication; narrowing the political-military engagement to core goals as described will allow for proper attention to be paid to other areas posing international terrorist risks, and indeed to other matters affecting international security.
Australian troops fighting in Afghanistan deserve better political leadership. It is coming up to ten years since we joined the US and invaded this war torn nation. The reason given for this invasion was to defeat al- Qaeda and capture or kill Osama Bin Laden. Now we are involved in nation building and the support of unpopular and corrupt war lords. It is classic mission creep. Australian troops are among the best in the world and will go wherever our politicians ask and do what is ordered. This puts an enormous obligation on our politicians to make sure they do not abuse the power that the nation places in their hands. When we ask young Australians to sacrifice their lives we should at least be brave enough to debate the pro and cons of war in the Australian Parliament.
Is this the best use of our limited resources and the ADF?
Terrorists operate without regard to national boundaries. To counter terrorists effectively, we should strengthen our regional and transnational partnerships and increasingly operate in a regional context.
As this report from the Council on Foreign Relations says:
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
The Sulu/Sulawesi Seas Littoral. Southeast Asia includes a safe haven area composed of the Sulawesi Sea and Sulu Archipelago, which sit astride the maritime boundary between Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The geography of the thousands of islands in the region made the area difficult for authorities to monitor. Worker migration, tourism, trade, and other non-terrorist activities, both licit and illicit, that occur in this maritime region pose another challenge to identifying and countering the terrorist threat. Although Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines have improved their efforts to control their shared maritime boundaries, this expanse remains difficult to control. Surveillance is partial at best, and traditional smuggling and piracy groups provided an effective cover for terrorist activities, such as movement of personnel, equipment, and funds. The Sulu/Sulawesi Seas Littoral represents a safe haven for the Jemaah Islamiya (JI) terrorist organization and the Philippine Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
The Southern Philippines. The southern Philippines, specifically the Sulu archipelago and Mindanao, serve as terrorist safe havens. The government’s control in this area is weak due to rugged terrain, weak rule of law, poverty, and local Muslim minority resentment of central governmental policies. In addition to a few Jemaah Islamiya (JI) fugitives and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the area hosts several terrorist and insurgent groups including the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army and the Rajah Solaiman Movement.
While we have a large proportion of the ADF operating in Afghanistan we are ignoring the threats much closer to home:
Captain Rudy Lupton, commander of the USS Blue Ridge, the command and control ship of the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet based in Japan, said earlier this month China should act "responsibly" in the South China Sea.
Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, China and Taiwan all stake claims over territory in the South China Sea, which is rich in energy and a major shipping route. All except Brunei have a military presence in the area, and the boundary claims have sparked deadly naval clashes.
Southeast Asian states have become worried by China's increasingly aggressive stance on the complex set of disputes. In late July, Chinese naval forces carried out drills in the disputed southern waters amid tension with Washington over security on the Korean peninsula and in the South China Sea.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton upset China when she raised the issue of territorial claims at the ASEAN regional forum in July, and supported a multilateral approach to resolving them.
Australia is a small country and we cannot afford to waste lives or resources. We have growing threats much closer to home than Afghanistan and we should be concentrating on these threats. We should be fighting real terrorists, not chasing ghosts or nation building in distant countries that are no threat to Australia.
As more Australian blood is spilt in Afghanistan it makes it harder for us to withdraw. Our troops justifiably say that we should not ignore the sacrifices that have already been made.
The reality is that we will withdraw from Afghanistan – just as we have in Iraq and Vietnam – when the US withdraws. To waste more blood is futile.