Friday 19 Jul 2019 | 18:56 | SYDNEY
Friday 19 Jul 2019 | 18:56 | SYDNEY

Three attacks, three explanations


James Brown


9 November 2011 10:15

There's been another incident overnight in Afghanistan involving Australian soldiers being attacked by an Afghan National Army colleague. This is the third time this year that Australian soldiers have been attacked in this manner, and comes only a week after seven soldiers were seriously wounded and three killed by a 'rogue' Afghan soldier.

There are three possible explanations for these attacks, but it is certainly too early to conclude what has motivated them. The first explanation is that all three are unrelated, coincidental acts of violence by mentally disturbed Afghan soldiers. This explanation is the hardest to accept — it's bewildering for the public and media that a string of deaths could be, essentially, random.

The second explanation is that this is a Taliban campaign to erode the will of Australian soldiers and the public back home, and force an early exit of Australian forces from Uruzgan. This possibility cannot be ruled out. The Taliban's propaganda machine somewhat amateurishly claimed a hand in motivating Shafiea Ullah, yet has claimed neither of the two recent attacks.

The third possibility is that there is something in the particular relationship between Australian mentors and Afghan trainees which is heightening tensions and leading to violent disagreements. Certainly the relationship in certain bases is tense — last week Afghan soldiers in the 6th Kandak were temporarily disarmed — but again there is no proof that the relationship between Afghan and Australian mentors is fundamentally worse than that with other ISAF mentoring teams.

There's lots of speculation about why these three attacks have happened, but it is simply to early to tell — and using the attacks to justify positions either way on the Afghan war is problematic.

Photo, from the memorial service at Al Minhad Air Base, courtesy of the Defence Department.