Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 14:30 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 14:30 | SYDNEY

The strange case of Shafiea Ullah


James Brown


22 June 2011 08:37

I was a little confused by the news that a combined Coalition and Afghan National Army Special Forces raid had located and killed ANA deserter Shafiea Ullah, who killed Australian soldier Lance Corporal Andrew Jones almost three weeks ago.

The murder of LCPL Jones was a tragic and despicable act, and the impact of his death on his family and military colleagues is horrific.

But it will have little strategic significance in the wider Afghan counterinsurgency. Both Defence and ISAF have suggested for some time that the attack on LCPL Jones was an isolated incident and not part of a calculated Taliban plan. When it happened, Defence Minister Stephen Smith stressed the need to put the incident into perspective. And in a statement released yesterday, ISAF confirmed again that Ullah 'had no affiliation with any insurgent networks'

So why would the US military take its most highly trained soldiers away from their core task of tracking down high value Taliban commanders and instead mount an operation to find and fix a lowly ANA soldier on the run?

When I posed the question on Twitter, most respondents thought it was important that the ADF 'send a message' that killing its troops is unacceptable. I agree that the operation to track Shafiea Ullah down was all about sending a message. But to whom?

Suggesting that we need to send a message to Afghan troops about the consequences of killing coalition soldiers suggests the ANA weren't already aware of the consequences of murdering a military colleague. I'd suggest Pashtun Afghans have a much better understanding of the concept of retribution than Australians. If the aim was to send a message to Afghan soldiers in Uruzgan then launching a highly complicated Special Forces raid 380km away seems like a very inefficient way to do it.

So why did the ADF prioritise a non-strategic mission, far from their area of operations, with highly strategic assets borrowed from an ally?

Photo by Flickr user ISAF.