16 Jan. 2008

Aussie Military In Damage Control After Kabul Blast

The Australian embassy in Kabul is being moved to a secure, isolated compound. Unless you just read this story in TIME, you probably heard it here first. The Australian media, like the military and the government, doesn't want to talk about it.

Has anyone else noticed the desperate post-bombing media campaign? The smoke had barely cleared from the blood-soaked rubble of the Serena hotel in Kabul (where Australia's embassy resided) and already the Aussie media was being blitzed with stories of a brave digger, Michael Lyddiard, who "lost an eye, half an arm, and his hearing when a roadside bomb exploded in his face during a tour of duty in Afghanistan last year".

That's right: last year. But suddenly this was front-page stuff, distracting the nation's military-loving readers from any disturbing analysis of what the hell is going on in Afghanistan these days.

So why was Lyddiard suddenly in the news? Because someone ordered him to go and stand in front of the cameras. And now we have co-opted support from a desperate USA, with General Petraeus making a quick trip down south to praise Aussie diggers in Iraq and hand out medallions. We are about the only nation on earth stupid enough to still be supporting these insane US wars, and they don't want us quitting Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

What's actually happening in Afghanistan today is that the resurgent Taliban have started targeting foreigners on the streets of Kabul, signaling a battle for the capital city. After pleading in vain for NATO to boost it's forces, the USA is now sending in 3,200 more of its own cannon fodder troops. A pissed-off US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has criticized NATO soldiers as not being up to the job:
"At this time, many allies are unwilling to share the risks, commit the resources, and follow through on collective commitments to this mission and to each other. As a result, we risk allowing what has been achieved in Afghanistan to slip away," he said.
Sounds like everything is going just fine, doesn't it? So what actually has been achieved in Afghanistan, anyway? Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm....

UPDATE: The TIME article states:
As U.N. security officials and NGOs review safety regulations, the responsible response of many foreigners may be that the very venues that give Kabul its soul are off limits. Their freedom to roam the streets of Kabul, meet friends — both Afghan and foreign — at a restaurant or cafe, is likely to end. Already, the Australian embassy, which had been based at the Serena, has decided to move to a secure, isolated compound. This doesn't just limit fun for the foreigners; it walls off the understanding and communication that comes with spontaneous interaction. More barricades may bring the Westerners safety, but it also brings us one step closer to Baghdad.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has confirmed the move, but has not said whether it will be permanent.
"They (the staff) are currently in a secure location ... doing their jobs at a high and professional level in those most dangerous and difficult of circumstances."
Given that the Taleban have just declared a new tactic targeting restaurants and other conspicuous Western hangouts, one assumes this will be a permanent move. So much for the "oasis of calm" that was the Serena hotel.