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Defence Minister Johnston and Australia’s role in Pakistan September 27, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

As we wind down in Afghanistan after a twelve-year war, new Defence Minister David Johnston reportedly says we need to keep our counter-insurgency skills honed, including for possible use in Pakistan (SMH, 21 September 2013).

Mr Johnston and his advisers need to think such statements through. Does he mean a limited role in advising Pakistan on counter-insurgency or does he envision a more robust involvement in maintaining stability? Either way, there is no useful role for Australia, either singly or in concert with its friends and allies.

Pakistan is both a supporter of the insurgency in Afghanistan and involved in counter-insurgency against groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) within Pakistan.

In the former role, the Pakistani military and its intelligence service, the ISI, support Afghan anti-government groups like the Haqqani network and harbour the Taliban leadership in Quetta. US intelligence believes the Haqqani network, with support from the ISI, was involved in the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul in 2008, in which 58 died. The network also allegedly killed the Karzai government’s chief peace envoy, Burhanuddin Rabbani.

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Australian military expands Indo-Pacific profile April 9, 2013

Posted by aungsi in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, South Asia - General , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

This interview first appeared in The Diplomat on March 13, 2013

Emerging out of a decade of coalition military intervention in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is now focused on initiatives to engage the strategic Indo-Pacific region. General David Hurley, the chief of the ADF, spoke to Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe about defence cooperation with the United States, engagement with Asia-Pacific and South Pacific regions, the implementation of the Force Posture Review’s recommendations, initiatives to engage with the Indian Ocean region, and what Australia’s withdrawal from East Timor, Solomon Islands and Afghanistan ultimately means.

Source:

General David Hurley (Source: defence.gov.au)

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ADF reviews plans for the IOR with a mining industry protection focus August 17, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Weigold, Auriol , comments closed

Auriol Weigold

This article first appeared on 3 August in Future Directions International

Background

In an example of Australia’s increasing awareness of the importance of the central and north-west of this country, the ADF has announced a force structure review with a focus on onshore mining and offshore oil and gas infrastructure and operations. It includes a shift in defence strategy towards the Indian Ocean’s vital sea-lines of communication and choke points close to Australia.

Comment

In geopolitical terms, the review recognises Indian and Chinese ambitions to “manage” the IO. The Indo-Pacific route is not just about trade, including Australia’s, but possible disruptions; best illustrated currently in India’s force projection and China’s acquisition of interests in littoral ports. Australia’s bilateral relations, particularly with India, still have to overcome some major problems, but are of high strategic importance in an IO context. Such scenarios must also include the maritime aims of other Indian Ocean users, including, for example, West African nations, Russia, Iran and Pakistan. There are implications also for long-term Australian coastal security and trans-ocean transport. (more…)

Afghanistan: conundrum central February 8, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, Snedden, Christopher , comments closed

Christopher Snedden

Afghanistan provokes many conundrums, but few answers. The most important current question is whether external forces can defeat the Islamically-motivated Afghan Taliban trying to regain control of their fragmented, underdeveloped and war-weary country? Policy makers and military strategists from 48 foreign nations believe so. Accordingly, they have ‘surged’ their International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan to 132,000 personnel. And, since President Obama came to power, ISAF—particularly its United States’ component of 90,000 personnel—has been better focused and may be gaining ground.

However, a significant conundrum is to determine the actual ‘state of play’ in Afghanistan. The Taliban, about which we know little, almost certainly overstates its strength and position. Equally, official Western sources may paint a picture rosier than reality. On 3 December, at Bagram Air Base, President Obama stated that ‘Because of the progress we’re making, we look forward to a new phase next year [2011], the beginning of the transition to Afghan responsibility’. This suggested that operations were going well. By contrast, on 26 December, the Wall Street Journal reported that United Nations’ maps showed ‘a marked deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan’ during 2010. Much of southern Afghanistan was still at ‘very high risk’, while the risk in previously ‘low risk’ areas in northern, central and western Afghanistan had increased ‘considerably’. Similarly, in January, a ‘NATO official’ estimated there were ‘up to 25,000’ insurgent fighters, ‘the same as a year ago, before the arrival of an additional 40,000 US and allied troops’. ISAF may not be doing as well as we are led to believe.

President Obama’s remark above about ‘the transition to Afghan responsibility’ also confirmed that ISAF is keen to extract itself from Afghanistan. Accordingly, ISAF is trying to develop the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police so they can take responsibility for Afghanistan’s security. This task is difficult. Low education levels, high attrition rates and Taliban intimidation make these forces’ capabilities questionable. Equally, ISAF needs to succeed in other nation-building activities—which, in a dilemma, it cannot do until it has secured and stabilised the country. These activities include: developing Afghanistan’s economy; enhancing its political and governmental structures; overcoming people’s deep fear of a Taliban takeover after ISAF’s inevitable withdrawal; reducing corruption; and, delivering meaningful aid and infrastructure throughout the country.

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