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Two Afghan views of Australia from Uruzgan

21 November 2011   |   Commentary   |   By Omaid Khpalwak and Mohammed Shirzad

The latest paper in the Lowy Institute’s Afghan Voices series provides two very different perspectives on Australia’s military and development efforts in Uruzgan. The first comes in the form of excerpts from an uncompleted draft on the subject by Omaid Khpalwak, an Afghan journalist tragically killed in July of this year. The second is an interview with Mohammed Shirzad, Governor of Uruzgan province. Despite their differing viewpoints, both inject important Afghan perspectives into the discussion of Australia’s military and civilian commitment in Afghanistan. Afghan Voices is a series of occasional papers which aims to inject a range of Afghan views into the discussion of issues surrounding the international community’s intervention in Afghanistan.

‘...If the Australian forces treat tribes equally and “work” for all equally, it is possible that security will improve in Uruzgan. The people of Uruzgan want jobs and security. But there are also “war- mongers” amongst them who see benefits in war and the Australians should pay attention to these people...’

Army Captain (CAPT) Andrew Oxlade (right) from the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) discusses the progress of construction of the new Tarin Kot girl's school with civilian project engineer Mr Muntaz Omerzai (left)
Australian Defence Image Library
Army Captain (CAPT) Andrew Oxlade (right) from the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) discusses the progress of construction of the new Tarin Kot girl's school with civilian project engineer Mr Muntaz Omerzai (left)

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    On 28 July 2011, Omaid Khpalwak, an Afghan journalist, was one of 22 casualties of a Taliban attack in Tarin Kot, the provincial capital of Uruzgan province in Afghanistan.  Tragically, while Omaid survived the Taliban’s suicide bombs, he was accidentally killed by a US soldier.

    At the time of his death Omaid was working on a paper for the Afghan Voices series. We had asked him to write on local attitudes toward the Australian military presence in Uruzgan. That paper was never completed. We were, however, able to recover and translate what we understood to be an almost completed first draft, written in Pashtu, excerpts of which we now publish as part of the Afghan Voices series.

    We also publish here as a part of this Afghan Voices an interview by Susanne Schmeidl and Hekmatullah Azamy with Mohammed Shirzad, the Governor of Uruzgan Province. The interview was undertaken at the Governor’s residence in Kabul on 15 October 2011.The Governor takes a different view on a number of issues discussed by Omaid in his draft. We know that this probably won’t provide any easy answers for those in Australia who are wondering what is happening in Afghanistan and how locals view Australia’s presence there. The reality is, however, that local attitudes on these issues are complex and sometimes even contradictory.  Nevertheless, the views provided by Omaid and Governor Shirzad are valuable if for no other reason than they provide the Afghan voices that are often missing from the debate and discussion of the war in Australia.