Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 03:46 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 03:46 | SYDNEY

More on Afghanistan limits


Sam Roggeveen


This post is part of the Afghanistan debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

30 July 2009 15:29

This post is part of the Afghanistan debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

I'm sorry to have moved Jim Molan to such fury with my post about Afghanistan, but I can't find anything in the Allan Mallison article he recommends that changes my mind. As with many such articles, the arguments are mostly about what the coalition needs to do to build a functioning, self-defending Afghan democracy. But the overarching argument about whether that aim is even worthwhile is skated over very quickly.

Mallison says it's all about creating a state that won't harbour terrorists of the kind that perpetrated the 9/11 and London underground atrocities, which is fair enough as far as it goes. But if the Rory Stewart article I quoted is right, and that can be done with around 20,000 troops, why not confine the mission strictly to anti-terrorism rather than the incredibly ambitious nation-building strategy we now have?

Mallison alludes to broader strategic considerations, particularly Pakistan's nuclear status. My colleagues Michael Fullilove and Anthony Bubalo made a similar argument earlier this week in the Financial Review:

If terrorism were all that was at stake in Afghanistan, the grounds for Australia’s involvement might be more marginal. But there are three other issues to consider. The first is the effort to achieve stability in a region that shares an ocean with Australia? contains two nuclear powers that have come close to war (and in Iran, a possible third)? is close to the heart of international energy supplies? has becoming a major exporter of drugs? and lacks any viable regional security framework.

Pakistan is the best example of where the broader consequences of a premature withdrawal from Afghanistan would be felt. Pakistan has pursued a schizophrenic policy on Afghanistan, helping the West when it must, while simultaneously pursuing its own divergent interests. Islamabad is, however, now reaping a bloody harvest in the Swat valley from its actions. This has momentarily narrowed the gap between Western and Pakistani interests, but to leave Afghanistan early would only encourage Islamabad to sup once again with the devils it knows and in many cases created.

I wonder how convincing such arguments would be if we weren't in Afghanistan already. Would we now advocate an invasion and long-term occupation of Afghanistan to stabilise the Indian Ocean region, reduce the chances of nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan, disrupt drug supplies, protect energy sources, substitute for the lack of a regional security framework and discourage Pakistani cooperation with the Taliban? More to the point, have any of these problems been reduced or made more manageable by the Western presence in Afghanistan? How?

Photo courtesy of the Department of Defence.