Famous, some say infamous, Afghan and Uzbek military Commander General Abdul Rashid Dostum (left) pictured with Canadian journalist Scott Taylor. Photo by Sasha Uzunov 2007. Dostum has never been on a “losing side” in 30 years of war in Afghanistan. Recent developments have seen Afghan Army soldiers turning on their NATO and Australian military allies.


Australian PM Gillard & Andrew Bolt correct on not speeding up Afghan War withdrawal 

by Sasha Uzunov

It is not everyday that we witness Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her staunchest critic, conservative newspaper columnist Andrew Bolt agreeing on an issue, namely the staying the course in the Afghanistan War and not speeding up the planned withdrawal, because of the recent tragic deaths of 5 Australian soldiers, three of which killed by an allied rogue Afghan soldier.

Pundits and “experts” on the Afghanistan War have not been able to resist in re-inventing the wheel. We now call booby-traps or makeshift mines as “improvised explosive devices” (IED); Green on Blue attack means an allied Afghan soldier turning against his NATO or Australian military trainer. In the past we would have referred to this as simply as enemy infiltration, subterfuge, enemy in disguise, espionage, Trojan Horse, Fifth Columnist, swinging voter,  hedging your bets and so on.

But this phenomenon is nothing new, and it even applies in a non-lethal form in civilian behaviour or politics, I call this Green on Sacre Bleu attack. More on that later!

In World War II (1939-45) Italy changed sides in 1943 after first supporting Nazi German and then became part of the”Allies:” Britain, US, etc. We have Italian “allies” who march on ANZAC Day, April 25, here in Melbourne every year. Bulgaria did the same thing as Italy but in 1944 and later became a Soviet Bloc satellite.

France began as an ally of Britain in 1939 before falling under German occupation in 1940. A collaborationist Vichy French regime (1940-44) had soldiers fighting the British and Australian troops in Syria, in the Middle-East. However, a Free French Army under exiled General Charles De Gaulle sided with Britain and a domestic French Resistance took part in sabotage and guerllia style warfare against the German occupiers.

Many conclusions can be drawn from the spike in Green on Blue attacks, that is Afghan Army soldiers killing American or Australian troops, One would be a new phase in the Taliban’s war against foreign troops, and this type of warfare is as old as time itself. I mentioned previously the Trojan Horse. In more recent times, say World War II, notorious Nazi German elite troops from the SS dressed up as Polish troops and staged an attack on the German border on 31 August 1939. Known as the Gleiwitz incident, this was the pretext used by German dictator Adolf Hitler to launch his invasion of Poland and the start of World War II.

Another SS operation took place during the Battle of the Bulge, the last German offensive against the Allies. Germans dressed up as American and British troops and caused mayhem in the Allied rear lines. This type of behaviour is regarded as breaking the Laws of War, including the Geneva Convention, a set of protocols drawn up by the “civilised world” to regulate how war is fought.

Those who understand Afghan history, Green on Blue attacks is par for the course. Afghanistan is a country made up of four major ethnic groups: the majority Pushtuns in the south (and traditional recruiting base for the Taliban), Persian speaking Tajiks, the Turkic Uzbeks, and the Hazara, the descendants of the Mongols. Afghan politics is about cutting deals, making alliances or turning against one-time allies.

One famous Afghan military commander Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek, has never been on a losing side in over 30 years of conflict. He started off as an Afghan Army officer, when his country was under Soviet occupation (1979-89) and then swung his allegiance to the Mujahaddin resistance fighters, then chose sides in the Mujahaddin civil war in the early 1990s by supporting Tajik commander Masoud Shah. 

Dostum in effect ruled his own sub-state in the north of the country and was the main instigator of the Northern Alliance, which opposed the fanatical Islamist Taliban regime that had come to power in the south of Afghanistan when Masoud’s hold on the capital Kabul fell. In 2001 the Northern Alliance supported the US intervention against the Taliban and led to the instalment of the Hamid Karzai regime.

I, together with two Canadian journalists Scott Taylor and David Pugliese, were fortunate enough to interview him in 2007 when we visited his northern stronghold of Shebargan. Huge portraits of Dostums dominated the smaller ones of Karzai. He had up til that time refused to speak to western journalists for many years.

The very nature of any counter-insurgency war, going back to the recent Vietnam War (1962-72), is a complicated form of warfare. Many times the “enemy” do not play by the rule book. I explained this to Herald Sun journalist Paul Toohey who quoted me in an article he wrote:

“They go away in the winter and when it comes to the summer they come out of the woodwork and the shadows and start attacking coalition forces,” says Sasha Uzunov, a former Australian soldier who has visited Afghanistan twice as a war cameraman.
“A lot of the Taliban activity is simply giving money to illiterate and poor teenage boys, maybe giving them $US50, and giving them a Kalashnikov and getting them to take pot shots at passing troops.
“It’s as basic as that, so it’s very difficult to track down who these guys are. They take pot shots and disappear and hide in the villages. How do you know who these guys are?”
The planned withdrawal of NATO and Australian troops within the next 2 years has, ironically, caused the rise in Green on Blue attacks. Speeding up the withdrawal will only cause more allied deaths. So Prime Minister Gillard and Andrew Bolt are correct in their view.

Simply put, the average Afghan government soldier or policeman is not too sure about his future. So by some striking out against American or British or Australian soldier, this might, however misguided, be their ticket to survival should the Taliban come to power again.

We are also forgetting the human factor such as disgruntlement, dissatisfaction felt by the Afghan man in uniform. We also had episodes in Vietnam of American soldiers killing their officer, known as fragging. Green on Blue attacks in anyone’s language is nothing new.

However, what interests me is the Green on Sacre Bleu (French term meaning Holy Blue, an exclamation) attack–the changing of sides in politics or ideology.

I have named this in honour of New Zealand activist turned mainstream politician Iron Mike Rann (pictured above, source: wikipedia)  Rann over a period of time dramatically changed sides. He started off in New Zealand as an “Admiral” with the environmental group Greenpeace in the early 1970s and was responsible for sending in ships to “invade” French territorial waters in the South Pacific in protest against France’s testing of nuclear weapons in that region. 

In retaliation to these Greenpeace “incursions” France began a series of intelligence operations. The result was the bombing of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior ship in New Zealand’s Auckland Harbour in 1985 and the death of photographer Fernando Perreira who was on board at the time. Two French Foreign intelligence (DGSE) officers Dominque Prieur and Alain Mafart were arrested by New Zealand Police for their involvement.

Rann left New Zealand in the mid 1970s to work for flamboyant and notorious pink shorts-wearing  South Australian Premier Don Dunstan, eventually Iron Mike became Premier of that state, serving between 2002 and 2011. Not once did he stop uranium mining in South Australia. Highly unusual when you consider his activities provoked the French to take drastic action.

Iron Mike Rann has been appointed Australia’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, meaning that he will be Ambassador. High Commissioner is a term used within the British Commonwealth family of nations. I wonder what the French, Britain’s ally and fellow member of the European Union will make of his appointment, considering his “anti-French” antics in the 1970s?

For a man who began his political life as an environmental warrior trying to restore balance and harmony on the planet, Rann has antagonised the Australian Macedonian community by taking sides in the political dispute between Greece and The Republic of Macedonia.

As South Australian Premier, Mr Rann vowed his government would “remain firm and unswerving” in supporting the Greeks. “It is important because no one is entitled to steal another nation’s history or culture,” he said.  (link to The Australian newspaper article)


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