Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 01:47 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 01:47 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Life is hard in Afghanistan

9 November 2011 16:49

Dom writes:

James,  I believe you are right in saying that it is too early to tell what these attacks mean. But, I have a few fundamental disagreements with your commentary. Firstly, the cited premise for your third argument ('there is something in the particular relationship between Australian mentors and Afghan trainees which is heightening tensions and leading to violent disagreements') is misleading. The 6th kandak is the unit that Darwish — who killed three ADF members last week — came from. From what we can tell, the unit was disarmed because of Darwish's actions and not because of ADF-ANA tensions.

Secondly, it is too simplistic to say that (a) it can't be random or that (b) the Taliban are masterminding this. Morale in the ANA is low. Morale in the Taliban is low. Morale in the ANP is low. No one feels safe, no one feels assured in Afghanistan, regardless of what weapon they might be carrying, the uniform they wear or whether or not they have a body armour. Working with the coalition provides some level of comfort and support, but it also presents genuine safety risks.

I believe the most likely cause of this is related to the inherent nature of Afghan society. For Afghans, when they face stresses and problems of life, drugs and lethal violence are two very popular choices to remedy the situation. While we might get on Facebook and complain about others, or maybe even get in a drunken fight, pulling the trigger is commonplace for Afghans looking to resolve social issues. As an example, when I was in Afghanistan, the local police chief expressed his concerns about the growing use of RPGs during wedding celebrations. This is a society very different to ours.

Life as an ANA soldier is fraught with risk and problems, but it offers paid work that is mandated by the official government. That's probably why most Afghans join the ANA. The Taliban are not a monolithic movement and there is every chance this ANA officer is a non-Pashtun with no ties to the Taliban. So what does all this mean? Like you say, we don't know. But, based on my experience, there is every chance this just depressed Afghans dealing with a problem the only way they know how. Their life is short, they play hard.

If we are serious about working with the Afghans — and whether we should or not is the REAL DISCUSSION — then we have to accept these significant risks. If we want to present the image that we are partnering with them then we have to show the Afghans and the international community that we accept the risks.