Australian Soldiers are the strongest tribe in Uruzgan Province and it is this profile that wins hearts and minds in Afghanistan, not well-meaning gestures of handing out bags of money.
It is that strategic change over the last 18 months that is now paying off in Uruzgan. Afghans respond to what some may call traditional characteristics of bravery, courage, honour and revenge. They are also very polite, even though tomorrow they may kill you. If you could bring back Alexander the Great, he would say we are fighting the same people, using the same tactics they used against him 2,000 years ago.
Despite what Australia’s David Kilcullen, the architect of this new pop military version of counterinsurgency (COIN), will have you believe, this is not about a kindler gentler war. There has been a grave misrepresentation of COIN. In fact, unlike author of The Strongest Tribe former Marine Commander Bing West, who has spent endless nights bunkered down under fire with troops, I doubt whether Kilcullen would have been to very far off Route One.
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In 2006 I spent a couple of days at the Australian Defence Force Academy.
I inspected its organised dormitories (where male and female cadets shared the same buildings - but separate rooms). It’s like an upmarket youth hostel with communal kitchen and bathrooms at the end of each hallway. While there, I fired weapons, ate in the mess and spoke to staff including officers, professors and historians. It’s an impressive place.
ADFA at first glance looks like a tidy university, but walk into the bookshop and titles like Knife Fighting Techniques by inmates at Folsom Prison remind you this is a different world. This is a frat house with guns.
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The problem with Defence has been that nobody gets sacked.
Pushed sideways with a higher salary and rank maybe, but never taken out of a job as a punishment for failure.
That is the major significance of what has happened under Defence Minister Stephen Smith. Australian Defence Academy Commandant Bruce Kafer has been temporarily stood down as a consequence of the Skype sex scandal. Not many senior military figures have had to publicly lose face because of mismanagement.
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