Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Putting the SAS back into Afghanistan

July 28th, 2009

Who has stolen John Key’s brain? The Prime Minister who only a couple of months ago was demanding to see a viable exit strategy before he would put New Zealand combat troops back into Afghanistan, has been replaced by a John Key impersonator for whom the vaguest of goals – combatting global terrorism – now seems like a darn good reason for doing so.

At his press conference yesterday, Key was so gung ho that he seemed to think no counter-argument for caution even existed. “What is the counter-factual? If the world doesn’t get on top of the position in Afghanistan, the counter-factual is it becomes an even bigger hotbed for global terrorism. I can’t see how that is in New Zealand’s best interests.”

The problem with that line of reasoning is that it denies the only success the US/ISAF have had in Afghanistan since 2002 – which has been to significantly reduce the risk of global terrorism posed by the al Qaeda leadership based in Afghanistan/Pakistan. The outside world is now far safer than it was in 2001 from the foreign fighters and Bin Laden network that used to be sheltered by the Taliban. The foreign fighters have been killed or dispersed, the Bin Laden/Zawahiri leadership is on the run. No-one is arguing that Afghanistan poses an increasing risk to the outside world. We may just as well be preparing our troops to go into Somalia, if every ‘failed state’ is seen by Key as posing a personal threat.

The Obama strategy in Afghanistan now has quite different goals – and they are of the nation-building sort. Military force is being used in the service of a political outcome. The hope is that a renewed military effort will create the space for a political solution – one likely to include ‘moderate’ elements of the Taliban in government – that would then enable the US/ISAF to declare victory and pull out their forces ASAP. Having Key wittering on about in Mumbai and bombs in Jakarta is irrelevant to the current goals of the US and those other countries actively involved in the Afghan war.

On the evidence, Key got a request from Washington and is jumping to obey without any sign of knowing what would constitute success, or a viable exit strategy. Along the way, he seems intent on shutting down the Provincial Reconstruction Team effort in Bamiyan – just when that province is being widely cited as almost the only success story that the corrupt and discredited Karzai government has had in its struggle with the Taliban.

Pose New Zealanders the basic question. Would you rather have our special forces dropped back into the thick of combat or would you prefer we provide a military aid team to rebuild Afghan society? I bet they’d prefer the latter, and would want us to stay the course in Bamiyan. Otherwise, think about the signal we would be sending to the Hazara population in Bamiyan. Just as the Taliban are starting to gain ground in that province – the same Taliban who massacred thousands of Hazara not so long ago – we are getting ready to abandon them. Fantastic strategy! Lets dump the Hazara just when they look like needing us most, and undo all the good that we’ve accomplished over the last six years, at a cost of $180 million.

At the end of the day, there are only three possible reasons for putting combat troops back into Afghanistan (a) to eliminate or reduce the external threat posed by al Qaeda foreign fighters based in that country (b) to win a military victory against the local Taliban (c) to help create a viable political administration in Kabul.

As mentioned, the first goal has already been won. The second, a military victory against the Taliban, has already been lost. The third, to create a military stalemate that might induce parts of the Taliban to engage in a political solution is well on the way to being lost. The recent moves in the direction of a political solution have been utterly disastrous. In the Swat valley in Pakistan, the ‘moderate’ Taliban leader Sufi Mohammed whom we wooed into a political compromise was then almost immediately undermined by a Pakistan military offensive. He has now been largely discredited among his own people, has become re-radicalised and is now under arrest. Great work, team!

Right now, the Taliban correctly sense that almost every country except the US – and now, New Zealand – is losing belief that a political solution is viable. They feel no need to make compromises and deal politically because (correctly) they think they are winning – both militarily and politically. Our SAS forces will be swimming upstream against that tide. Any who die, will have done so meaninglessly. Cabinet will make a final decisoon on the SAS/Bamiyan deployments in about three weeks. On the evidence, it would be utterly irresponsible if Cabinet agrees to put our combat troops in harms way on a mission that is almost certainly doomed.

From a historical viewpoint, Key could as well be talking about the need to counter the threat from global communism. The logic is reminiscent of Vietnam, circa 1969. Then as now, the hope still endured in Washington, Canberra and Wellington that a puppet government could somehow gain sufficient credibility to survive – and thus enable our troops to declare victory, and leave with dignity. That effort failed, and the Afghan mission will fail for the same reason. Because the US, ISAF and New Zealand troops will continue to be seen as neo-colonial invaders, and a tyranny that casts itself as nationalist liberators fighting foreign aggression will prevail.

Ultimately, we will learn to live with it. The premise that we have to get bogged down in Afghanistan in order to save our own societies from destruction is as false today as it was 40 years ago, in Vietnam.

Nothing much in the interim seems to have changed in the National Party mindset. In its defence policy, this National-led government is dancing to an American tune as mindlessly it ever has. The brief era of independence in our foreign policy now seems over. At a time when everyone else –Canada, the Netherlands, Britain, Germany – is actively looking for excuses to withdraw from Afghanistan, we are looking for excuses to get in. In doing so, we will be taking our troops out of a successful aid effort in the safest region of Afghanistan and putting our effort into a failed combat role in the most dangerous part of Afghanistan . Go figure.

Doing Penance for Productivity

It was Finance Minister Bill English who chose Don Brash for that cushy job heading the new Productivity Commission. Since Brash has been given until 2025 to find ways to get us back on parity with Australia, he will be 85 years old by the time we find out whether his productivity task force has succeeded or failed.

Right now though, we know who is to blame for giving English the idea in the first place – it was Scoop! Yes, it was all our fault. Here was Scoop back in May of this year, on the eve of the Budget :

Expect to hear Finance Minister Bill English talking quite a lot about productivity…Why, it might even be a good idea for English to appoint a task force on the subject. Since no-one knows quite how to measure productivity properly, the field is wide open for political massaging. Lets all find ways to lift our productivity – to work harder, to work smarter. If English were to set up a productivity commission, it might even be able to find out – just in time for the next election – that our productivity levels have risen. Think how good we’ll all feel about that !

Sorry about that.


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    1. 11 Responses to “Putting the SAS back into Afghanistan”

    2. By stuart munro on Jul 28, 2009 | Reply

      “the Taliban correctly sense that almost every country except the US – and now, New Zealand – is losing belief that a political solution is viable.”
      It should not be supposed that just because John Key’s decision criteria are sycophantic that New Zealand as a whole shares his ill-informed and myopic strategic vision.

    3. By Martha Mitchell on Jul 28, 2009 | Reply

      How is the NZ Military effected by the recent case of Maj. Stefan Frederick Cook U.S. Army Reserve major from Florida scheduled to report for deployment to Afghanistan within days has had his military orders revoked after arguing he should not be required to serve under a president who has not proven his eligibility for office.
      …”As an officer in the armed forces of the United States, it is [my] duty to gain clarification on any order we may believe illegal.
      [Then] any order coming out of the presidency or his chain of command is illegal. Should I deploy, I would essentially be following an illegal [order]. If I happened to be captured by the enemy in a foreign land, I would not be privy to the Geneva Convention protections,” he said.

    4. By remo on Jul 29, 2009 | Reply

      who stole john keys brain you ask? Well. That begs a question, but amoung contenders would be NSA chief Alexander on his wee visit through wellington two or so weeks ago giving our John the nod for doing business. Ramping up the program.

      We would be well served to remember western forces are in Afghanistan on false pretences..outright lies actually. The WMD war drum now widely realised as manufactured by to facilitate occupation, but before that, the big momma lie of them all. 9/11. PNAC. Bin Laden:Al Qaeda:Taleban:Afghanistan [Bin Laden NOT WANTED for 9/11 by the way [FBI website]

      The design will be to pull us in . To have ‘us’ commit. If we accept, knowing the origin of this conflict to be based on provable lies, and thats what Colin Powell was doing that day in the UN, LYING to the whole wide world., if we accept the essential lie, then that makes us part of the lie. We have lost any moral imperative. we are exposed in an illegal war.
      How would that make us feel?
      We also should remember, reports are that up to 90% of heroin consumed on American streets comes from Afghanistan.[sibel edmonds http://www.123realchange.among others.] Have a think about that.

    5. By Rob on Jul 31, 2009 | Reply

      Who Stole John Key’s Brain
      Well remember LBJ?? I’m sure John Key would be too young!! He had the special size bed when he came to Wellington and our troups went to vietnam coming back with thier cancers and death. The US didn’t win that one and are unlikely to win in Afganastan either.
      A J key accolyte R Griffin gave glowing praise for the man from Merrill Lynch today on Radio NZ but failed to mention how successful they and their other cohorts at Lehmans have been. I think we all need to watch this man.

    6. By SeaJay on Jul 31, 2009 | Reply

      Thanks for the productive apology Gordon.

    7. By Clare Swinney on Aug 5, 2009 | Reply

      A little reminder:
      Western Governments Funding Taliban & Al-Qaeda To Kill U.S. Troops, Destabilize Countries

    8. By Jum on Aug 14, 2009 | Reply

      Anyone who missed the shark eyes of Key from the very beginning and the even more chilling ‘smiling assassin’ label by the people he shafted during his first goal of making money is partly to blame for his rise in this country.

      I blame the women who seemed to think that a nice young man with plenty of money would be better for NZ than an older woman who actually gave a damn about us. Their votes will be responsible for the change in our face to the world as a warmongering nation who follow like sheep the biggest warmonger of them all. Likewise the men who hate women in positions of power, many of them supporters of Labour. They proceeded to tip the balance in the 2008 election.

      I now want the Kiwi logo removed from anyone serving overseas in combat. That badge of honour which I have been so proud of under the previous Labour Government’s watch is sullied because of the greed for power of this government sucking up to America.

      The Kiwi is now in danger.

    9. By stuart munro on Aug 21, 2009 | Reply

      @ Jum,
      I don’t think New Zealanders are really to blame for the dearth of talent and integrity in Parliament.
      Every institution creates its own political culture, which reflects the personalities of its occupants. It is merely an unfortunate combination of circumstances that have conspired to give New Zealand a set of politicians with the personalities of a troupe of syphilitic weasels on crack.

    10. By Clare Swinney on Sep 17, 2009 | Reply

      For those who missed it, while the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has failed to consider explosives in any of its hypotheses to account for the destruction of three of the World Trade Centre on 9/11, John Key alluded to the fact explosives were behind the collapses during a TV interview in August, when attempting to garner support for sending NZ troops into Afghanistan. Referring to the supposed villains of 9/11, he says: “Those people that put together all those explosive devices…”
      Refer: John Key on TVNZ’s Breakfast

    11. By James Sinclair on Jan 18, 2010 | Reply

      As a kiwi living in the heart of America, I get to see up close the foul nature of the warmongering beast that America has become, and the utterly criminal nature of her corPirate fascist ruling class – above all, the boys from Goldman Sachs. Sadly our latest Prime Minister is one of this criminal Bankster class, and it appears he is now entering us into their war on Afghanistan, at their behest and in their interest. This is treason. Be warned, my friends: Keys will cause us immense shame, and loss of all kinds, especially financial, if he is not soon ousted. First he will sell our souls. Then he will sell our country. These people are DEADLY.

    12. By kmonkkmonk on Feb 26, 2010 | Reply

      they need to be stopped, common people!

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