Defense Minister Stephen Smith recently took a trip to Afghanistan, with a range of reasons cited in the Defense Department media release. What wasn't mentioned there - or anywhere else by the Gillard government - was the finalising of a draft Australian/Afghan Strategic Agreement for post 2014, due to be signed in just five weeks. That was discovered by Melbourne peace activist Simon Moyle in a tweet from TOLOnews, an Afghan news organisation. It appears the Gillard government is keeping this agreement under wraps, hoping no one will notice. After Simon emailed to some journos the story ran in the Age on the 14th of April.
Spread the word: post the Age article to social media, and tell everyone you know that this is happening, we have about a month to cause a ruckus that might bring some transparency, and then accountability.
The significance of this strategic agreement
1. In these kinds of agreements there's always a "status of forces agreement", which details how that particular military will be permitted to relate to the country post withdrawal. There is a good possibility that Australian SAS will continue to operate in Afghanistan post 2014. In particular it has already been said that while the mentoring task force (those training Afghan troops) are likely to drawdown and leave before the 2014 deadline, SAS will still be conducting capture and kill raids up to that deadline. Remember that just last November Gillard insisted that Australia will have a presence in Afghanistan "until the end of the decade at least". It would be quite a turnaround in six months to bring that date forward so dramatically. So one question is: will SAS stay doing capture and kill raids for whatever criminal syndicate is in central government by 2014? (Karzai is already considering breaking his own election rules by seeking a third term, and to give himself the best chance is looking at bringing the election forward from the scheduled 2014 date to 2013)
2. The other big factor is aid, and in particular military aid. We already know that the force that we're supposed to be training will likely cost around $6 billion a year, in a country which has a GDP of $1.6 billion, meaning the force we're training will rely on massive ongoing military aid for the foreseeable future. Either that, or if the amount drops (and you can bet it will post withdrawal, particularly given financial crises and such) Afghanistan ends up with thousands of armed and trained men with no job. This is the disaster-in-waiting we've created.
3. The Australian agreement sits alongside (and no doubt works in with) the US/NATO Strategic Partnership Declaration, which some Afghans are describing as "slavery" and consigning them to "permanent terrorism". It essentially allows for permanent US bases.
We have an opportunity, over the next five weeks, to let the government know that we know about this agreement, and call for accountability.
Please contact your MP and ask them what the Australian Afghan Strategic Agreement contains.
Article by Simon Moyle : http://smoyle.wordpress.com/