New Zealand’s new strategic goal in Afghanistan is to be cappin’ mother-fuckers.
September 21, 2012
September 30, 2011
In spite of renewed calls to pull out of Afghanistan, Prime Minister John Key said this afternoon that New Zealand would not be honouring the deaths of Leon Smith, Doug Grant and Tim O’Donnell if New Zealand pulled its troops out.
This is the stuff politicians say when they’re talking about the deaths of soldiers they’ve sent into combat. ‘We must stay the course, honour their sacrifice, they fought for freedom etc.’ And I think the politicians believe it, because they really don’t want to face the alternative: that they’ve sent men to die in the name of domestic political advantage and short term geo-political positioning to advance our trade and defence alliances.
But all that rhetoric really only counts when you’re in a conflict for the long haul, and you’re trying to achieve actual strategic outcomes. Our troops are in the middle of a complex civil war, in which New Zealand has no stakes whatsoever, and we’re pulling our SAS troops out in six months time anyway. So, somehow, pulling out now would dishonor the deaths of our soldiers – but pulling out in March, when the strategic situation is likely to be the same, or far worse, won’t.
August 4, 2010
This NYTimes article published a couple of days ago about the Taliban take-over of Baghlan Province – which is adjacent to Bamyan – sheds some light on the strategic failures leading to the death and wounding of New Zealand soldiers in the Provincial Reconstruction Team.
Broadly the NATO effort has focused on the Taliban friendly regions to the south while mostly neglecting the north of the country. Unfortunately they’ve failed to make any real progress and the Taliban has used the vacuum in the north to it’s advantage.
I guess the debate will now turn to whether we should be in Afghanistan: preventing the Taliban from taking over the country seems like a noble goal, even one that’s worth sacrificing New Zealand lives for. But the US military doesn’t seem capable of prosecuting the war with any competence. This chart from The New Republic sums up the dilemma:
July 27, 2010
I just downloaded the WikiLeaks raw data and ran a perl script that extracted any entry with the word ‘Zealand’ in it. I won’t have time to read through them until late this evening but a word document of the NZ relevant entries is here: Afghan Documents: Kiwi, PRT, Zealand. Happy reading!
Update: Just seen that I/S beat me to it and has a summary of each incident. Nothing in the MSM yet – guess they’re all too busy checking Cameron Slater’s blog in case he links to any more skating videos.
(Well shut my mouth – a reader in the comments kindly pointed me to Adam Bennett’s story here.)
Also . . . you get more hits searching for ‘Kiwi’ and ‘NZPRT’. Updated the document above. (No hits for ‘Apiata’.)
June 24, 2010
War is too important a matter to be left to the military.
Georges Clemenceau, as quoted in Soixante Anneés d’Histoire Française
I was thinking of Obama and McChrystal, but Clemenceua’s wikiquote page turns out to be a goldmine.
May 4, 2010
The Prime Minister has been accompanying my wife Maggie on her trip to Afghanistan.
January 22, 2010
My first reaction to the Times photo of the SAS in Afghanistan was they looked really, really cool. Slightly more nuanced thoughts.
1. I can’t see how Stuff or the Herald publishing the photo puts the SAS in any more danger than they’re currently in; it seems hypocritical for the Prime Minister to critique the media for endangering the SAS – he’s the guy who sent them into a war zone!
2. If the Ministry of Defense doesn’t want the media to take an interest in the SAS they shouldn’t devote so much time and energy cultivating an aura of mystique around the unit.
3. Even if publishing details about the SAS does somehow put them in danger, once they’ve been in the New York Times a photo in the Herald isn’t gonna count for much.
4. The guy who wrote the NYT story – Dexter Filkins – wrote The Forever War, which is one of the best books of war journalism I’ve ever read. He comments on the Kiwi response today:
The presence of the New Zealanders was posted on the New York Times Web site Monday and published in the paper the next morning. When I woke up in Kabul on Tuesday, my in-box was flooded with emails from New Zealand.
As word spread, the New Zealand government publicly acknowledged that the commando team, from the Special Air Service, had been deployed here.
“A small element of the New Zealand S.A.S. members were among forces that took up positions close to the incident,” President John Key said.
President John Key? Has a ring to it though, no? Kieth Locke’s republic bill might have just gained a secret yet powerful admirer.
5. Rory Stewart wrote a long piece in the New York Review of Books that I’ve been meaning to link to: it’s a cautious endorsement of the Obama Administration’s strategy for Afghanistan.
6. When I first heard the story about biblical citations on gunsights I assumed that the soldiers were writing them themselves, but they’re actually being inscribed on the barrel by the US based manufacturer! Which sniper rifle would Jesus use?
Afghanistan is arguably the most religious country on earth, and Muslims take their own holy book very seriously – they see the Koran not as a book but as an aspect of God, like His pity or His wrath. So embossing weapons with references from rival holy books is not a smart idea when you’re fighting (and currently losing) a war for the hearts and minds of the Afghans.