Failure in Afghanistan. We don’t want to talk about it.

On the 24th June, I posted a link to a review from the London Review of Books.  (See In referring to the UK involvement in Afghanistan, it was headed ‘Worse than a defeat: shamed in Afghanistan’. The review by James Meek said

‘The extent of the military and political catastrophe [in Afghanistan] it represents is hard to overstate. It was doomed to fail before it began and fail it did, at a terrible cost in lives and money. How bad was it? In a way it was worse than a defeat because to be defeated an army and its masters must understand the nature of the conflict they are fighting. Britain never did understand and now we would rather not think about it.’

We have had few independent examinations of the Australian failure in Afghanistan in which 40 Australian soldiers were killed, 261 wounded and with untold tragedy for the Afghan people. Operation Slipper was our longest war in history and cost $7 b. to $8 b.

Few and certainly not our major political parties want to talk about this failure for which they were responsible. In particular, the Coalition parades its credibility on security matters and prefers that we forget its military disasters from Vietnam to Iraq, to Afghanistan, and now to Iraq again. Ministers and a succession of Generals and ‘advisers kept telling us nonsense about the progress we were making in Afghanistan. Honesty would have been helpful then and now.

The SMH on 4 July sheds some light on our failure in Afghanistan. Sune Engel Rasmussen reports that ‘Despite an eight year mission costing billions of dollars, unrest and instability remain.’ (See

Rasmussen is a freelance journalist based in Kabul. He writes for the SMH, The Guardian, The Economist and other media organisations.


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1 Response to Failure in Afghanistan. We don’t want to talk about it.

  1. Peter Graves says:

    This merits far more attention that it’s been receiving in the mainstream Australian media. Especially the 55% reduction in Australia’s foreign aid since 2012-13.

    If Australia’s aid to Afghanistan is successful, as was highlighted in The AUSTRALIAN, 30/6, p.10 (“Australian aid brought hope and health to a forsaken corner”), why is it being further reduced by 37% in 2015-16 ?

    Afghan women face forced marriage, rape and domestic violence, with average life expectancy of 62. It’s 84 in Australia.

    97 of every 1,000 Afghan children will die before their fifth birthday. It’s 4 in Australia.

    An average Afghan income in 2013 was US$685, or about $13 per week. That aid reduction of $49 million makes a difference to the average Afghan and their children.

    To make up for a very small part of that reduction, I’m currently helping to support three aid programs in Afghanistan: microfinance for women; paralegal training for women to act as defense counsel in domestic violence cases; helping to improve agricultural extension services.

    Withdrawing our troops has not meant “mission accomplished”. The Taliban are attacking in previously quiet northern provinces like Balkh and Badakhshan.

    The Australian budget should not be balanced on the backs of the world’s poor.

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