Monday, August 20, 2012

ANZACs and Afghans

Five dead in a month. A new bloody record. Russell Brown's Media3 has a timely report from NZ's only reporter in Afghanistan, Jon "Eyes Wide Shut" Stephenson. In the extended interview, Stephenson reports that the situation is deteriorating, even in Bamiyan Province. The only sane way to travel in and out of Kabul is by air, as the roads in all directions are too dangerous.

John Key appears to have offended the Hungarian ambassador to Kabul, who called Key's comments on the Hungarian PRT forces malicious and that he didn't seem well-briefed on the matter. Stephenson gives the example that the Hungarian PRT didn't have the job description of Search and Destroy agents, bounty hunters, or whatever elite vigilante protagonists John Key imagined them to be. Not a good look for the Minister responsible for the SIS.

The Economist reports that the Afghan locals have given up all hope of the coalition forces or state police protecting them, and are forming militias. By the sounds of Stephenson, these militias aren't afraid to take on the enemy, be they Taleban or Kiwi. Unless the NZ PRT hunkers down at their base and waits for withdrawal, there will be more dead soldiers.

The only (bittersweet) hope is that China's need for a land route through Afghanistan and Pakistan, linking China through Tibet, provides the infrastructure, security, trust, stability and jobs for the Afghans that the US occupation never did. China's development work in Africa is much more widely respected and encouraged there than anything the former European colonists or the US ever did for them.

The worst case scenarios don't bear thinking about. Only one thing is certain. There is nothing more NZ can do there.