Federal Govt criticised over Afghanistan plan


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26-06-2010 08:12 AM


ABC Canberra 666

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ABC Canberra 666


26-06-2010 08:12 AM



26-06-2010 08:47 AM

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2010-06-26 08:12:40

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JACKSON, Elizabeth



SARA, Sally


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Federal Govt criticised over Afghanistan plan -

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The Federal Government is laying out its plan for the future of the Australian commitment in
Uruzgan Province, after Dutch troops leave later this year. Defence Minister John Faulkner has
announced the US will lead the combined team in Uruzgan, but it's unclear which countries will
supply the soldiers.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: The British prime minister David Cameron this morning has told journalists ahead
of the G20 meeting in Canada that he wants UK troops out of Afghanistan within five years. But he's
insisted that Britain should maintain a long-term relationship with Afghanistan, including helping
to train troops long after the soldiers have gone home.

Mr Cameron spoke as four UK soldiers who died in an accident in Afghanistan on Wednesday were named
by the Ministry of Defence. And it's been a deadly week for Australian forces in Afghanistan too.
Three commandos were killed in a helicopter crash and several others were seriously injured.

Our South Asia correspondent Sally Sara reports the Australian Government is now working on its own
plan for the future of its commitment in the Uruzgan province.

SALLY SARA: The days of the Dutch and Australian partnership in Uruzgan province are running out.
Dutch forces are expected to start withdrawing in August, leaving Australian troops in need of new
back up.

Earlier this week Defence Minister Senator John Faulkner announced the US will lead a multinational
combined team in Uruzgan, but Senator Faulkner didn't specify which country or countries will
supply the soldiers to replace the Dutch.

Retired army officer Major General Jim Molan is former chief of operations for coalition forces in
Iraq. He says the Defence Minister's statement was unclear.

JIM MOLAN: It's so vague. I would describe it as the kind of moggadon media release designed to
make everyone feel fantastic, but it gives... there are opportunity after opportunity for the
Minister to sat that troops are coming from here; the organisation is A, B, C; the Dutch will be

These are the things the Minister could have said specifically, but didn't say. And I can only
think that either he doesn't know the answers to them, therefore why are we announcing it now? Or
he's holding back from us because possibly there are no answers yet.

SALLY SARA: A spokesman for the Minister says the Government knows the answers, but is waiting for
the International Security Assistance Force to make an announcement. But the Minister did say that
Defence now estimates that Australian forces could start handing over responsibility for security
in Uruzgan to Afghan troops in two to four years.

Dr Carl Ungerer from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. He says the prospect of a clearer
deadline won't water down Australian morale or the resolve of the Taliban.

CARL UNGERER: You know, of course insurgencies will always seek to outlast their opponents; that is
the nature of an insurgency, but I don't think it changes the calculus very much for the Taliban.

SALLY SARA: The changes in Uruzgan are unfolding against the backdrop of intense fighting and
civilian reforms in southern Afghanistan. Thousands of extra US troops are pouring into
neighbouring Kandahar as part of Operation Hamkari; a massive military and civilian push to regain
control of the Taliban's former capital.

The grim expectation is that the more fighters are sent into southern Afghanistan, the more
casualties there will be. This push is the last chance to take on the insurgents in big numbers,
before some US troops are scheduled to start withdrawing from July next year.

Professor Malcolm Chalmers from the Royal United Services Institute says the next 12 months will be
a turning point.

MALCOLM CHALMERS: The next year is absolutely crucial. If we get to the situation a year from now
in the middle of 2011 in which the objective assessment is there hasn't been a significant
improvement in the security situation - the tide hasn't at least begun to turn - then I don't think
there will be an appetite in the United States, or indeed in any other coalition partner, for a
further increase in troop numbers. I think we've gone past that.

SALLY SARA: Australian troops are part of an escalating campaign across southern Afghanistan, to
win back territory and win over the weary population.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: That's our South Asia correspondent Sally Sara with that report.