AFGHANISTAN: by John MillerNews Weekly
The case for Australia's continued engagement
, November 13, 2010
Australia's commitment to Afghanistan - currently the subject of parliamentary debate - is based on two underlying principles. First, we are acting in support of our American ally which is carrying the main burden of the war effort. Second, in attempting to deny the Taliban from gaining power in Afghanistan again, we are in effect continuing to fight fundamentalist Islamic terrorism.
There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that these are worthwhile objectives.
We have a small civilian effort alongside the military component, and the former is doing its best to win "hearts and minds", which is extremely difficult in a Muslim country, wracked by war and tribal rivalries.
In fighting the Taliban, we are also fighting al Qaeda. We have been told that the Taliban is a nationalist force and has no objectives outside the frontiers of Afghanistan. This is both naïve and simplistic and flies in the face of statements by Taliban and al Qaeda leaders.
Osama bin Laden, declared war on the West by means of two fatwahs in 1996 and 1998, and added that Afghanistan under the Taliban was the ideal model for an Islamic state.
When the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan in 1996, sharia law was imposed with ruthless efficiency. It saw random executions and floggings, the destruction of schools for girls, female genital mutilation, and the imposition of a strict Islamic dress code - and not just for women. It was not unknown for young men to be executed for the heinous crime of being clean-shaven.
Unfortunately, the best chance of defeating al Qaeda and the Taliban in one fell swoop was at Tora Bora in December 2001, and the opportunity was missed. As a consequence, the West became enmeshed in asymmetrical warfare with its usual problems of trying to distinguish between friend and foe.
In a telling interview with a respected Swiss media outlet, a Taliban military chief Mansoor Dadullah made it abundantly clear that, even though the Taliban and al Qaeda were not one and the same organisation, they nevertheless shared the same objectives. They both talk in terms of establishing a caliphate, and their actions, whether in the field in Afghanistan or in terrorist attacks in the West, are justified accordingly. (World Politics Review
, July 3, 2007).
As recently as the last three days of October, there was an international alert because of improvised explosive devices being carried to America from Yemen and the appearance in court of a US citizen, of Pakistani origin, who intended to attack four metro stations in Washington DC.
Anyone who believes that the Taliban's goals are limited to achieving power in Afghanistan, thereby ensuring a Western withdrawal, is gravely mistaken.
The Taliban is represented in one form or another in the other countries of what used to be referred to as the Indian subcontinent. The Taliban in Pakistan is quite a formidable force and we seem to have forgotten that. In May last year, their forces had advanced to Buner, less than 50 km from the Pakistani capital Islamabad, following major terrorist attacks in Mumbai in late 2008 and the Lahore Police Academy and against the Sri Lankan cricket team in Pakistan early in 2009. Of late, international experts have raised the spectre of the Afghan war extending to Pakistan, the neighbouring Islamic state.
Furthermore, we should not forget that there is at present a trial in a Melbourne court of persons suspected of planning a similar raid last year on the Holsworthy Army base in south-west Sydney. The modus operandi was similar to those attacks mentioned earlier.
No politician has drawn any link so far between our commitment to Afghanistan and domestic politics. Yet it can be described as a security nightmare and the problem is of our own making. Australia, in common with most Western liberal democracies welcomes migrants and there is a tacit assumption that the newcomers will integrate or assimilate (although the latter word is not politically correct) and become useful citizens of their new country, contributing to the Commonwealth.
The tragedy lies with the discredited policy of multiculturalism, and to attack it is to ask for trouble, even though multiculturalism has never been subjected to a legislative vote in any Western country.
As a general objective, multiculturalism has some noble aspects and implicitly recognises that citizens from different backgrounds should be able to mix, live and work without necessarily severing loyalties to their country of origin. However, do we allow people to migrate to Australia who form countercultures with values totally opposed to our national interest?
Former Secretary of the Commonwealth Treasury and senator, John Stone, was one of the earliest commentators to recognise this problem and suffered criticism for daring to articulate opposition to continued Islamic immigration (National Observer
, No. 66, Spring 2005).
To date, Australia has been very lucky in so far as the authorities have managed to thwart terrorist plots on our soil. Unfortunately, there has been no general agreement on what to do with those found guilty of terrorism charges once they have finished jail sentences. In my view, the perpetrators in any such attack should be punished by the law and then deported, stripped of their Australian citizenship and not permitted to return to this country.
We cannot rely on the "she'll be right, mate" attitude of many Australians. The fight in Afghanistan to date has been supported in a bipartisan fashion in Parliament, but there needs to be broad agreement about the nature of our enemy at home and how it should be not merely challenged but defeated.John Miller is a former senior intelligence officer.
Urs Gehriger and Sam Yousafzai, "'Ours is a global struggle': an interview with Taliban military chief Mansoor Dadullah", World Politics Review
, July, 3, 2007.
John Stone, "Solutions to the Muslim problem in Australia", National Observer
(Australia), No. 66, Spring 2005.