Monday, December 17, 2007

Afghanistan: we are losing

Good to see that the new Australian Minister of Defence is taking a serious interest in whats happening in Afghanistan.

Mr Fitzgibbon's blunt warning was delivered to a closed-door meeting in Scotland of eight defence ministers, from the US, Australia and six other NATO nations with military forces in Afghanistan.

His comments reflect the classified intelligence assessments presented to the former Howard government in recent months, which have painted a bleak picture of the military situation facing NATO and its allies as they battle Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

"The previous government would have us believe that good progress is being made in Afghanistan. The reality is quite a different one," Mr Fitzgibbon told The Australian last night soon after returning from the meeting in Edinburgh.

"We are winning the battles and not the war, in my view. We have been very successful in clearing areas of the Taliban but it's having no real strategic effect."

Labor came to power with a promise to withdraw Australia's combat troops from Iraq but to continue the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

NATO and its allies have about 33,000 troops in Afghanistan. Australia's military contribution now totals about 1000 troops, including special forces and RAAF personnel, mostly stationed in Oruzgan province.

Mr Fitzgibbon has ruled out lifting Australia's military commitment in the absence of a greater contribution from NATO member countries to the International Security Force in Afghanistan. But he also signalled that Australia would be prepared to consider a larger military commitment if NATO members bolstered their own forces...

The US is also reassessing its strategy in Afghanistan, as the current commitment in Iraq is wound down I expect to see greater activity in Afghanistan by Coalition forces.

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