The signing of the Long term partnership between Australia and Afghanistan by Julia Gillard and Hamid Karzai at the NATO summit in Chicago on 20th May is being presented by the government and the press as an “aid commitment” as part of the “end of the Afghanistan war”. This is a lie.
Whilst the majority of Australian troops are returning from Afghanistan in 2013, these are the troops involved in training the Afghan army, the agreement is a commitment for Australian Special Forces to occupy Afghanistan indefinitely alongside the U.S. Our Special Forces, the only Australian troops in a combat role, will continue in the name of “security” to operate as defacto assassination squads for the U.S. Peace activist will be saying no to both the U.S. alliance, escalating militarism and the occupation of Afghanistan when they blockade the Swan Island military base where the SAS train in September at the Swan Island Peace Convergence 2012
Related: Text of the Agreement -- Interview with Defence Minister Stephen Smith -- The SAS dirty war -- WSWS analysis
Whilst the Agreement does cover aid and development it is clear that Australia is bowing to U.S. demands that its allies in Europe and elsewhere continue to contribute heavily to the military occupation of Afghanistan. Australia is providing $100 million a year for three years from 2015 towards the operating and training of the Afghan National Security Forces. This is part of the estimated $4.1 billion annual running costs of keeping the Afghan army and police running after 2014. Whilst cash strapped Europe is reticient to commit funds, as usual the Australian Government is going above and beyond in their efforts to placate their masters in Washington.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith in an interview on the ABC on the 21st May, outlined how much Australia has already contributed to the U.S. War machine in Afghanistan explaining we were one of the top ten military contributors but crucially we were in the top three for Special Forces.
Australian Special Forces have played a crucial role in the occupation in Afghanistan. Since they returned to Afghanistan in 2006, they have conducted many night raids as part of the U.S. strategy of targeted assassinations of the Taliban under the banner of “Operation Peeler”. It has come to light that some of these raids have resulted in civilian deaths including of women and children. The SAS dirty war
These deaths are of little consequence to Smith however who explained in his interview how it is has been great for our forces to refine their killing skills.
“Well, one of the things that has been a very good Army and Defence experience for us out of Afghanistan has been the way in which, over the last decade, we have continued to work very closely with other Special Forces countries, in particular the United States, but also the United Kingdom.
Smith explained that the Long Term agreement however does not provide the legal framework for the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan by our Special Forces but this is being pursued.
“Now, that mandate could be United Nations mandate ongoing, as we’ve had for a decade, or it could be a status of forces agreement with the government of Afghanistan. And the Special Forces role could be for counter terrorism purposes or indeed for training purposes or both.”
There are no time frames specified with the agreement except for a reference to the agreement being reviewed in ten years. This would fit in with the U.S. timetable for a draw down of troops by 2014 but an ongoing occupation till at least 2024. Julia Gillard has also said our military will be in Afghanistan for “at least another decade”.
The Australian press has deliberately downplayed the implications of the agreement, hiding the commitment to an ongoing Special Forces presence from the public. For example this article from the Sydney Morning Herald makes no mention of Australian troops and only mentions aid commitments.
Why the occupation of Afghanistan continues?
Australia went to war in Afghanistan in 2001 after the ANZUS treaty was invoked by John Howard in response to the 9/11 attacks. Despite continued claims that we are in Afghanistan to “fight terrorism” or to “help the people of Afghanistan”, it has always been our alliance with the U.S. that has meant we have contributed so heavily to the occupation.
Al Qaeda has not had a strong presence in the country for years and Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The corrupt Karzai regime and its warlord allies are little better than the Taliban in many parts of the country in terms of the treatment of women and girls. The U.S. has even began negotiating with the Taliban itself. Yet Australia continues to offer both blood and treasure to the war effort in Afghanistan – why? The simple answer is that Afghanistan is geopolitically crucial to U.S. efforts to assert its power in Central Asia and the Middle East.
Call for action – Blockade Swan Island Military Base
Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 the Australian peace movement has struggled to regain momentum. It is crucial however that we start to stand up to our involvement in U.S. wars of aggression. To this end peace activists will be blockading Swan Island military base in Queenscliff Victoria from September 23rd to 27th. Swan Island is where some of the Special Forces who fight in Afghanistan are trained. It is a chance to disrupt the war machine and demand to not just end the occupation of Afghanistan but also Australia’s involvement in the whole U.S. imperialist enterprise through our security alliance ANZUS.
Read about the Swan Island Peace Convergence 2012
The growing economic and military crisis under capitalism
Our commitment to Afghanistan is just one of the escalating ways Australia is contributing to American imperialism. Hosting U.S. bases including now marines in Darwin, joint war games and the purchase of expensive military hardware are others. The Gillard Government has firmly lined up with the Obama regime in its hardline efforts to counter the rise of Chinese power in the Asia Pacific through military encirclement. The U.S. is attempting to compensate for its failing economic position through military means. Australia is following the U.S. down a path that could lead to a new world war as China and Russia grow increasingly hostile to U.S. attempts to dominate them. Just as the during the last great capitalist crisis in the thirties sharpened competition between the great powers, the current economic crisis is playing the same role. The inevitable connection between capitalism, imperialism and war continues to play havoc with the world. Future wars and true peace can only be achieved when the people of the world join together to replace the capitalist system with its competing nation states with a new system based on a federation of socialist states.
Relevant sections of the Partnership Agreement
10. The Governments will work together and with other members of the international community to assist the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in countering the threat of international terrorist groups, and to promote the national security of Afghanistan during the transition of lead responsibility for security to the Government of Afghanistan as well as after 2014 as mutually determined.
11. To this end, the Governments will develop long-term cooperation on shared national security challenges and continue to work together to build the capacity of the ANSF and to promote international support for the ANSF. Specific defence cooperation arrangements will be reviewed on a regular basis and could compass such areas as counter-terrorism support and providing trainers and advisors to assist building the capacity of ANSF institutions. Beyond transition,the range of support options may expand to include a program of defence cooperation with opportunities for professional training in Australia