Australian Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon. Photo: ADF
by Sasha Uzunov
copyright 2008
The Taliban must be rubbing their hands with glee at the news that our Defence Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, keeps on changing his mind about the war in Afghanistan. Months ago it was a tough talking Minister, now it is a politician who believes the war is unwinnable and negotiations with the Taliban must be started.
Fine idea but why weaken your negotiating position and place Australian troops under increased threat from a confident Taliban. What’s wrong with keeping your cards close to your chest?
Pity our brave Australian soldiers who are putting their lives on the line; they must be thinking their efforts are in vain, especially when they are now being jerked around with their pay.
Why does this have overtones of defeatism ala Vietnam 1971-72 just before the US and Australian pullout…when soldiers were still fighting and dying.
In July 2008, during a visit to Washington Fitzgibbon said: “What does winning the war in Afghanistan mean from my perspective? It means winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, proving to them that what we’re offering as a construct, as a government construct, as an economy, as a model, is better than what the Taliban or any other group can offer them.”
“First of all, we’re going to need more troops, substantially more troops – a sort of a surge, if you like.”
In Washington, our Defence Minister was also beating his chest defiantly as he talked tough on the international stage about the war in Afghanistan. But somehow the sales pitch now has a hollow ring to it and we have heard all before.
He also said that Australians were willing to accept casualties in the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Now, the Minister has echoed the recent comments made by a British Army Brigadier, Mark Carleton-Smith, that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable. ”
As I have always said, there is a significant difference between discussing the situation in Afghanistan with moderates and negotiating with extremists, and surely success will only come if we are all working with those who share our same vision for peace and stability in Afghanistan,” Fitzgibbon said.
Moreover, if the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable then why call for more troops?
Surely after 7 years of war would have made the politicians realise that the answer to “winning” in Afghanistan is a political one, not a military one. It does not matter how many troops you send.
In the past decade the previous Howard Government and the current one have been telling us about how important the war on terror is and how we should be fighting the bad guys overseas to stop them from coming to Australia.
That’s fine but how do you reconcile that media message with the fact that those leading the war on terror, including the current Defence Minister, keeps changing his mind… One minute he is confident, next he is not.
The reality is Joel Fitzgibbon is out of his league in the Defence portfolio and lacks proper judgement. Remember the mate he brought with him on a plane trip to Afghanistan earlier this year.
Prime Minister Rudd, sir, it is all about credibility. The war in Afghanistan is serious business; we have already lost 6 diggers with the possibility of losing more. This is not a laughing matter. We either stay and fight or we begin to withdraw.