Apart from the two stars stitched onto his collar, there’s not much that sets Major General John Cantwell apart from his troops. And that is the way that Cantwell, who heads all of Australia’s Middle Eastern operations, seems to like it.

Major General John Cantwell addresses soldiers at a patrol base in the Chorah Valley. Photo: Defence Department

Cantwell, who turned 54 on Saturday, the day he escorted Tony Abbott on his visit to the Coalition base at Tarin Kowt, in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province, is an interesting study in the modern soldier.

At least, he comes across that way. Because access to the Australian military is quite limited, it’s hard to tell if Cantwell is an exception or reflects the easy intelligence – brain-power intelligence, not the secret stuff – of the Australian military in 2010.

Cantwell is not guarded when he discusses the Australian mission in Afghanistan. He talks so openly it is clear he is not conflicted about the mission, yet at the same time he believes Australians must engage in a debate about what we are doing in this part of the world.

Cantwell says a better-informed public – who at this time are quietly divided in their support for Afghanistan – would be more inclined to back the troops if they understood the engagement. He blames his own military and the government for failing to properly inform Australians of the true nature of the mission.

The troops in Tarin Kowt clearly like their boss. Without hesitation, they say Cantwell is one of them. The respect he earns seems to come from the laidback camaraderie he offers, rather than fear of authority.

As he takes up a Steyr F88 at a weapons range in the Tarin Kowt base and fires rounds at a burnt-out car wreck target, one of the troops says, so Cantwell can hear: “The safest place in Afghanistan right at this moment is inside that target.” Cantwell laughs.

Cantwell, who is constantly on the move through Dubai, Kabul, Muscat and is still overseeing Pakistan flood assistance, talked to myself and Peter Hartcher from Fairfax as Abbott took a briefing from a group of sombre, bearded men in ill-fitting uniforms - commanders of the newly formed Afghan National Army’s fourth brigade, and the Afghan police force.

In a sign of how formalised and polite (some might say apathetic) we have become back in Australia, it has been agreed that we will soon to have an orderly parliamentary debate on Australia’s role in Afghanistan. This is a far cry from moratorium rallies over Vietnam, and does not promise to be much of a debate. After all, the two main parties will agree on just about everything, with only Bob Brown’s Greens likely to demand withdrawal.

But Cantwell hopes that out of it, people will see that the Afghanistan mission is not open-ended and that the lives of the 21 soldiers who have so far died here were not wasted.

Because Cantwell was open with us, we owe it to him and the public to report his remarks at length, in the hope that it will provide better understanding of how the Australian military command views its current position in Afghanistan.

“It (a debate) is a legitimate thing for Australians to undertake,” says Cantwell. “We are conducting a deadly activity here. There are Australian men and women putting their lives on line and Australians should have a clear view of that. They don’t have to agree with it, but they should understand what is being done, for what purpose, how it’s being done, and how it will be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

“Frankly, the people of Australia and the government of Australia owe it to the soldiers who are stepping outside of these patrol bases, every day, risking their lives, not ever knowing if they’re going to get home from Afghanistan or even back to their patrol base that night.

“Our soldiers need to know that the people of Australia support what they do and I firmly believe they support the soldiers’ courage and endeavour and endurance, but more than that, it’s important military operations have a sound policy and governmental footing.

“The government has a firm view on what we’re doing over here, we in the military have a view of what we’re doing here, but I do fear Australians in general don’t understand what we’re doing here and I think there’s a few reasons for that.

“From the military’s side, I would contended that we have tended to be, occasionally, too opaque about what we do. There are risks of course in being completely open and transparent, and there are some things that cannot be disclosed to be the media and the public, such as special forces’ operations and particular aspects that we use to keep out soldiers safe which if disclosed would reduce our safety.

“But there’s scope I think to be more open and honest. That’s my view as a commander. It’s important that people understand what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, that they know why were taking these risks, why we’re taking these casualties. If we don’t do that, you will have in my view a very corrosive gap between a military in the fight, risking all, and a community who doesn’t understand why we’re there, (but only) has potentially a vague notion of Anzac tradition and Digger spirit, doing good in the world. There should be a bit more meat to the understanding to that.

“We need to make clear what our mission is and I don’t think we’ve enunciated that well. There’s talk about training the fourth Afghan National Army brigade, but we need to say what that means. How many (are) in the brigade? What’s their current level? How long will it take us to train them? What are the challenges of training them? What are we doing to overcome the challenges? How long is it going to take? Do we have enough staff to do it with?

“The Fourth Brigade is the Afghan National Army entity responsible for security in the Uruzgan province. It’s embryonic. Soldiers are being trained and formed into groups and sent here. Finally, after some time, we’ve now got a mostly formed Fourth Brigade. We’ve got the Kandaks, or battalions, that make up the brigade. There are three infantry Kandacs, which would be about 4- 500 guys (each).

“There is another Kandac which does the combat support, and the fifth is a combat service support, which is logistics – bombs and bullets and stores and blankets and food and water. There will shortly be an additional infantry Kandac. Our mission is to train those guys.

“We need to make that clearer to the public and, in some cases, our own soldiers. Our mission is not to defeat the insurgency in Uruzgan. It’s not our mission to hunt down and kill and capture every Taliban or insurgent in this province. Our mission is very clear: train the Afghans to manage security around the key population areas of Uruzgan.

“That’s a limited scope. That scope is not understood clearly. I think we have been remiss, we in Defence and, dare I say it, commentators who should know better, and government, who have a role to inform the population but haven’t enunciated that clearly.

“These things need to be spelled out. They need to be spelled out in the House. (The debate) presents an opportunity for the government of the day, and the Opposition and the cross benches to discuss the issue, but more importantly lay out the real facts of what we’re doing and how hard it is and what we need to do about fixing it.”

Flying in an Australian C-130 Hercules into Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan reveals itself as an unbelievably harsh country, its landscape for the most part wickedly barren. The mountains are lifeless and grey, with only some sparse patches on green in the lower inhabited areas of the valleys.

Cantwell says firefights happen almost exclusively with the green populated zones. This means the insurgents (or, to use another term, the defiant locals) are not simply wandering about the empty landscape. They live in and receive support from – reluctant or otherwise – Afghans living in the rare patches of green. Our troops know where they are, but sorting out who is who is difficult.

Cantwell believes most of the enemy are not fully committed Taliban. There are cowed people who comply with Taliban demands and semi-committed insurgents whom he believes can eventually be won over. But Cantwell says the hardcore Taliban “have to be killed or captured”.

One of the greatest difficulties Coalition troops face here is that exactly one half of the population is off-limits to them. Coalition forces may not approach women at all – the Afghan men are “fiercely protective” of them, says Cantwell. To win over the women would be a major step towards hearts and minds victory, but it’s not easy.     

“They are behind closed doors, they are behind the burqa, they’re hidden from view,” says Cantwell. “I’d love to see more medical and health care for women and children. A terrible percentage – in the order of 30 per cent of Afghan women – die in childbirth. At least 30 per cent or more of Afghan children don’t reach their fifth birthday.

“(Women) have no voice in the community but they have a voice in the home. These women are mothers and aunts and sisters and I am of the view that even in this society we should endeavour to help women to help themselves and to help their menfolk to not take the five dollars to go and bury that roadside bomb. There’s a long way to go.”

The Australians have sponsored a school for girls in the Uruzgan province, with fluctuating attendances. The best work the troops can do to persuade women is the dangerous work of clearing roads and villages of IEDs. The hope is that the women, particularly, will see that it is the Coalition partners, rather than the insurgents, who are trying to make the environment safe.

There are fairly routine and violent anti-Coalition riots outside the gates of the Tarin Kowt base, usually sparked by claims that some soldier has burned a Koran “It is just the old chestnut that is trotted out,” says Cantwell. “No coalition soldier is burning Korans. But it is a sure fire winner. If you want to stir up locals, just trot that one out.”

Given these obstacles, it is hard to see how they can win. But Cantwell’s point is that “victory” requires a broader definition than seeing the insurgents raising the white flag – because, in Afghanistan, that will never happen.

“The message missing from the debate in Australia, the commentators seem to think we’re in an all-out counter insurgency fight,” says Cantwell. We don’t need to kill every insurgent … it’s not what we’re doing here.

“The government has said repeatedly - and the Chief of Defence Force - has said repeatedly (we’ll be out in) two-to four years. That’s just not a plug. It’s good number. But it’s not a hard date. It will take us a couple of years at least to get to a point where we can with confidence transition significant aspects of the security operation in Uruzgan.

“In the next 12 months or so, we will be very much in a position to start a transition process. But there won’t be a D-day for transition. It’s a stated government position that we have a role as part of the international community in not letting this part of the world not slip back to how it was when the Talban was in charge.

“For a start, their human rights practises were appalling. They have a primitive view of the way society should run and they had a heavily distorted view of the Koran and the Islamic faith. The circumstance is that they encourage and allowed terrorism to prosper. And it’s exportable. It’s sounds trite and it’s a cliché to say we can’t let Afghanistan become a seat for transnational terrorism to gain ground, (but) it’s true.

“We have a commitment to our United States. We have a commitment to the international community to try to do something about this country. At the end of the day, whether you agree or not, we participated in the operations that started this whole thing off in 2001. As a mature, responsible democracy, it’s absolutely right that we step and do something about what we started.”

Most of the insurgents are based in the southern part of the country. Uruzgan is nestled between Kandahar and Helmand provinces, which are at this time the most violent areas. This means the Uruzgan forces cannot view themselves in isolation.

“Uruzgan is not an island,” says Cantwell. “We aren’t parked out somewhere in the Pacific. This is a province which adjoins a whole bunch of other dangerous and unstable provinces. We’re in the south of Afghanistan, the most dangerous area, which borders on to Pakistan, we sit astride major routes into and out of Pakistan and within Afghanistan. So we can’t treat ourselves in isolation.

“Which is why our special forces have approval to conduct some (constrained) operations to go to operations in northern Kandahar. Because we have to do that. We can’t just sit on the border of Uruzgan and pretend it’s not going to effect us. We have to take a wider view. Our operations here in Uruzgan provide a very important security effect on the flank of these two vital provinces, Kandahar and Helmand.

“Operations are underway already in Kandahar to try to remove some of those really stubborn entrenched insurgent safe havens around the approached to Kandahar city. We’ve got a vested interest in making sure that goes well. Our future, the safety of our soldiers, rests on our ability to intercept the lines of supply communication between Kandahar and Uruzgan, between Pakistan and other parts of Afghanistan where expertise on IEDS and weapons and doctrine and explosives move.

“We’ve got to deal with other provinces. It’s my role as national commander to keep considering those wider issues and to provide advice up the national chain of command as to how I see them affecting our interests, and within the Uruzgan province making sure that the tactical commanders are acting in ways that are sensibly aligned with those national interests.

“My job is to make sure that Australian military power is used to the best effect in line with our national goals in Uruzgan.”

Cantwell argues that now is not the time to give up. “We have invested enormous blood and treasure and heartache and loss and effort over a number of years to fight a dogged and dangerous insurgency. We have now got ourselves to a situation where we have finally got the things in our grasp, or near to our hands, to start to exploit the advantages we’ve won with so much hard effort.

“We’ve got now the fourth ANA brigade almost complete. It’s generally stable now. Before it’s been coming and going, chopping in and out, so we’ve had trouble getting our hands around the people we’re trying to train. We’ve now got that sorted.

“We’ve fought hard through this year, and taken losses in doing it, to hold the line and stabilise the province as best we can in the face of an enormous increase in operational activity by our enemy, and by the use of IEDS.

“(There has been a) 100 per cent increase by the middle of this year on what we saw with IEDs and the like last year. So we’ve fought hard. Now’s not the time to just concede that effort. We’ve got to make sure we exploit it. We’ve got the combat power to the job. We’ve got a new mentoring task force (5RAR) coming in, purpose designed for (training) the new soldiers of the Fourth Brigade.”

Cantwell says the Coalition troops are coming to end of summer fighting season and will use the winter as a good time to train the Afghan soldiers not so much in how to fight (they’re pretty good at that) but in communications and intelligence.

“Because most of this summer we’ve been fighting for our lives,” he says. “It’s hard to train an Afghan about how to read a map or how to call in artillery fire when you’re trying to keep yourself, your mate and the Afghan soldier beside you alive.

“It would be, in my view, a dreadfully short-sighted view to say, ‘Look, it’s hard, we’re taking casualties (and) other in the international community are questioning what we’re doing.’ And then walk away. I don’t agree with that at all.

“Now is not time, as I said to the Prime Minister and I said to Mr Abbott today, it’s not the time to get the wobbles, it’s not the time to lose faith, it’s not the time to forsake the loss and the sacrifice and the expense and the heartache that’s gone into this.”

Of course, there’s a risk that a war debate within Australia might flush out stronger anti-war feelings. “It might, it might not,” says Cantwell. “I am confident Australians will continue to separate what we are doing, our soldiers are doing in our name, from the policy that takes them to that mission.

“Sure, Australian soldiers want to know we are doing the right thing. We are that sort of army … but it’s important we use this opportunity for debate to lay our facts… it’s hard to get the facts out about what we have achieved. We’ll hear all sorts of venting, and we’ll also hear I hope some commonsense.”

Senator Brown’s view is that the Taliban is now in the process of talking to Afghan president Hamid Karzai, and we should therefore leave it to them to sort it all out and exit the country.

Cantwell responds: “If there was a unilateral intent for the Taliban to negotiate in good faith, there’d be some validity to that view. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. There are tentative, very tentative, and tiny steps in this direction by small parts of a large and disparate non-unified organisation.

“And one swallow does not a summer make. It’s a bit early to be running up the victory flag. We are confronting a determined, ruthless enemy. They aren’t going to accommodate the Karzai government or the Coalition any time soon.”

On the calls by Opposition Defence spokesman David Johnston that the Australians needed tanks in Uruzgan, to support them with their Bushmaster patrol vehicles, Cantwell is insistent the Australian Government has given them what they need for the mission, with both troops and firepower.

“We don’t need more tanks,” he says. “We don’t need any tanks. It’s the wrong place. I’m a tank guy and I’m telling you, we don’t need tanks. We’ve got what we need. 

“My unbiased and professional assessment as a soldier with almost 38 years of service … I do not agree we need more combat forces. If we needed them, I would ask for them. Seriously, does anyone really think I would for one minute place the lives at our soldiers at greater risk than it needs to be over a matter of policy? Give me a break.

“These are soldiers. I’ve shed tears for these guys. I’ve stood beside the broken and ruined bodies of far too many soldiers this year. If I thought I needed to do more to keep those guys alive and send them home to their families, I’d damn well do it, and I wouldn’t stop shouting until I got a good answer. But I don’t feel the need to do that.”

Mentoring the Afghan army means fighting at their side, on a daily basis. The Coalition more often than not wins those encounters, because they are better trained and armed than their enemy.

The Brisbane-based 6RAR is about to rotate out after being here since February, in which they’ve had about 90 firefights with insurgents. “But this is an IED fight,” Cantwell says. The things can be found in walls, in trees, in fields, on donkeys. “Every single day there is an IED event of some sort.”

Overcoming IEDs and empowering the non-combatants of Uruzgan to reject the Taliban remains the great challenge. “This is a game of inches, to use a sporting cliché,” says Cantwell, who admits hearts and minds successes have been modest.

Cantwell cites his frustration in the example of a local leader, Mohammad Duod Khan, a young up-and-coming local leader, whom the Australians had been nurturing as a strong local contact. 

Khan’s father was accidentally killed by Coalition forces a few years ago but, says Cantwell, that “hasn’t diminished his desire to do the right thing. He’s been under constant threat and people have been trying to knock him off. He’s been undermined by some of the powerbrokers who don’t like him. We’ve been trying to look after him. He’s just been sacked. It was a straight power play and now we’ve got to work with someone who is less attractive.

“That’s one of the steps back we encounter. He’s been dismissed by Hamid Karzai, on the influence of power brokers. But it’s their country. I would say his departure is unfortunate and that is an example of the complex political and tribal currents that are washing around in Uruzgan. We’re in that mix.

“On the other hand, we have good stories. Out to the west of here, in Dah Ravod, where we a couple of months ago took over from the departing Dutch and the French, the main area of Dah Ravod and the green zone around it is relatively secure. But the valleys to the north, south, west and east of there are terribly dangerous. One of those valleys is where Corporal McKinney was killed in late August. Just in the last few days, a combination operation of US special forces, Australian and Afghan soldiers, have cleared that valley.

“It cost the Americans a couple of lives – it’s been a very serious and tough fight. The good news is, they’ve cracked it. They’ve put in place for or five Afghan outposts to secure that whole valley. Next step is to get Afghan police in there to relieve the soldiers and open that whole route up. That route has not been open to normal traffic in years. That’s a great outcome. We might lose one of those outposts or we might hold it – I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. We’ll keep chipping away.

“This is emblematic of the campaign we struggle with. Good days and bad days. Politics versus operations. You take your good days when you can, and when you have a bad day, you try and find another way.”

US Colonel Jim Creighton, who is in charge of joint command in Uruzgan, says there has been a drop in insurgent activity from last year – even though the IED threat has not diminished. He cannot say whether they are just going elsewhere to fight, but says many have been killed.

US Colonel Jim Creighton, bottom left, watches the NRL Grand Final with ADF Deputy Commander Lieutenant Colonel Jason Blain and other ADF members in Tarin Kot. Photo: Defence Department.

“But I think the most important thing that is happening is that the senior leaders, the elders and the government within Uruzgan is bringing the young kids on side. It’s the elder in the village who is telling his nephew, his son, to come back in and be with the tribe and the government.

“I think that they’re seeing the government is more effective (than the Taliban). I think there’s a general feeling the government is here for the long haul. They see a dramatic increase in the number of ANA. In the last five years it’s gone from zero to 3000. The number of police is from 300 to about 2500. So they’ve seen a substantial amount of security forces. The people genuinely respect the ANA. You see an improvement in the ANP (Afghan National Police) every day.”

Creighton has been in command here 15 months and, as Coalition leader in Uruzgan, the Australians who have died or been wounded here are his men as well. “It is a terrible hard fight. We have lost 11 casualties since I’ve been here. That’s just Coalition. If you look at ANA and ANP it’s even greater, and we count every one of those as a very important life.

“But the reality is that we are making a difference. The reality is we’ve known this is a tough fight.” He said the focus was mentoring the Afghan army and police to make sure those casualties went down.

“(When I was asked to take command) I had to ask myself, ‘Can I make a difference?’ I think we can make a difference. I look at this terrain and I look at the people. It’s a beautiful terrain, it’s a beautiful people. Ninety-nine per cent of the people here, all they want to do is raise their families and live in a peaceful environment. I wouldn’t be here unless I thought we could make a difference.”

Creighton said visits by Australian politicians – three in as many weeks, being Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, Julia Gillard and now Abbott – were not a headache.

“No. I honestly don’t think so. This fight is based on a coalition. Coalitions are driven by political mandates. The story we have here, I believe is a good news story. Even if it was a bad news story, it’s important for the people of Australia, and the United States and the rest of the Coalition, to understand what’s happening. I welcome the visit of anyone who wants to come and understand what’s happening in Uruzgan.”

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119 comments

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    • Doug Rhodes says:

      06:10am | 13/10/10

      Impressive is the word that comes to mind in describing Major Gen. Cantwell.      However is it his role to formulate foreign policy.He speaks sensibly and sensitively about our mission in Afghanistan to a point of faith and commitment, but the battlefronts become too numerous to count if we were to apply ....democratic freedom… to be our cause. Our mission was to fight terrorism not to create democracies. Tell me is Bin Laden dead or alive,he was the target,not the Taliban.

    • Macon Paine says:

      08:23am | 13/10/10

      Doug,
      Fighting terrorism is one thing but we cannot simply do this and then abandon the people. That would be similar to what happened during the soviet invasion of afghanistan, we (the west) armed the mujahaddin to fight the soviets and when the soviets where defeated we more or less abandoned the afghanis. This was obviously a huge mistake and partly responsible for the rise of the taliban who gave shelter to Bin Laden.

    • Scot says:

      12:59pm | 13/10/10

      If Brown is so (Red) Green, There are millions of dollars of pink bats in warehouses in Australia from the failed Labor bat program in Australia underRudd and Gillard Labor. Maybe he should take some with him when he goes to see the troops for the lining of the shed that they have to use. And maybe a few more for the locals to protect them against the ever summers and winters for the troops to use in the building program for the locals. But Brown does not have a heart, he just wants our troops out so the Taliban can start killing people again for their (euthanasia) ideology, just like Browns Greens party.

    • Roja says:

      04:21pm | 13/10/10

      Wow Scot, so many words, so little sense.

    • Scot says:

      01:03am | 14/10/10

      Roja. You evidently you know nothing about what the Australian Army is doing in Afghanistan, and living in a third world state called NSW, full of failed projects and wasted opportunity. The Greens are destroying Australia and Deputy PM Brown does not have the guts to go to Afghanistan.

    • Warren says:

      09:49am | 14/10/10

      Scot we need wisdom not guts.

    • Roja says:

      10:44am | 14/10/10

      Scot… you are still not making sense.  Your pink bat - Afghanistan - NSW government - Bob Brown tirade is all over the shop.

    • Scot says:

      02:06pm | 14/10/10

      Roja. Yes just like NSW Labors inept 16 years in power, and now the Federal Labor party of Gillard. No plans, nothing costed, not funded, and will get into power with anyone, what ever it takes. NSW is now a third world state of extremely poor outcomes and now Gillard is destroying the food bowl of Australia. The UN and UNHCR will be needed to save the state because of the poverty issues we are now facing.

    • Roja says:

      10:52am | 15/10/10

      Ok…. but we were talking about Afghanistan on this thread. 

      I don’t deny NSW Labor is completely devoid of competence, however the NSW Liberals are currently hostage to branch stacking by the hard Christian right and need intevention by the police at some of their meetings thus they appear even more incompetent.  Might I suggest you put your money where you’re mouth is and enter the NSW political arena - I imagine Tarquin Fimbim Limbin Wimbim Bus Stop Ftang Ftang Ole Biscuit Barrel from the Silly Party would be able to give both sides a good run for their money.

      As for federal labor, well the country is going pretty crap right now isn’t it?  Strong dollar, a trade surplus and lowering unemployment.  What a disaster.

    • T.Chong says:

      07:14am | 13/10/10

      Disagree entirely with the Major General - the more people know about the invasion, occupation and blood shed, the more they will baulk, and reject the killing.
      Also the Kharzi govt is now in negotiation with the Talibaan.
      It seems the Afghans dont believe in what we are fighting for.

    • Macon Paine says:

      08:09am | 13/10/10

      “Disagree entirely with the Major General - the more people know about the invasion, occupation and blood shed, the more they will baulk, and reject the killing.”
      Chongy, you say this but then dont go on and elaborate. Why dont you take this opportunity to tell or at least direct people to this information you speak of? Instead of just implying people are ignorant and they need to know more why dont you actually try to enlighten people?

    • hdr says:

      09:03am | 13/10/10

      Hi T.C, I also have a problem with this “Afgan war”. Is there anyone out there who can tell us who we are at war with? maybe someone could tell us when we joined NATO, as this was a NATO operation, and jeez haven’t they done a good job?

    • T.Chong says:

      09:05am | 13/10/10

      Macon - the information is there, in the media.
      Look for information elsewhere than Conservative sites/ publications.
      Try Common Dreams or even The Huffington post.
      The information s not secret, its just that in Australia its not covered as much.
      No implying from me, about anyone being ignorant , Macon.

    • Scot says:

      12:52pm | 13/10/10

      T Chong and others who know nothing about Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Until you have been there and know the situation in person may I suggest you keep your opinions to yourself. Bob Brown should go and see for himself. I have many friends there of many years from my business trips, and without exception they abhor what the Taliban and its thuggery is doing to its people in both countries. They have destroyed many lives because of their warped view of life.

    • Brendan says:

      10:32pm | 13/10/10

      T.Chong

      You do realize one of the news outlet you cited have zero credibility. The Huffinton Post regularly write anti-vaccination dribble with no evidence at all to back up their accusations.  The Huff post is not a credible source at all.

    • Bruno says:

      07:01am | 14/10/10

      Scot, perhaps you have been to Afghanistan and Pakistan, perhaps you have brought back with you some of the things you learnt over there, but this is Australia, no one has to keep their opinions to themselves, as much as you may disagree with them

    • Andrew says:

      12:27pm | 14/10/10

      HDR- The reason why we are in Afganistan is because Australia contributing to the international campaigns against terrorism, countering piracy in the Gulf of Aden, and maritime security in the Middle East Area of Operations. Australian forces contribute to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) - led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.  The ISAF seeks to bring security, stability and prosperity to Afghanistan and aims at preventing the country from again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists.

    • GGibson says:

      07:31am | 13/10/10

      Time to come home. If we believe the Holy Bible, all of Asia is already lost…lost to the great Asian confederacy army called the KINGS OF THE EAST (Revelation 16:12). We know that China is the lead-nation of the KINGS OF THE EAST Asian confederacy army because the number of ‘200 million soldiers’ (clearly defined in Revelation 9:16) lines up with Mao Tse Tung’s claim from the early 1960s that any day he wants to he can foot 200 million soldiers. Wikipedia says that the Peoples Liberation Army likewise has over 300 million fighting age men available to them…so 200 million soldiers will be a snack to them. Hiding the preparations for such a large army? They have had over 4 decades to get ready since Mao’s statement to conceal the build-up. We see China, today, bringing together the KINGS OF THE EAST Asian confederacy army via the security group the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation…not that she really needs any help in her planned outward march. She just wants a few buddies with her to justify her great sin of killing 1/3 of mankind. The Bible says that all of the land across Asia right up to the place called Armageddon (the Plain of Megiddo) is going to be taken. Christian prophecies, visions and personal Words of Knowledge from The Lord to the Christian churches of Australia suggest that more than half of Australia will be lost. Many of us older Christians believe those prophecies. Try http://whatwillbecomeofaustraliajackburrell.blogspot.com/  for the earliest revelation on the subject. Should we have gone to Afghanistan? Who knows? It’s too big a question for me. What we in the Christian churches do know is that the time approaches when we must come home… and get ourselves ready for the great invader of Asia.  Pray for Australia, even if you’re not into prayer. Pray for her families. Pray that God will spare her. Pray for Christian revival. With God on our side we will survive. ANZUS appears to mean little in those days if the PLA can take any major part of this great, big, wide, wonderful country. Australia, even now, years before the event, appears to stand alone in those terrible days.

    • T.Chong says:

      09:14am | 13/10/10

      Wow GG. If its all preordined , as you say, might as well get out the Mandarin and Cantonese phrase books.
      But please do tell more about killing 1/3 of the world population.?
      Also clarify has China killed 1/3, or will ? (your grammar makes this unclear)
      Its hard to also see which countries will join China.
      It wont be Russia or India, and US occupation of S Korea, Japan and Taiwan takes them out of the equation.
      But please explain more.

    • Elaine Flint says:

      11:22am | 13/10/10

      UUUuuumm…...does this mean that people like me who know that all religion is crap will be saved because we don’t believe in any religion?? FFS..the bible was written long before most of the planet had been discovered. And it was written by supersticious goat herders. I was force fed christianity by a religious freak mother who whipped the love of jesus into us with a leather strap. When I was ten I aksed my mother whether fairies were true & she gave me an emphatic “NO!” So then I asked her if god really existed because we can’t see this person & I was hit across the face so hard I had a blood nose. My sister was repeatedly raped by a methodist minister from ages 7 to 9 & was blamed for it by the church because” little girls are very tantalising.” I will NEVER EVER believe in any religion & I resent any religion having any state power & being tax free .  If any other business offered for sale an invisible, unprovable product they’d be prosecuted for fraud.  The dreadful things done to women by religion is proof enough for me that there’s no such thing as god/gods!!

    • Kingswood says:

      11:56am | 13/10/10

      GGibson-I had a dream. It involved care bears, fast cars and winning the lotto. Was it a vision? Hard for me to say, maybe it was the devine telling me care bears will come down from the heavens driving fast cars and will help me win the lotto. Or maybe it was the cough medicine I took before going to bed, either way I take it for what it was a messed up concoction of randomness that should not be used to predict my future.

    • Scot says:

      02:41pm | 13/10/10

      GG very strange comments. China does not interfere in other countries internal affairs. They have their own issues when it comes to these sad radical fools that have also tried to cause trouble in China and use the western area for training.  China will not tolerate such people doing this and have come down very hard on them. Unlike Pakistan that has yet to stop this and push them back into Afghanistan. Like Singapore, they will not tolerate these people either, so they go to Malaysia, Thaialnd and Indonesia and then to Australia, and we let them into Australia. What fools we are. Like drugs, if you stop them coming into the country in the first place then socially we are better off.

    • GGibson says:

      04:37pm | 13/10/10

      T. Chong.
      The KINGS OF THE EAST will kill, future tense, 1/3 of mankind or if you like, about 2 billion people as it crosses Asia. China is already working on friends to join her. North Korea will be one I should think. For many years the Christians of the world have known that China was building a vast secret army…probably already has the weapons and the ammunition manufactured and stored for the 200 million soldiers. For many years the Australian Defence Department has known about the prophecies sent by The Lord about Australia…and mostly done nothing. Like chickens they sheltered under the US nuclear umbrella…and did mostly nothing. Today there is nothing on the Australian mainland, as in the form of a civilian home guard defence force, for the day when an invader actually steps onto Australian soil. Everyone but the general public knows that China is coming. We darent be told because we are not ready…and we probably never will be. An army friend says there isnt even enough ammunition in the arsenal for the day when China finally marches to victory against the accursed anglos.

    • brendan says:

      10:35pm | 13/10/10

      How did the moderators let this idiot comment get through ?

    • Brendan says:

      10:42pm | 13/10/10

      Oh and as for your comment that we dont have a home guard, I do believe there is this one thing called the defense force reserves ? Since Australia does not have a large overseas presence I think we have around 70,000 trained military personal (including reservists) on the Australian mainland at this moment.

    • Ask a stupid question says:

      12:23am | 14/10/10

      That’s great news, GGibson. I presume the Chinese will sort out Afghanistan then.

    • GGibson says:

      09:37am | 14/10/10

      Brendon.
      The Army Reserve is pipsqueak. It always was. A token effort because no one wanted to spend the money on a complete citizens home guard army. There are no plans for the defence of Australia that amount to anything but failure.
      Defence public relations is a plastic cover-up for pagan ritual, bastardisation, sexual harassment and gross incompentance with purchases…you media people ought to tell the true story.
      When China comes…she will come in the dead of night with tens of thousands of soldiers…and America will never be seen.
      Did you even read Jack Burrells revelation?
      Theres possibly tens, or even hundreds like it amongst the Christian churches for the last 4 decades.
      I am over 50 years old now and I expect to live long enough to stand on a front line on Australia soil with guys like yourself.
      Chinas outward march is that close.

    • Matt says:

      04:24pm | 14/10/10

      GGibson, All of Asia is shitting itself at the thought of Chinese Agression, in any future War China would be against practically all of Asia as well as the US. Besides who says that “god” will be on our side?

    • Rob says:

      07:02pm | 14/10/10

      Gibbo,
      You want to quote to quote to Bible. Fantastic. It’s only mildy less violently inclined than the Koran. And it’s never got a prediction wrong. What a joke. U see what u want to see just like every religious bigot on this planet. They all know what God is telling them. They all have it right just like u. But u wont hear this because your drivel is ringing in your own ears like tinnitus.

    • Rob says:

      07:46pm | 14/10/10

      Mate, your knowledge of Australia’s strategic situation could stand to improve. Invading Australia would require a large mobile mechanised force with highly advanced technology in order to cover even just the north coast.  It would also require territory in nearby islands such as Java, New Guinea, and probably New Zealand from which to launch assaults. China has none of that.

      If they wanted to invade Australia, they would have to spend a ridiculous amount of money to develop the appropriate invasion force, and they would probably have to get into cahoots with both Japan and Indonesia (who are both strong Australian allies) in order to get the industrial and technological expertise, as well as the strategic position required even for an attempt at landing to be made. That would take years. They would also have to somehow convince the Americans not to intervene; a tall order given that the Yanks already have bases in northern Australia, not to mention the resources, trade and strategic position that the US would have to lose from a successful Chinese invasion of Australia.

      Then they would have to get their army onto boats, battle-readied (which is horribly space-inefficient), and sail them to Australian shores, somehow without being attacked. And they would then have to deal with a highly advanced defence force that routinely trains for Australian invasion scenarios.

      I could go on, really, but the most obvious reason that China won’t invade is that they already have pretty much everything they want from Australia. Our trade relationship is fantastic, and we’re not really located in their zone of natural expansion. So China not only do China not yet have the means, but they don’t yet have the need. The USA is a bigger threat, for goodness’ sake.

    • KBro says:

      06:08pm | 15/10/10

      Gibbo, I’m sure with you and your Christian mates praying for our salvation we’ll all be fine.  After all your omnipotent God and his supernatural hangers-on like that Archangel bloke Gabriel and other assorted angels surely wouldn’t countenance this Austral(South)asian beacon of Christianity in heathen Asia being over-run by atheist communist Chinese and heathen Buddhists, Taoists, Shen and Falun Gong.  After all didn’t we triumph over the heathen Aborigine to whom Jesus chose not to reveal himself to for 40,000 years

    • Ken Maynard says:

      07:50am | 13/10/10

      Like everyone, I have an interest in whether Afghanistan is winnable, especially considering the sacrifice & investment the west is making there.

      The case for invading Iraq was largely a fabrication.  After 9/11 the US could hardly invade Saudi, a flanking movement in Iraq probably looked a better bet.  I doubt it was that concerned about oil. The US will always find some way to get oil.  Bush & his camp were more based on idealism, the Middle East was in desperate need of reform & stabilizing, (Something on which most of us would agree)  In the American view, democracy is the universal panacea & cure for all ills.

      A recent NZ Herald article tells what a terrible, sick, ugly place East Germany was in 1980 & how quickly it improved when democracy came in 1989.

      Thus when I say America fabricated an ends justifies means pretext to take over Iraq, one can see its point of view.  If democracy had fixed Stalin, then it was surely a cure for Islam.

      What America does not understand; Islam is a different disease to Stalin & needs a completely different prescription.   

      ……………………………

      On Afghanistan, I believe we are there on sounder grounds & in a worthwhile cause.  The Taliban are not a desirable government.  Both in the military & in civil aid efforts, the west has committed some of its best people to Afghanistan, & I am proud of them & what they aspire to do.  But you cannot reform Islam. 

      Major General Cantwell cites the ANZAC spirit of doing good in the world; yet how do you do good in a society which will not allow good to be done.

      He cites Afghani’s as good people who would prefer a peaceful life; in this he greatly under-estimates the hold Islam exerts on its citizens.  Islam will allow peace only on its own terms, said terms are wholly unacceptable to the rest of us.

      He cites the common values of humanity, yet a society in which women are kept sequestered, Taliban or not, has no values in common with us, & our values have no grounds in which they can be accepted, embraced or grow to a position of authority.

      I believe in what we are trying to do in Afghanistan, I believe the world will be a better place if we could succeed.  Yet the whole off history attests reforming Islamic societies to be hopeless.  This is a concern to me, how many lives & resources do we expend on a worthy cause which is not likely to succeed.

      Then there is one other problem, the Greens have got their head in the sand.  The problem will not go away just because we find it all too ugly & withdraw.  Any withdrawal can only be accompanied by some other form of constructive engagement with Islam.  Given our engagement with Islam has been ugly, there is no guarantee any new program of engagement with it would be any cleaner or better. 

      In sum… a sad issue which offers no happy prospects no matter what we do.


      Ken Maynard   Webb…  http://www.communichristi.org.nz     
          Use a Firefox or Safari Webb-browser for full use of this site.

    • Sarah says:

      08:29am | 13/10/10

      It’s interesting that you’ve focussed on the 2 stars on his collar. They’re not his australian rank - they’re an indicator of his rank grade for other international forces (US-dominated). The Australian rank insignia for Maj-Gen is the crossed sword and baton, with a pip.

    • PaulB says:

      08:34am | 13/10/10

      A “better informed public” would lynch those who drove us into this quagmire, planning for which began well before the “opportunity” presented by 911.

    • TheRealDave says:

      09:13am | 13/10/10

      Well played Maj Gen Cantwell. You don’t rise to that rank without knowing how to play the Canberra game. Maybe he could explain to us, what the author never questioned him on, is how exactly a Company minus of Infantry is an adequate force to secure a volatile province, train a Brigade of Afghans AND protect the RTF which is doing rebuilding projects? I love seeing the figure of 1550 troops thrown around knowing full well the average journo and average mug punter back here in Oz that well over 1000 of those 1550 are pogues who’s most common form of danger is twisting an ankle playing volleyball or getting a dodgy sandwich from Subway.

      Its also annoying to see these military leaders toe the political line and only grow a spine once they hang up the baggy green suit and become ‘military analysts/commentators’ for hire on the news networks. When it was their turn to run the show and had actual power to make the changes they call for they went MIA for sake of their careers.

      Diggers are dying, and will continue to die, because we are making the barest possible commitment we can political get away with and still be in the US’s good books. Either we make a proper commitment or come home. End of story.

    • Ollie says:

      02:07pm | 13/10/10

      Real Dave,

      read the article again; Cantwell said he didn’t need more troops.  I suspect he might know better than you.

      He also hasn’t hung up his green baggy suit - he is still in the Army and is not commenting from the sidelines. 

      How can you be so ignorant yet so arrogant at the same ime - “End of Story”  Real Dave has spoken!

    • TheRealDave says:

      03:41pm | 13/10/10

      @Ollie, maybe an English comprehension class is in order? I know Maj Gen Cantwell is still serving, given that he’s the task force commander. I was speaking generally about other ‘known’ names both here and overseas who leap into the public arena a few years after retiring and suddenly they are calling for the same reforms they refused to implement when they held the top rung of the ladder.

      The upper echelons of the ADF are just like any other Corporate Ladder - just the uniforms are snazzier and the pay’s are far far less. Those climbing the ADF ladder have far more in common with their Corporate ladder climbing cousins than those officers do with their soldiers.

      AS to your other point - yes, he does know more than me. I also know that he’s beholden to his political masters as well. No career officer will jump on his sword in this day and age, not until he retires of course as per my other point.

      Maybe you could explain how 150 Infantry Diggers is enough to provide security throughout Oruzgan, train a Brigade (4 battalions) of ANA AND protect the RTF as it completes reconstruction projects? Maj Gen Cantwell hasn’t. Nor have any journo’s actually quizzed him on the numbers. The actual numbers, not the fuzzy 1550 total that gets thrown around.

    • John Dark says:

      07:20pm | 13/10/10

      The number of actual gunslingers going over is a lot more than 150. Trust me on that.
      And thanks for the usual ‘pogue’ comments - try fighting the enemy naked, throwing stones, because without pogues, that’s what you would be doing. Maybe they don’t get daily IEDs and 2-way ranges, but I think road runs, AMEs etc aren’t exactly a picnic. Thank goodness for the Bushmaster.
      You may have some idea, RealDave, but you aren’t up on current affairs.

    • Brendan says:

      10:50pm | 13/10/10

      @ TheRealDave

      How does an infantry of 150 train a group of 500 Afghan soldiers?
      By my count that is around 1 trainer to every 3 trainees, very respectable if you ask me.

    • Ture Sjolander says:

      09:20am | 13/10/10

      They talk about the “war-game” as it was about Footy.
      Most guys are kids around 20 and that is nothing but child abuse.
      Return them all to mum and re-educate them. (Mom too)

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      09:43am | 13/10/10

      Just which Afghanistan are we fighting for? The corrupt Karzai government? The various Afghan warlords? The Taliban (if they become part of the current government). Afghanistan has never been a unified country and never will be. The role of the ADF is not to implant human rights or democracy, it is to safeguard the strategic interests of Australia, period. So if Australia is hellbent on fighting terrorism, then I suggest they go invade NW Pakistan, Sudan or Saudi Arabia where the real terrorists are…..

    • Badger says:

      12:48pm | 13/10/10

      What about us going into West Papua and fight for them against the Indonesians who invaded them years ago, and we stood by and let them just walk in, killing many, and takeing it over, a disgrace and shame on the Australian Government standing by just watching and paying lip service to the whole thing.
        I know there are over 300 million Indonesians on our door step, and we would have difficulty in defending ourselves against them if they wished to invade us on our own, but that has more to do with us than way off in Afghanistan.

    • acotrel says:

      12:40am | 14/10/10

      Shane, I know I shouldn’t generalise but I tend to believe that every government from Lebanon to Pakistan is corrupt from top to bottom.  If we ‘win’ in Afghanistan, the resulting government can’t be expected to be different from the norm.  When Saddam Hussein ran Iraq he maintained a form of peace.  We all knew he was a rat by western standards, but can we really claim we’ve created a better situation for the Iraqis? I suggest the war in Afghanistan might be subject to the ‘law of diminishing returns’ if we go beyond a certain point.  It won’t matter hat we throw at it, the result will be the same.

    • Ben says:

      09:55am | 13/10/10

      An intelligent, well-written piece (from the Major General).  Iraq is a different ball-game to Afghanistan; and it sounds like they are making in-roads.  Iraq was about oil, Afghanistan is about removing the Taliban (who mostly came from Pakistan), and giving the land back to the Afghanistan people.

    • Gregg says:

      01:02pm | 13/10/10

      You should research some Ben on the desirability of an Oil Pipeline from the northern Stans through Afghanistan to where the good black stuff can eventually find its way into tankers.

    • Roja says:

      04:36pm | 13/10/10

      I am not so sure about all that - if you are going to go down the conspiracy theory line then Iraq and Afghanistan are both about the same thing, American arms sales.  These insurgency operations have cost over 1 trillion dollars, far more money than the scraps they would make from from oil.  Another alternative to the laughable oil pipeline theory is that the US, like back in Laos and Vietnam, is back into black ops Heroin production.

    • Josh says:

      10:09am | 13/10/10

      ” We can and will win this war”
      Isn’t that what they said about Vietnam?

    • TheRealDave says:

      10:29am | 13/10/10

      If only the politicians and media didn’t keep feeding a distorted view to the public and gave the military the tools and freedom to do their jobs then history wouldn’t repeat itself huh?

    • Moggy says:

      10:19am | 13/10/10

      There is no way that the Taliban will be beaten. They fight dirty, whilst the slavering media in the west make sure that the coalition soldiers are prosecuted when they accidentally kill innocent people.  War is a dirty business, but the constant outcry from the media everytime the coalition soldiers fight dirty is now hampering the way our men fight.  What does the media expect our sodiers do…...send a letter to the enemy saying “Excuse us chaps, but w’re going to be searching peoples houses for enemy fighters tonight, so could you please make sure there are no civilians actually in their houses before we do???” The media is actually giving comfort to our enemies, & all in the name of profits!!

    • St. Michael says:

      02:16pm | 13/10/10

      Actually, Moggy, that’s exactly how the West *should* be fighting its engagements.  It sounds contrarian, but it is the only way for a Western conventional force to operate effectively in a “civilian” population.  As with the Second Battle of Fallujah, and World War Two before it, you give due notice to the inhabitants that a major armed force is coming to take control of your town.

      The difference between the approach you’re concerned about is because it doesn’t take the second step: in that same notice, declaring that once operations begin, anyone staying there is a presumed enemy combatant.  Then act on your word and take the place on that presumption.  No more human shields.  No more “innocent civilians”.  They were duly warned.

      And you know what? Even with a bunch of supposedly tribal primitives, in that sort of situation, the vast majority of “innocent civilians” get the hell out of the way.  Compare the civilian death rates as between the First Battle of Fallujah—where no warning was given—and the Second Battle of Fallujah, where it was.  Tactics by the US didn’t change.  The behaviour by the civilians did.  As for the noble but blind idea that there should never be a civilian casualty: c’est la guerre.

      And if said “innocent civilians” are going to complain about it, tell them that it is the insurgents who are responsible for the destruction of your homes, since they choose to hide among the civilian populace rather than come out and fight in the open.  If said “innocent civilians” say that you have destroyed their town, your reply is “No, the insurgents destroyed your town because they chose to use it as a battle ground even though we told you we were coming.  Feel free to let the insurgents know of your concerns, though.  I’m sure they will be eager to make sure they don’t use any more of your towns and villages and mosques as cover.  We are certainly happy to fight them out in the open.”

      The rules of engagement are mandated by the media and gutless politicians, not by the Geneva Conventions.

    • Rod H says:

      10:40am | 13/10/10

      Cantwell provides an obviously sincere and internally coherent view of the Australian Army pursuing its objectives to the best of its abilities in very difficult circumstances.  This is as it should be. That is his role.  The job, from his perspective)  is to train the “The Afghan Army” (= good) to better fight “The Taliban” (= bad).  The trouble, though is that it is the broader purpose that surrounds such roles , as so often in wars with a hefty “civil” component, that makes the venture so questionable.  It gives rise to the same sort of questions that the equally prolonged Soviet occupation produced.  When we train soldiers (as they did) who will they ultimately be fighting for?  Even now something like one in 4 members of the Afghan army desert each year.  Their personal allegiances are largely local and personal, rather than to the “National” Government”.  Whatever the West’s intent this is as much a war of Pashtun against Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara as it is of “Government” against “insurgent”.  The fragile coalition of interests that underpins the “Government” today will collapse like a pack of cards when the West pulls out.  In many cases the members of the ‘Government” are no more progressive than the “Taliban” who we originally sought to eliminate. Further, as Cantwell himself admits, the divisions between “Taliban”  and “the people” are very difficult to define in many areas (just as they were in that other unwinnable war in Vietnam).

      Where will it all end?  Almost inevitably, I suspect with the same sort of bloody power struggle and civil war that characterised the end of the Soviet occupation.  This time around, though, the fighters on all sides, thanks partly to our own endeavours, will be even better trained and better armed than they were the last time around! This time, too, one suspects that all of the regional powers (Pakistan, Iran and India) will have even clearer favourites amongst the factions.

    • k.marshall says:

      10:48am | 13/10/10

      Pity the general is not talking from experience , but books.

      What active service has he seen as a soldier ?

      Cleary, he is another political head speaking.

    • Nay says:

      09:22pm | 13/10/10

      The General is speaking from experience AND is also well educated. His bio is freely available on the net. Do your research before you so quickly put your foot in your mouth. One thing this man is not is a political head nor a puppet.

      Clearly, if the man was a fool and inexperienced he would NOT have the respect of his soldiers and officers.

    • ShaneO says:

      10:17pm | 13/10/10

      K.Marshall he has won bravery awards from the first gulf war.

      Believe me he has done the hard yards and his fair share of soldiering.

    • Brendan says:

      11:04pm | 13/10/10

      well, he was on active service with Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait although at this stage he was an officer. He started his career in 1974 as a regular soldier(too late to go to Vietnam).  Active service in a war isn’t as readily available to every member of the military contrary to what you may think.

    • stephen says:

      10:55am | 13/10/10

      We’re winning in Southern Afghanistan, as reported on the weekend.
      We’ll win in the end.

    • Robert S McCormick says:

      11:14am | 13/10/10

      Cantwell is, quite simply, Wrong. Just like Vietnam this war is 100% Unwinnable. It is a total waste of time & Lives. We went into this disaster at the behest of those greatest of all war-mongerers the Americans. They went into Iraq because they wanted Iraqi Oil. They went into Afghanistan (Remember the UK tried to take over there many years ago & failed miserably. The Russians decided they would take over & they, too, failed miserably).
      It’s the OIL, stupid, which they all want. Just like Iraq, the invasion of Afghanistan was built & justified on lies. It is beyond time the USA stopped interfering in other people’s lives & countries.
      Once it was the UK which told Australia what to do. Our politicians traded that master/mistress for the equally dictatorial, despicable US of (literally) Bloody-handed America. We have no argument with the Iraqis, Afghans or anybody else. We have no business invading other people’s lands & even less business to be running around killing innocent people.
      Of course members of the armed forces support these wars. Their livelihood depends on being part of these totally unnecessary misdaventures. Defence industries support these stupid wars. That is how they make the huge profits they make. The economies of the USA, UK, Russia, China depend on their Weapons manufacturing to help them stay afloat.
      Just look at the whingeing by so-called Independent Federal MP Rob Oakeshott & his lobbying for some little company in his electorate wanting a slice of some unnecessary $9 billion Defence Contracts. Our politicians & those around the world all talk of solving the problems of the massive poverty already in place & like some sort of particularly virulent form of cancer spreading throughout the world & making it’s presence felt in so-called 1st World Countries such as the USA, UK etc. Whilst these parasitic MPs (of all shades) keep twittering on about how dreadful it is they think nothing of squandering tens of trillions on making bombs, fighter aircraft, Weapons - both conventional & those of Mass Destruction. Having done so they then have to create wars to justify it all. The result is that even more people are thrown into lives of misery & poverty.

    • TheRealDave says:

      12:10pm | 13/10/10

      I’m sorry - which oil was that again in Afghanistan?

      You might have made an interesting point or two, but truth be told, I stopped reading your gibberish once you jumped straight into online conspiracy nonsense.

      You missed the bit where you’re supposed to quote the bit about the Gas Pipeline that Michael Moore ‘discovered’. A decent internet conspiracy theorist always mentions that bit. 

      Pick your game up.

    • Roja says:

      04:45pm | 13/10/10

      Plus you missed the opportunity to include covert heroin sales by CIA funded black ops teams.

      I’m sorry but I can only give you 1.5 Tin Foil Hats.

    • St. Michael says:

      11:46am | 13/10/10

      To put the direct reply to the fighting words in the article header: no you can’t, and no you won’t.

      We can’t because Australia can’t control the territory.  Without full control of the territory you are always going to be fighting your enemy from safe havens.  Training and “readjustment” of a country can only happen once you’ve got full military control of the whole country and can secure its borders against smugglers or “sympathetic” types from the outside.  WIthout that you are still fighting a civil war at best and still trying to invade the country at worst.

      The second reason we can’t is contained in Cantwell’s own article, although he crashes through it rather than confronts the reality of what it means:

      “For a start, their human rights practises were appalling. They have a primitive view of the way society should run and they had a heavily distorted view of the Koran and the Islamic faith.”

      That’s in reference to the Taliban.  And rightly or not the Taliban is one reflection of a majority, or very substantial minority, viewpoint in Afghanistan.

      But it ain’t just the Taliban that’s the problem.  The “innocent civilians” we’re meant to be protecting are also the problem:

      “Cantwell says firefights happen almost exclusively with the green populated zones. This means the insurgents (or, to use another term, the defiant locals) are not simply wandering about the empty landscape. They live in and receive support from – reluctant or otherwise – Afghans living in the rare patches of green. Our troops know where they are, but sorting out who is who is difficult.

      Cantwell believes most of the enemy are not fully committed Taliban. There are cowed people who comply with Taliban demands and semi-committed insurgents whom he believes can eventually be won over. But Cantwell says the hardcore Taliban “have to be killed or captured”.

      One of the greatest difficulties Coalition troops face here is that exactly one half of the population is off-limits to them. Coalition forces may not approach women at all – the Afghan men are “fiercely protective” of them, says Cantwell. To win over the women would be a major step towards hearts and minds victory, but it’s not easy. “They are behind closed doors, they are behind the burqa, they’re hidden from view,” says Cantwell.”

      That section of text is the one section that guarantees we will never win in Afghanistan.  Hardcore Taliban have to be killed or captured, which means the mission is more than just training the ANP.  Problem is we don’t even know with certainty who the hardcore Taliban are, given all a hardcore Taliban member has to do to be undetectable is to put down his gun and saunter away playing “ain’t no one here but us innocent civilians.”

      We are also (apparently) trying to change a culture and a religion, which is something Western countries fail dramatically at unless by slow erosion or subversion via Western economics (see: Saudi Arabia for details.  And even they still jail people for public drunkenness).  Changing a culture and religion is not a military mission.  It is a policing, human rights, and diplomatic mission, and there’s a strong argument to say we have no right to even take up that mission at all.  If people want to change their culture and religion, they should do so.  Clearly some elements of the Afghan people are not cowards, since they’re willing to take on a technologically superior force from the West.  It’s rather a pity other elements of the Afghan people are moral cowards when it comes to dealing with the atrocities they commit in the name of their religion and/or their tribalism.

      And as TheRealDave in this thread, most commentators, and anyone else who can operate a basic calculator knows, there are never going to be enough Australian troops in Afghanistan to be able to do that.  The entire Australian army couldn’t subdue Afghanistan on simple troop density alone.

      Sorry, Major General Cantwell, but an old aphorism applies: when you’re up to your arsehole in alligators it’s hard to remember that your original intention was to drain the swamp.  Of course, politicians rather like that aphorism because it allows them to claim victory by shooting a couple of alligators or training a few of the alligators to police the other alligators.

    • TheRealDave says:

      12:30pm | 13/10/10

      I keep hammering the point home in the plethora of Afghanistan threads we have had recently. And its something I consistently see is never asked when these journo’s finally get some face time with the upper echelons of the ADF. I see again in this report Maj Gen Cantwell alludes to the fact that 5RAR is about to replace 6RAR. Sounds epic doesn’t it? The 5th Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment is due to ‘deploy’ and ‘replace’ the 6th Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment in Afghanistan. When it is actually a single understrength company ie Company minus (read: about 1/4 of a modern modern Battalion) from 5RAR replacing the single Company minus from 6RAR.

      Thats about 150 actual Grunts. Lets minus say another 300 at most making up the Spec Ops Task force (read: SAS and Commandos) that operate all over the place. So thats 150 diggers who are doing the training of an Afghan Brigade (thats 4 Afghan full strength battalions), patrolling various strongpoints and villages, and protecting the RTF made up of hundreds of engineers, tradies, etc who are rebuilding infrastructure around Oruzgan.

      150 Diggers. At most.

      And you wonder why we cannot stop the Taliban from wandering aroudn with gay abandon dropping IED’s, mines etc all over the place, setting up ambushes, intimidating the local villages etc

      In Vietnam we had 3 full strength battalions in Phouc Tuy.

      In Oruzgan they keep saying 1550 ‘Diggers’ and keep mentioning Battalions ie 5RAR, 6RAR etc. When in actual fact its around 150 Grunts

      I wish more people would realise this.

    • St. Michael says:

      01:47pm | 13/10/10

      Some Vietnam veterans in the US feel the same way you do.  Let’s look at a point by point comparison of Vietnam to Afghanistan from the point of view of just the US deployment, which dwarfs ours by comparison:

      Name of country: South Vietnam
      Size of country: 67,108 square miles:
      Population of country: 19,000,000
      Enemy receiving support and sanctuary from neighboring countries?: Yes
      Altitude of country (helicopters have trouble operating at high altitudes): Generally sea level.
      Any ocean ports allowing rapid resupply?: About half the country borders the ocean.
      U.S troops in country: 553,000.
      U.S. troops per square mile: 8.24.

      Name of country: Afghanistan
      Size of country: 250,000 square miles.
      Population of country: 28,150,000.
      Enemy receiving support and sanctuary from neighboring countries?: Yes
      Altitude of country (helicopters have trouble operating at high altitudes): average 4,000 feet; max 20,000; central plateau 6,000 feet.
      Any ocean ports allowing rapid resupply?: None; landlocked.
      U.S troops in country: 68,000
      U.S. troops per square mile: 0.27.

      Now, smartarses out there will immediately say that “Well, your troop density is out because the US isn’t trying to control the southern provinces, only the north.”  Fine; let’s halve the size of the country to take account of that and presume the US is “meant” to be covering 125,000 square miles.  On that number, troop density comes up to, gosh, 1.8 troops per square mile.  Still four times less the commitment the US had in South Vietnam.

      Putting aside all the successes that US/Australian troops had in Vietnam, was there a military victory there, and in particular “training” the South Vietnam Army?

      Nope.  Shortly after the West pulled out the place was overrun by the NVA with the South Vietnam army basically collapsing straight away.

      Then how, pray, does the US propose to do better in Afghanistan with between 4 and 8 times less troops than they had in Vietnam?

      How, pray, does Australia propose to do the same with the MAXIMUM of 150 troops that can be calculated as being on the ground in Uruzgan province?

      And saying the US “is only trying to control the northern regions” is a crock, because, as I said before, if you don’t control the entire country, you are wasting your time trying to stabilise that country—because you’re still engaged in your initial invasion.  You haven’t secured the country sufficiently to make any lasting differences.

    • Gregg says:

      02:21pm | 13/10/10

      Whoa there Saint!
      Better hitch your horses to the front of the wagon as they pull better than push.
      ” Nope.  Shortly after the West pulled out the place was overrun by the NVA with the South Vietnam army basically collapsing straight away. “

      The west got defeated, not just the French but also the US and the south was being overrun as they pulled out.

      They didn’t have Drones in Vietnam though, just Napalm and B52s!
      Ironically, the US were also helping Vietnam in WW2, they being about the only Asian country the Japanese were not in control of and now we have the Mujahadeen helped by the CIA to become the Taliban.

      Again ironically, the peoples mob the Mujahadeen were against were going to be more liberal about womens and humans rights.

      If the US has supported the peoples and the Russkies, perhaps we would not even have the Taliban and then would it not be somewhat more ironic if China eventually decide they need to add Afghanistan to Tibet.

    • St. Michael says:

      02:28pm | 13/10/10

      @ Gregg: actually, there’s one interesting point of trivia to mention there: the US *did* have unmanned smart bombs, the forerunners of drones, in Vietnam.  They were actually 1970s technology.  You can blame US bureaucracy in the military for not getting round to using it en masse until the Gulf War in the 1990s.

      Aside from that: the point I’m making is that Vietnam was still ultimately a loss, and the country had several significant tactical advantages to Western troops which Afghanistan doesn’t - most notably that Vietnam had good sea access while everything—everything—used by a military force in Afghanistan has to trucked or flown in at greater risk, and at a much slower speed.

      And now we’re trying to do much the same thing in Afghanistan with a fraction of the manpower and without the tactical advantages of Vietnam.  Loss appears the logical if not inevitable conclusion of the exercise.  The geopolitical history of Vietnam is nice, but not terribly relevant here.

    • TheRealDave says:

      03:56pm | 13/10/10

      @St Mick

      I’d agree there are plenty of parallels between Vietnam and Afghanistan. The major point is the attempt by politicians to ‘play’ soldiers and micromanage from the other side of the world, allowing the enemy to retreat over map lines to sanctuary and waging war ‘on the cheap’ by not committing fully and properly to prosecuting the war to its complete end.

      And the big one is that just like South Vietnam we have backed an increasingly corrupt and increasingly non-democratic regime as our ‘good guys’.

      Unlike Vietnam, we are not fighting an organised national force (the NVA) The ‘Taliban’ we are fighting is increasingly a misnomer, or rather a far more palatable and publishable term, for local anti-government forces i.e. local farmers or local opposition tribesmen. The actual ‘Taliban’ copped the mother of all floggings way back from 2001-2004. There aren’t many of those bastards left. Same goes with AL Queuda and other foreign Jihad wanna be’s. Don’t get me wrong, still plenty of them around, but not on the scale they used to be. In the average daily contact we are far more likely to throw lead downrange at some local tribesmen who are opposed to the government and government friendly tribes in the area. We associate with their enemy - therefore we are there enemy. And its game on.

      During Vietnam it was the NVA coming down from the North and retreating back over the border as needed and the local guerrilla VC cadres that we fought. After Tet 1968 there weren’t a lot of VC left and the NVA were left to do most of the fighting from then on. Its no coincidence that it was a NVA tank that smashed down the gates of the SVN Presidential Palace in 1975 and that since the war no real positions of any note or power have gone to former VC leaders/fighters in the new re-united Vietnam.

      Vietnam was a very winnable war militarily. We just had no political will and backed a corrupt regime. Which is repeating itself today.

    • John Dark says:

      07:31pm | 13/10/10

      RealDave,
      5RAR is not just a “company minus”. Your info is incredibly out of date. I won’t go into the details here, but as I have referred to in another reply to you, simply put: you are WRONG. 5RAR (ie the 5th BATTALION, the Royal Australian Regiment) is replacing 6RAR. Now if you actually know anything about what you are talking about, then you would recall a Battalion is multiple companies, PLUS Atts and Dets of course.
      Again, your 150 estimate is woefully short. I suggest you retire from making pronouncements on numbers until you do some catch up research.

    • St. Michael says:

      11:37am | 14/10/10

      @ John Dark: Wow, I’m so reassured by the fact we’re allegedly putting an entire battalion into Afghanistan.  How many’s that, 1,550 men at best, even assuming RealDave’s numbers are wrong?

      Like I keep saying: they could put every RAR with a number ahead of it into Afghanistan and it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference to the outcome.  The Americans have 68,000 in there right now, and they can’t meaningfully control Afghanistan, so exactly what Hollywood stereotype are we recruiting from to think precisely 2.27% of the American commitment is going to somehow make Oruzgan Provine safe?

      With that number of troops stretched thin over the size of the country being covered, and with the very difficult terrain of the country itself, about the only thing they can do is drive around to remote villages (when they aren’t being hit with IEDs), fire the odd angry shot, and then retire to fortified encampments in ‘green zones’ at night while “innocent civilians” run around setting up IEDs.  Oh wait, that’s what’s happening! Who’d'a thought that, huh?

    • Ken Maynard says:

      11:49am | 13/10/10

      To Macon Paine ~we cannot abandon the people~  I hear this tub-thumping about white mans burden trotted out quite often.  I can only respond, ~yes we can abandon people who will not exercise a duty of care toward themselves~

      Even Christ said… ~(if they refuse me) depart that place & shake its dust from off thy feet~

      The Christian world is endowed with better systems of self management & a better balance of rights x responsibilities than any other.  We still have our own faults & make errors, yet better than anything else actually available is all we have to be to justify our existence; & justify it, warts ‘n all.

      Thus we do have a duty of care to others & are charged to implement that.  Yet this duty of care comes with a statute of limitations.  We are charged to exercise it in co-operation with those who recognize their duty of care to themselves.  We have no obligation to sacrifice ourselves for the salvation of others who are willfully delinquent, both in their responsibilities to themselves & in their responsibilities to us their neighbors.

      If I run my business badly, & have to borrow to bail it out, THE LENDER imposes management terms to ensure the business remains solvent in the future.  If the west has to bail out dysfunctional third world societies, the rescuer imposes terms of governance to make those societies viable in the future.  Those rescued do not just carry on as before only this time at our expense.
      ………………………

      To k.marshall… can we debate the issues of Afghanistan without mounting personal attacks on serving personnel who serve us well & serve in very difficult circumstances

    • sproket says:

      09:00am | 14/10/10

      too often serving personnel are only there to serve themselves. Welcome to the real word sans the Zombie Myths of ANZAC

    • motherpeace says:

      11:50am | 13/10/10

      the terrorists win every time they make us change the way we live our lives, the terrorists win when australia does not stand behind its own soldiers who are forced into situations where they fight amongst women and children because the cowardly taliban hide among the skirts of women and they get killed, the terrorists win with the loss of freedom and rights of individuals across the world.  No “war:” “police action” “civil disobedience” has been won since WW2 when men fought out in the open, there was a clear goal and economics was not involved .... To our brave soldiers and their leaders, you do us honour, and australia dishonours you by not standing up for you ... to australia’s shame.

    • Leto says:

      01:33pm | 14/10/10

      Amrullah Khan wasn’t hidiing behind children. They were his children, and he was trying to protect them from whoever was kicking down the doors at 2am in the morning. Amrullah and his family were visiting his brother; they were going to a wedding the next day. We killed Amrullah and 5 children.

      motherpeace? more like motherwar and motherdeathtoinnocents. Our soldiers can do whatever they want because they Australian? You are damaged.

    • Daniel says:

      12:08pm | 13/10/10

      “We can and will win this war”

      Is News Ltd for real? How much more further in debt and trouble to countries have to get just for George Bushs pet project.

    • TheRealDave says:

      12:21pm | 13/10/10

      I thought Iraq was GWB’s ‘pet project’.

      Afghanistan was authorised and co-sponsored by the UN and NATO, not a US jaunt. I love it when people mix their wars up.

    • Daniel says:

      09:47pm | 13/10/10

      There should have been no engagement in any wars by AUstralia just to “stick with the boys” due to an alliance. It all should never have happened.

    • Gregg says:

      12:55pm | 13/10/10

      I suppose if we focused on that NRL Grand Final, it does have somewhat of a parallel in the Dragons having a renowned Coach and as Coaches should do, Cantwell uses rousing words and acknowledges the need for strong forwards and fast backs and wingers and though I’m not sure where Julia as never would be the Dogs FF fits in, so using an AFL team as perhaps more fitting he acknowledges political debate as being his goal to goal line strength, the military people being forwards, backs and onballers while we the public should all be cheering on in the stands.

      However, the main problems to be found are a bit like having a compromise game formed from NRL and AFL and not just because it would be meaningless like a parliamentary debate [ And lets hope Oakeshott realises his name doesn’t qualify him for an odd angry shot ] but Afghanistan has far more of mongrel history than what any NRL/AFL game would even be.

      You can go back a couple of centuries and consider there have been three Anglo/Afghan wars or even further for all the other invasionary conflicts or just have a look back a half century and look at the rising of the peoples party following hot on a few assasinations.
      There had been it seemed about half a century of relative peace prior to then but Afghanistan’s history is littered with tales of reform, reaction and retractions well before CIA and Pakistans ISI involvement.

      In that context, the core issue with Afghanistan is represented by a few comments:
      ” Cantwell believes most of the enemy are not fully committed Taliban. There are cowed people who comply with Taliban demands and semi-committed insurgents whom he believes can eventually be won over.
      One of the greatest difficulties Coalition troops face here is that exactly one half of the population is off-limits to them. Coalition forces may not approach women at all – the Afghan men are “fiercely protective” of them, says Cantwell. To win over the women would be a major step towards hearts and minds victory, but it’s not easy.  ” 

      And especially with the latter I’m sure the men will just love the major step of throwing in:
      ” The Australians have sponsored a school for girls in the Uruzgan province,.........  The best work the troops can do to persuade women is the dangerous work of clearing roads and villages of IEDs. The hope is that the women, particularly, will see that it is the Coalition partners, rather than the insurgents, who are trying to make the environment safe.”
      Does he not reckon it’s not just the women who will know what’s going on!
      Making the environment safe is one thing but if Afghanistan’s own rulers when they had a partially accepted one got removed or pulled back from reforms, attempting to insert them by force will only be as temporary as a controlling force will be around.

      And then
      ” Cantwell cites his frustration in the example of a local leader, Mohammad Duod Khan, a young up-and-coming local leader, whom the Australians had been nurturing as a strong local contact. 
      He’s been undermined by some of the powerbrokers who don’t like him. We’ve been trying to look after him. He’s just been sacked. It was a straight power play and now we’ve got to work with someone who is less attractive.
      “That’s one of the steps back we encounter. ....... We’re in that mix. “
      What’s sure is it is sure one mixed up place.

      So the Coach gets marks for his rousing half time address but they are for one very specific match up, a short period in isolation from the whole season and whilst how well your team may have done in the season and even in the first half will likely be drawn on by a good coach, if the Club Directors and Operations Management have little idea of the game, the coach will struggle in getting any team to a grand final day let alone winning a premiership.

      It does not matter how well we train the ANA or police in Uruzgan province or whatever else we do in Afghanistan for the Afghani people will ultimately decide and as usual, just like in Iraq or China or Russia if you like the strongest, often most ruthless, most dominant will prevail no matter how much we debate it.

      “We’ve got now the fourth ANA brigade almost complete. It’s generally stable now. Before it’s been coming and going, chopping in and out, so we’ve had trouble getting our hands around the people we’re trying to train. We’ve now got that sorted. “
      Oooh Really!, Sammy might say
      Just how many well trained and equipped guys might just flip to the Taliban!

      Cantwell responds on Karzai reference to Taliban talks: “If there was a unilateral intent for the Taliban to negotiate in good faith,.........
      It’s not going to make military tasks any clearer, Iraq also a great example but the Coach is moving from rousing into politics and that’s not so good.

    • tomboweler says:

      12:58pm | 13/10/10

      Yeah. Right on Bob Brown; ‘We should pack up and leave’

      Thats the true ANZAC spirit. That’s the attitude that has garnered a tiny population of 20 odd million as a formidable, power-broker that pays it’s dues to the international community.

      It’s one thing for the Germans and French to say that ‘it’s not out fight, its on the other side of the globe etc etc’

      Well in 1942 we might have said that about the liberation of France and the ‘liberation’ of Germany from the grip of the nazis.

      There is a good reason our nation, for all it’s flaws, commands a massive amount of respect and prestige globally and that is because we have always fallen on the conviction side of the fence.

      Imagine if the ‘cost’ of world war 2 was seen as being too high? In the short-term lives would likely have been saved by leaving western europe under the facist yoke but in all likely hood the ethnic cleansing and whatnot would have probably only taken a few years to catch up to the 50 odd million figure.

      Vietnam was not nessecarily a ‘lost cause’- it demonstrated a strength of conviction at a volatile time and ensured that more of S-E Asia did not fall under the bloody and devastating hand of communism.

      Bob Brown doesn’t even have the respect to visit our soldiers in the field, happily condemns them without seeing their mission or it’s admirable goals.

      It is a quaint form of racism that he would have us pull stumps, let the country fall into civil war and claim that the thousands of resultant deaths are acceptable because white man was not there to witness it.

      What a f#ckhead.

    • Luce says:

      01:22pm | 13/10/10

      tomboweler, one important difference between this war and WW2 is the west was fighting a formidable military force in the Third Reich who was trying, and had the ability to, take over a lot of the world by force. In this instance the Western Coalition forces are the ones with the military power, not the people we’re fighting against. Not all war is good or worth it simply because you go in with conviction.

    • Gregg says:

      02:44pm | 13/10/10

      Yes Luce, the ol boweler might have got one where he didn’t expect it at a time he was wasn’t expecting it and so is somewhat skewed with his thinking for not only is Afghanistan a far cry from Hitler’s Nazi days even with Vietnam it was far less stopping a flood of communism than interfering in a civil war.

      History has shown us that not all Reds see alike and you only need to look at Russia, NK, China, Laos and Vietnam to see that and the development that can occur under Communism.
      China the new world engineroom for now at least, even Vietnam is getting a NIMBY Nuke PS and Laos is rapidly developing as the Hydro Power source of SEA.

      As one who spent a bit of time in Vietnam well after hostilities ceased, I would recommend to anyone they take a trip to see how unharsh communism can be and what a peaceful lovely country it and the people are.
      Sort of made you think WTF! were we doing supporting horrendous demolition activities against these people.

      As for Grandpa Bobby, we may not always agree with him but just because he is prepared to support putting harder questions up for debate and is not arranging an Afghanistan visit does not mean he has no respect for them.
      To the contrary, being prepared to question the politics of being there which puts their lives at risk is showing utmost respect.

      Even the soldiers leader confirms a debate should be had and it is not whether we are not there but when that will see deaths and we will see that whether we remain or not.
      Have a look at the history of the country

      With ” What a f#ckhead “
      That was when you were looking in the mirror was it?

    • tomboweler says:

      05:45pm | 13/10/10

      Ah of course, Evil is only evil once you allow it to fester and gain the capability to really fuck shit up hey….

      Okay lets look at some of your lovely communist eutopias?
      1. Russia: Are you serious mate? Stalin had the edge on Hitler in his ethnic-cleansing skills. Soviet Russia and her empire created huge problems throughout eastern and central europe.

      2. China: A sound economy does not maketh the country. They have a jailed nobel peace prize winner who’s wife is under house arrest for advocating free speech. They are powerful and as evil as the USSR was in her day. By the way; anyone who suggests a ‘great leap forward’ should involve the wholesale slaughter of millions of peasants can only be considered to be megalomanic

      3. North Korea; the eccentric basket case of communist states. It’s pretty much a deranged mental patient with a gun in a stand off with the rest of the world. Even China have told them to piss off in the last 5 years.

      4. The south-east asian commies, I admittedly don’t know much about but I will suggest that since their combined GDP is less than that of Manly they’re too busy trying to eat to do anything properly fucked.

      Anyway, ‘Gregg’, Not all ‘reds’ are alike of course, however they do have one common theme. They all attempt to practice a disproven, antiquated 20th century ‘religion’ that has caused untold suffering for billions it’s few centuries since conception and had no discernible true ‘success stories’ of any communist utopia actually rising from the ashes of the various purges and leaps and whatnots.

    • farkurnell says:

      07:34pm | 13/10/10

      hey guys lets not follow the pollies down into the gutter.but if you must ,use some oz putdowns like bogan tool or dipstick.
      When we finally get rid of these Taliband we can get some proper drug runners in there, like the Mexican Cartels.and Uncle Sam has some pretty good experience with controlling them.
      Although I enjoyed this excellent article,unfortunately our soldier are mere pawns in the big picture

    • Luce says:

      01:15pm | 13/10/10

      I’m still not convinced the reasons for entering either Iraq or Afghanistan are wholly justified. Have the powers the be ever stopped to think that maybe the insurgents wouldn’t be so numerous if they didn’t have to fight the most powerful armies on earth on their home turf? 3000 people died in 9/11. Somewhere between 100k and 1 million Iraqis have died (depending on the source) at the hands of the Americans. As for Afghanistan I’m not certain.
      Both these wars have gone for for longer then WW1 and WW2. When does it end??

    • TheRealDave says:

      01:34pm | 13/10/10

      Maybe it ends when we bring the full weight of the western military to bear instead of buggering around?

      I’m a huge fan of disproportionate response. You tend to end things rather quickly rather than letting them drag on for years

    • hdr says:

      02:38pm | 13/10/10

      it is very sad Luce, but the US must have a war going somewhere, or the war machine economy may collapse. check out their “recent” victories, 1/ attack on a school in Granada against how many? 2/ The attack on Panama was a huge success, right? onlly 9 US soldiers died, god knows how many locals went down, (the US does not bother to count thier kills). I’m scratching my head to find another US victory in the last 50yrs.

    • Luce says:

      02:45pm | 13/10/10

      And then? We leave the area because, after all, I don’t think its the plan of the west to take over and form a government of it’s own in the country. And after we do, the radicals of the area regroup with a new found hatred of the people that came in, destroyed their land, then buggered off? Meanwhile a whole lot of civilians have been killed, and what was left of their infrastructure destroyed, so they’re living in ruin, in poverty, and the West pats itself on the back saying “good job fellas”.

    • hdr says:

      02:59pm | 13/10/10

      Luce you scare me, cos you remind me of me. keep the truth flowing.

    • Gregg says:

      02:59pm | 13/10/10

      While there’s massive poverty Luce, a huge demand for oil and some of it available in lands where poverty is rampant simultaneouly with an elite living extravagant lifestyles and supported by those accessing the oil, I do not think there will be an end.

      And then you throw the post WW1 carve up of the middle east the establishment of Israel post WW2 and support for the Shah of Persia [now Iran ] into the mix along with the Russkies desired domination of the Stans and Islam there with whatever the future holds re a developing giant to the east you are always going to have a massive melting pot of different cultures, wealth, poverty, greed and desperation.

      As for the Really David and Goliath approach of lets bring on ARMAGEDDON, absolutely just Brilliant!
      Maybe it’ll happen anyway, but why force it?

    • Dr Dog says:

      03:50pm | 13/10/10

      What constitutes a disproportionate resonse TheRealDave. Go on. Say it man. Nuke those arseholes back into the stone age. Go on sport you will feel better.

      But wait, where would we drop the bomb? Who are we fighting and who would take over after our glorious slaying of whoever?

      We can’t win this war because we are at war with the country we are trying to liberate. Ridiculous unless we plan to stay forever and run the joint. Worked for the Russians didn’t it?

    • TheRealDave says:

      04:07pm | 13/10/10

      @hdr - you didn’t look too hard did you? Let me see, off the top of my head they brought both Bosnia and Kosovo to a rapid halt when they finally swung into gear and started giving the Serbs a pasting and a half, there was that pesky Gulf War thing when Saddam decided to do some shopping in Kuwait, Iraq is out of the news now and US forces ‘drawing down’ so I’ll throw that in the win column now.

    • TheRealDave says:

      05:36pm | 13/10/10

      @Doggy - could you please point out anywhere where I have stated we should ‘drop the bomb’ or ‘nuke em’ or ‘wipe em out’ and other utter crap?

      Anywhere at all?

      No, you can’t cause I never said anything like it.

      Proportionate Response is a load of bollocks. Its WAR we are talking about. Soldiers killing and maiming other soldiers and armed fighters. Proportionate Response and other PC bollocks is what gets soldiers killed unnecessarily. We don’t rock up with a couple of grunts with small arms cause thats all the opposition are using. We don’t ‘keep it fair’ and play around.

      We as a democratic nation who has highly trained and professional volunteering to serve on our behalf OWE it to them all that if we do send them to serve overseas, to fight, kill people and sadly get injured or possibly killed, we OWE it to them to give them the best tools they need to do the job, the correct manpower to do the job in the safest and quickest manner possible and above all return as many of them home as safely as possible to their families.

      We are failing our Diggers badly at the moment - BOTH sides of politics.

      I am a fan of Disproportionate Response. Send in as many Battalions as needed to do the job and provide security in Oruzgan. Send in the required armoured assets needed to support ground troops. Send in the required air assets to provide support to ground units. And once the area is secured we can start rolling out more infrastructure projects to the afghan people were its needed.

      We just can’t do that with the extremely limited amount of manpower, and fighting manpower, we currently have deployed.

    • Leto says:

      01:51pm | 14/10/10

      @ Dr Dog, good comment.

      We invade Afghanistan, kill 20,000 - 30,000 civilians, reduce what little they already had rubble, and then tell then announce “we’re here to help”.

      What a surprise that there Afghani citizens who don’t believe us, and don’t want us there!

      You can’t ram Democracy down the throat of a corpse.

    • Betelnut says:

      03:00pm | 13/10/10

      I would just like to say thanks to Major General John Cantwell for very thoroughly explaining his rationale behind staying in Afghanistan.  It was refreshing to hear an open and candid opinion from a senior military official.

      In regards to the conflict, I have two major reservations:

      Firstly, scope creep in regards to the mission.  We went in to find Osama, then to eliminate the taliban, then to build a democracy, then to train the army, then to liberate all the women and now???  How can the public or the troops be expected to maintain support for the war if the goal posts are continuously shifted.

      Secondly, the massive disconnect between the rhetoric and the commitment.  If Afghanistan is a crucial to global security and the major front in the clash of civilisations as we are told, then why is our commitment so meagre?  Why is the “global” commitment so poor?

      If we are going to fight, lets fight to win.  I want to see massive troop deployments, conscription, a ten year commitment to nation building, war bonds issued and a war tax to fund the lot, the total disarmament of civilians in Afghanistan and most importantly I want to see the “chickenhawk” politicians who drove us into Afghanistan and continue to keep us there pay the political price for these decisions, as this is the only test of necessity they know.

      Failing this, Bring. Them. Home!

    • Luce says:

      03:12pm | 13/10/10

      @hdr, I agree, its very sad. All these wars seem to be achieving is a) reaffirming America’s place at the top of the world through the use of force, b) stirring up more hatred towards them so they have a reason to keep fighting and more an enemy to fight against, which feeds into the fist reason, and c) like you say, fuel the war economy. Its somewhat sickening when you think about it, and makes it hardly surprising there is so much hate towards them in poor countries that they have come into, ravaged their land and left people dead and civilisation destroyed. And when was the last land battle fought on America soil? when was the last time someone tried to invade the US?

    • N says:

      03:20pm | 13/10/10

      Of course we CAN win; provided we all accept the following as key fundamentals of winning any war:
      1) Massive increase in capital expenditure; an actual War Footing

      2) Significant increase in military personnel on the ground in Afghanistan

      Finally if you want to win, be prepared to fill a lot more body bags with Australians. Unfortunately this is war; the most dedicated side always prevails, the Taliban have been fighting in this country for decades and are much more dedicated (it’s their country remember) than any UN backed force. While we have this piecemeal / token effort approach, little will be achieved.

      So M.J. Cantwell; are we all in or all out? Time to put the chips on the table….

    • spoiler says:

      03:48pm | 13/10/10

      We will never win there or anywhere we invade someone’s sovereign territory,Afghanistan is a mediaval society & democracy won’t work until a society is ready to accept majority rule & they just ” ain’t ready yet”.
      we would do far more good with shovels & plows instead of guns & rockets & we wouldn’t be on their hit list.
      america has lost it’s way & we are following ?
      pull, pull out!

    • George Blair says:

      04:54pm | 13/10/10

      Yeh right, the russians tried, the yanks tried and now our military leaders believe the Australians can pull it off. What secret weapon of mass destruction doe’s our military leaders have that the russians and yanks failed to do.

    • Soames says:

      07:23pm | 13/10/10

      Major General Cantwell has applied his career officer’s training in a command structure with great skill, one aspect of which is to ‘win the hearts and minds’, in this case, of the soldiers on this watch, in a wide area of his command , but here in Afghanistan, the subject of this article.  General Cantwell evidently cannot be faulted for his military expertise, and has great respect from his troops.  A soldier’s profession is to win wars, by taking orders from his superiors. If he is ideologically opposed to his superior, either politically or within the military command, he ought resign. Thats the nature of the military.

      There remains an unfortunate and ill concieved war involvement by an Australian government, based purely on political grounds, in support of firstly, the Bali bombings with Australian deaths, and that politically fortunate timing, to mount a public fear campaign, to justify a seal of approvement from the United States under the ANZUS Treaty, concieved during WWII and adhered to since. (We have been thankful of the US particularly, at the battle of the Coral sea. It saved our asses, at a big cost to American sailors).

      Some historical background worthy of mention. The US, under governments presided over notably by the GOP Presidents, and starting with Reagan, persuaded by his ideological advisors and influenced by Margaret Thatcher, were the forerunners of the neo-conservatives, ending with the government of Bush Jr.  It’s important to note that the neo-cons, notably Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and others had an ideological view that America ought to be the world leader, policeman and protector of democracy, and the defeater of communism and rogue states. The Obama Government by it’s very nature , is opposed to war. That’s a battle for the President to win politically, and he must tread carefully, if he is to win his war against war.

      Australian prime ministers today largely, have not the rigor nor the moral strength of making decisions about war involvement, preferring to tread the safe ground of historical treaties, made by past prime ministers. One could say, both the prime minister, and the leader of the opposition, are both ignorant of any serious study of the politics of war, it’s historical modus operandi, and any intellectual consideration on the effect of civilian population deaths as a result of their political decisions., and the totally opposite effect that the civilian population’s hatred of foreign national’s invasion has. Nothing has changed since war began. The real enemy of war, is war itself.

    • Paul Toohey says:

      07:38pm | 13/10/10

      The careful reader will have noted the blunder in my copy: Stephen Smith is now Defence, not Foreign Affairs. The best excuse I can think of is jet lag.

    • Case says:

      08:24pm | 13/10/10

      Have yet to find anyone here who understands counter insurgency warfare. What a bunch of wafflers!!

    • Michael says:

      09:32pm | 13/10/10

      Every entanglement with Islam, whether over here or over there, falls down on two flaws of reckoning. First, to define someone as a moderate Muslim is to invent a moderate Islam. Alas, there is no such thing. Check Dr Andrew Bostom’s books that quote only Islamic sources: all the earlier peaceful verses of the Koran were abrogated by Muhammad’s later war verses which enshrined violent jihad. Later Muslims then formalised the doctrine of jihad. Subsequently, Islam has never been reformed in any recognised sense. Hence today, all four major schools of Islamic jurisprudence still have not erased the doctrine of violent jihad from their books.

      Second, those (poorly named) moderate Muslims have to be willing to die for their (undefinable) moderate Islam - to defend it against those fundamentalist Muslims who have the formalised doctrine of violent jihad on their side. It’s the old problem of “clarity and resolve” and unfortunately there is no moderate Islam with which moderates are willing to say: “yes, this is who I am and this is what I will die to defend”.

      Bottom line… since Islam is unreformable (ask Wafa Sultan), the only way entanglement with Islam can succeed is to promote mass apostasy. Good luck with that.

    • Paul Lee says:

      06:24am | 14/10/10

      I find it highly amusing that there is such an emphasis on secrecy of operations in the military in order to keep our troops safe, yet our troops can murder innocent civilians (women and children) and we are supposed to assume they are not responsible, and continue to call them heroes.
      If the military finds it a turn-on to be involved in something covert that the public isn’t ‘classified’ to know about, then they should expect to be held accountable for the evils they do. You cannot have it both ways - you either continue to try to pull the wool (unsuccessfully) over the public’s eyes and pretend to be heroes, or tell the truth and face the consequences, whether good or bad. The public are not stupid, and there is a reason why support for ‘our’ troops is waning.

    • Matty says:

      08:27am | 14/10/10

      The Australian military leaders are not interested in bringing peace to the Middle East, they are more interested in achieveing their own personal objectives and ego’s. This is not our war and never was, so bring our boys & girls home and stop killing them for your own ego’s.

    • BookerT says:

      08:57am | 14/10/10

      Paul you think we can win this war with Gillard as leader? Wow that is blind faith buddy!

    • Tracker says:

      10:02am | 14/10/10

      Deja vu.  Didn’t the Russians say the same thing a long time ago ?

    • John Terry says:

      10:06am | 14/10/10

      Major wall of text without any content. Who cares about these Afghan people? The soldiers are just there to get up their kill counts and hope to not die so they can continue being killers. If you actually cared about the Afghans you would get out of their country and leave them be for once in history. Oh thats right theres a trillion dollars worth of resources there to get before we can leave. Well at least our troops can get some more kills

    • John says:

      10:20am | 14/10/10

      The reality is the west is occupied by cabal who tell what western politicians should do, the west is also has media which is occupied by the cabal who brainwash the millions of westerns in-supporting their will. Western democracy is mere illusion. Think about it, why is that US, Australia, Europe seem to be all involved in this war? Because this is the strangle hold of the cabal who rule it. I know who this cabal is. but I can’t mention it here because I’ll get censored by the though police. The western media always seem to play by 51%, 49% rule in order to make it look like there is a choice between a party, policy and at times the subject is not allowed to be debated. There is also push to moderate views to make things look like 50/50 when in reality it is not.  You people are slaves and our western nations are morally decaying, because of it’s involvement in this war. I believe god has forsaken us as we have turned a blind eye to the truth.

    • rufus says:

      10:29am | 14/10/10

      Thanks for saying it Maj-Gen Cantwell. I’m still not convinced that   we can train the Afghan army really well and get it operating independly of our assistance by the time the yanks start withdrawing forces. I reckon you’ve got a year. On top of that there is a weak, corrupt central government in Kabul that thinks the Taliban is winning and has therefore been conducting secret talks with the Taliban with a view to saving their own necks. The Afghan army will be abandoned by its own government, I reckon.

      Sorry, but the idea of being able to set up a stable democracy in Afghanistan, which is still in effect a medieval society that’s never known democracy or western values, is a fantasy for mine.

      Bring them home.

    • Youdy beaudy says:

      01:05pm | 14/10/10

      It’s been reported that the Taliban have taken over parts of Pakistan and that they will try to obtain Nuclear weapons. This is a big worry for the region. If Pakistan falls to the Taliban in the future and then if they go further east and take on India then that would be a very bad mistake as India will kill them. There is no way that i can see them dominating India. This will probably be the future for the area if we cannot defeat them.

      The whole of Asia should be on tenderhooks as regards their region. North Korea, Pakistan and China are rattling sabers. There has to be some common sense used there. All have nuclear capability but are they stupid enough to use Nuclear bombs and kill out all of the people there.? Well we’ll just have to hope that common sense prevails. A nuclear war in Asia with its huge populations would be a humanitarian disaster of a scale not comprehendable to us all and would effect the ways of life of the whole world.

      I hate to think that we can’t win there but it is surely a way of thinking for many people at the moment. The thing is that all peoples of the world should have the right to have lands, even the Taliban. Their way of thinking about Muslim domination and hard core beliefs have to have a place in the world regardless of what we think. Some of the Christian Religions have had their hard core beliefs accepted for ages now. Beliefs that teach fear and damnation. They are not really much different, and they walk amongst us. If we did not have laws to protect us then they could be dominating all of us as well.

      People of Afghanistan who feel this way should allow moderate peaceful Muslims to leave freely and those who wish to be under sharia law should stay and this may allow Jihad to stop. They will have to stop sometime or they will be stopped by someone.

      Also another factor is,” who are supplying weapons to the Taliban”. If there was some moral code and decency behind all this then the theory may be that if the people who supply weapons to them are eliminated, then guess what. But I suppose that would be too hard. Anyway at the end of the day the Afghani people of good will who know who the Taliban are should be eliminating them from their villages. These are just a few of my thoughts on it but I confess that I am not in any way properly understanding what the Soldiers have to put up with there. They are there and I am not and wouldn’t like to be, so I really feel that we should make a date for withdrawing from the region and do so. The Russian Army couldn’t defeat the Taliban although the Taliban had American support against the Russians.

      The Russian Army is very highly trained and they had to leave because of the terrain in which it is obviously very impossible to fight in and it was costing them a fortune, and in those days the Taliban were only using primitive weapons.

      The Taliban must realize that the superior firepower will eventually win out over them but they could have dialogue and make peace and be included in the running of the country and make the country moderate in belief and fall in line with the rest of the worlds thinking. Then maybe they can have their cake and eat it too. They should try to come in line with the modern thinking so they can give their peoples a good life and a bit of happiness as well.That would be good of all of us.

    • Matty says:

      03:07pm | 14/10/10

      God says: “Thou Shalt Not Kill”

    • St. Michael says:

      05:52pm | 14/10/10

      God also says “If thou eatest of the flesh of the shellfish, thou shalt be stoned to death.”

      God also says it is permissible to sell one’s daughter into slavery (Exodus 21:7-11).  He also says it is permissible to forcibly make a captured woman your wife, provided you shave her head first and let her have a period of mourning (Deuteronomy 21:10-14).  And notwithstanding the commandment not to kill, God apparently punished the Israelites with a plague when they *didn’t* slaughter all of the Midianites’ children as well as everyone else they’d killed (Numbers 31:16).

      Thou shalt not kill, unless it’s punishment for finding out a woman was not a virgin on the night of her wedding (Deuteronomy 22:13-22); homosexuality (Leviticus 18 and 20);  Witchcraft (Exodus 18:22); or hey, if you’re a betrothed woman who didn’t cry out when you were being raped (Deuteronomy 22:23-24).

      And given the enemy in the present case is clinging to a rather primitive God who apparently ordains similar such practices under the guise of Islam, I really think you need to find some new material champ.

    • farkurnell says:

      06:34am | 16/10/10

      Lets keep religon out this debate ,thats what got there in the 1st place

    • Ollie says:

      03:28pm | 14/10/10

      Punch, could you please do as some other blogs do and limit the number of characters or words your readers can offer as comments; some of these passages are intolerably long and full of utter nonsense.  It might also force some correspondents to engage their brain before their mouth/fingers.  Please!  thank you!

    • St. Michael says:

      05:30pm | 14/10/10

      They do, actually, Ollie.  5,000 characters.

    • Ryan says:

      06:07pm | 14/10/10

      And we need to win and put an end to the Taliban whichever country they are in - because we will keep getting boatloads of of people showing up here and we can’t turn them around and send the others home until its safe to do so.

    • Youdy beaudy says:

      07:59pm | 14/10/10

      Ollie, sometimes there is more and sometimes there is less. That is the way it is. Some of the c
      Commenters that write on here seem very well informed and I enjoy reading their comments, however long. There are some good facts put and there are some idiotic ones as well.

      Now if you are annoyed with that, I would invite you to think about it when you read your next book, that’s if you read books at all. Books tend to go on a bit don’t they?. Anyway, you are entitled to your opinion, but I think that really one could write much more in response to these articles that are put forward for comment by the punch. I must confess that I do sometimes go on a bit there but many comments that I put in here are not printed even tho I feel they are worthwhile for people to read.

      There is obviously some comments that are not printed because they might stir the emotions and insult some the readers and commenters too much. I can accept that,and to my mind it is probably good as the moderator must really put what is acceptable to the readers. Get over it matey and get a life. And by the way, there is an amount which is used on here and as far as getting a brain well speaking for myself then I would inform you that I have a very good brain and have a very practical approach to life and also I edit everything I write with consideration, trying not to offend people.

      Each sentence contains something new to think about and that is very exciting to my mind and regardless of your perspective on it I happen to have quite a good one which I am very happy with thank you.

      Freedom of speech and freedom of writing is such a wonderful treasure to have as we do in Australia, and it would be wonderful if other closed minded societies saw the benefit that it brings. We agree to disagree, isn’t that great, and that is why we have a very strong democracy here. I’m sure when you get over it you will agree.

    • Roberta says:

      04:41am | 15/06/11

      Thanks for the isgniht. It brings light into the dark!

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