What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Informing the public - Dutch and Australian tactics in the wake of Chora

MStFB Uruzgan Series Update
Tom Hyland, international editor of the Australian Age newspaper has just written an interesting op-ed on the issue of the West's current strategy in Afghanistan. I'll include two excerpts here that I see as relevant as to my series on Uruzgan.
The first will be about the contradictory information given to the public on whether Australia participated in combat during the Six-Day Friday War in Chora. Dutch General Dick Berlijn has on one occasion said Aussie troops participated in street combat together with the others, then on another, later on, he said they were involved in a support role only, mounting a blocking operation near a place called Mirabat, in the Baluchi Valley. As far as I'm concerned, I could hardly believe that Australia's special forces would have remained so passive when actually all hell broke loose around Chora, to the extent that I didn't actually believe that latter claim. Other people thought of the issue similarly and so has built up the picture that General Berlijn most likely let something slip (deliberately or not), that the Australian military wasn't happy with - for they follow a very secretive media policy. There is no embedding with Aussie troops to give you one example; to give you another as well, you might want to see this interesting video from Uruzgan, 2006, which also shows Australian soldiers on the ground in Uruzgan to be rather secretive (you find the vid I'm talking about under the title 'Afghanistan - Baptism of Fire'; you'll have to patiently scroll down for that on the referred page). One very interesting way for the Australian military to bite back for the apparent slip was saying that they are concerned about the civilian casualties of the fighting (translation: 'that you, Dutch people caused').
So, the excerpt from Tom Hyland's article then, the context to which you have just been presented with:
"While neither statement clarified Australia's role in the Chora battle, the second statement revealed a flurry of contacts between Australia and the Netherlands in which Australia expressed concern about civilian casualties. Defence Minister Brendan Nelson called his Dutch counterpart; defence chief Angus Houston called his Dutch opposite number; Houston's deputy called the Dutch commander in Afghanistan; and the Australian commander in Uruzgan spoke to the local Dutch commander."
Doesn't look very constructive from any of the parties, all that's apparently happening, does it?
To finish off this post, I would include here one more excerpt in addition, because it is effectively an interesting comment on the prospects of an 'exclusively reconstruction' type approach in Afghanistan, which apparently many people in the European public desire:
"To argue that troops should focus on rebuilding also ignores the fact that even these "hearts and minds" tactics are highly risky. Reconstruction is carried out only after detailed reconnaissance, with troops carrying out quick impact projects while protected by armoured vehicles: a sort of 'Backyard Blitz' in a battleground."
It kind of rhymes with the sort of things I've been saying about the ink blot strategy. So no matter how secretive one wants to be about fighting, and how much one really wants to avoid it, it will happen.

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