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Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 12:11 | SYDNEY
Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 12:11 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Let's get out of Afghanistan

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6 August 2008 17:37

Alison Broinowski responds to Jason Campbell's guest post about Australia's role in Afghanistan. My thoughts follow:

If we are really to have a view from Australia on the war in Afghanistan, let us consider whether it should be identical with that of the US. Bush sent the troops in after 9/11 to exact revenge for the attack on America and to find and destroy al Qaeda. Australia and others went along with that, NATO took over nominal command, and the UN Security Council approved it after the fact. That mission has effectively ended.

Subsequently however, as in Iraq, the motivations and justifications for the occupation changed, and our military presence has increased. What the US and its allies are now involved in is variously justified as supporting regime change, ‘stabilising’ and ‘saving’ Afghanistan, rooting out terrorists, and overcoming the Taliban, none of which Australia signed up for at the outset. While there is no doubt that the people of Afghanistan need economic development, war does not deliver it. There remains no legal justification or moral imperative for Australian troops to be fighting in their country. The same arguments for withdrawing from Iraq apply to Afghanistan too. Are the Taliban more obnoxious than the regimes in Burma or Zimbabwe? Why don’t we invade them? Moreover, we don’t have to like the Taliban to realize that Afghanistan has always waited out its foreign occupations and will do so again. Australia has better things to do with our military and our money.

There might be good reasons for getting out of Afghanistan, but I'm not sure Dr Broinowski has listed any here.

Perhaps, as Dr Broinowski says, the justification for staying in Afghanistan has changed, but why does it follow that we should therefore get out? It's not as if we have been hoodwinked or forced into staying; we've done so with eyes open, knowing that the mission is changing. And hasn't the democratically-elected Afghan Government asked us to stay?

Dr Broinowski is right that war will not deliver economic development to Afghanistan, but ending the fighting is not solely up to the coalition — the Taliban does get a vote. If Western forces leave, the chances that the Taliban will recover surely grows. Now, a new Taliban regime in Kabul may not impact Australia's interests very much, but it is surely a good enough moral argument for staying.

As for the relative obnoxiousness of various regimes, Dr Broinowski's argument implies that one should not overthrow any brutal dictatorship until one can overthrow them all. That's a rather high standard, and I wonder if she would even want the US military to have such capability.

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