The Afghan war is a slow-burn issue for Gillard
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has shown she is not the surrendering type when it comes to the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Last week she forecast Australia would have a presence in the war-torn country for at least another decade.
The definition of a presence in Afghanistan may well change over time, but it was a sobering thought for many Australians and a sign that there is no clear exit strategy in the battle to restore order in the troubled nation.
The start of a parliamentary debate over the issue last week saw Labor and the Coalition Opposition remain committed to Australia’s role in Afghanistan, while the Greens and at least one Independent crossed the battlelines and questioned the sending of troops to fight what many are calling an unwinnable war against terrorism.
The debate may have failed to ignite an explosive public response of the Vietnam War-type protests in the streets, but if the chatter on online news sites is any indication, it is destined to be a simmering issue.
It is clear most commenters have reservations about Australian troops remaining in Afghanistan.
Eric of Armidale, NSW, thought an immediate exit was warranted, writing to The Australian: “Time to get out and fight another stupid and senseless war somewhere else. After all, do we really have to maintain our record as being involved in more wars and military confrontations than any other country since the beginning of the last century.”
Annie Barker of The Hunter, NSW, added: “I never thought I would back the Greens on anything other than the disgrace which is the live sheep and cattle trade. But I am with them on this one. Enough is enough. The US is starting to make pulling out noises and so should we.”
Dragon of Penshurst, commenting to the Daily Telegraph, went further, criticising the expense and linking the war in Afghanistan to the battle to stop asylum seekers: “For once the Greens and an Independent have a hint of sense. The war in Afghanistan is not a winnable one and merely an unnecessary burden on the taxpayer and an encouragement to illegal migration.”
Afghanistan has a long and bloody history of failed invasions. Ex-Lance Jack of Melbourne accused our leaders of failing to learn from past conflicts in a comment to SBS.com.au: “If our leaders studied even a bit of history about the Afghan people, country or culture prior to committing to this venture, they would have realised that this enterprise was doomed to fail from the word go. Welcome to Vietnam Version 2.0.”
But not everyone thinks Australian troops are wasting their time in Afghanistan.
Peto of Nambour, in a post to The Australian, believed they were playing a meaningful role internationally and nationally. “I think our commitment is needed and appreciated by the United Nations and the people of Afghanistan.
The commitment is not open ended, although it is clear that a few more years will be required. This involvement is all part of being a meaningful part of the world community and is essential in bringing purpose to our nationhood.”
Grant, writing to the Daily Telegraph, thought the troops serving in Afghanistan should not be forgotten in the debate and called on two of the most vocal parliamentary opponents of Australia’s role in the war, the Greens’ Adam Bandt and Independent Andrew Wilkie, to consult them: “There is only one person to ask about this and that is the troops. They are the ones over there and are having to leave their families for up to nine months at a time. Adam Bandt and Andrew Wilkie, have a think about your call. It would have been a complete waste of time for the past nine years and also for the diggers that have lost their lives.”
A veteran platoon commander and former defence intelligence analyst, Wilkie last week rejected the excuse to stop terrorism as a reason for remaining in Afghanistan, alleging Australia was merely there to support the United States.
In Parliament, he noted 21 Australians have died so far in Afghanistan. As that figure multiplies - as surely it will - Australia should be prepared for its presence in the war to become a much more hotly-debated issue.
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