If you’re frustrated by the lack of news from Afghanistan, you might want to read this four-page article1 in The Age by Brendan Nicholson about the latest news from the Australian troops in Afghanistan. The most interesting part of the article to me was Nicholson’s coverage of Australian Defence Force head Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston’s visit to Islamabad.
Covering the visit, I was standing outside the Serena Hotel in Islamabad’s diplomatic enclave when two Pakistani officers approached.
They offered me a lift to the airport and we followed Houston’s well-guarded convoy as it wove through the streets towards the local air force base.
For 20 minutes the officers dissected Pakistan’s situation. They were convinced that the war in Afghanistan would last 15 to 20 years and there could be no military solution.
They rejected suggestions their country was encouraging the Taliban, saying they had paid a heavy price with 1200 soldiers killed in counter-terrorism operations.
[Houston] has also warned NATO that Australia is not providing an open cheque and Australia will not be sending more troops until NATO members increase their contributions.
In Oruzgan Province, the Australians are working with a much larger Dutch force that provides air and artillery support. The Dutch are likely to pull out most of their forces in 2010 and a key issue is what happens if Australia is asked to increase its force to fill that gap. It may have to deploy its new attack helicopters, if they are ready by then, jet fighter-bombers and a force similar to the 550-strong group that is about to be withdrawn from Iraq.
1Nicholson, Brendan. (May 19, 2008). “Lore and Piece”. The Age