Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 01:51 | SYDNEY
Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 01:51 | SYDNEY

Afghanistan and the alliance

6 October 2009 10:31

Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq.

The strategic discussions taking place in Washington sparked by the McChrystal report on Afghanistan are being reflected across the alliance. There is public talk in Germany of troop increases, with a four-star general saying German troop strength should be closer to 8000 than the current 4500.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had an impressive visit to Washington last week. Speaking at the Atlantic Council, Rasmussen solidly backed the McChrystal report and acknowledged the need for more resources, but would not be drawn on numbers. The moderator pointed out that if the US provides the troops for Afghanistan, the allies could say it is a US war and feel relieved of doing anything. But if the US does not provide more troops, allies can say the US is failing to show resolve, so why back a losing cause?

The big question for Australia, even bigger than the issue of defeating terrorism and stabilising Afghanistan, is the impact of whatever all parties do next on the Australia-US alliance. If the US fails in Afghanistan, despite its emerging success in Iraq, what does this mean for Australia? If Australia fails to play its role in Afghanistan, given its failure to play an effective role in Iraq, what does this mean for the so-called 'special' relationship with the US?

Does the Australia-US alliance matter any more, especially if the US fails in Afghanistan? Can Australia influence either the war in Afghanistan at its current level of commitment, or influence the US in broader matters as an alliance partner?

I'm sure we are past the 'yet I loved her till I die', 'All the way with LBJ', 'asking for their tummies to be tickled', 'conga lines of suckholes' approach to the alliance, and I hope we are in more than just a seller/buyer relationship dressed up as strategy, as mentioned by Minister Combet in his press releases from the US. But I wonder how well the Australian Government is managing the US-Australia relationship.