Once again New Zealand mourns the loss of more troops in Afghanistan. This sad event has reignited the debate about New Zealand’s involvement in this war-torn country. We need to look at the reasons why we are there.
Some say that we are needed to help re-build this country; helping to provide much needed infrastructure, hence the deployment of personnel best suited for this task. There is no doubt that our men and women have made a difference in the area they are deployed.
However, this must be seen against the backdrop of the overall situation in Afghanistan. There is an increasingly pessimistic view that this ‘war’ unwinnable. History lends weight to this argument as one looks back over the history of involvement from the British, French, Russians and now the US led alliance. No one has ever succeeded in ‘taming’ this mixture of tribal grouping and religious sectors. For Russia it became their Vietnam and the USA did not learn from that war either; choosing to lead a group of nations in a hopeless task.
New Zealand’s entry was led by Helen Clarke Government and the cynical amongst us would say that this was primarily to ‘suck-up’ to the Americans. Of course lofty ideals were trotted out to justify our involvement, but those are now wearing thin as the death toll mounts for our troops.
Afghanistan has suffered from the incursion of Western Alliance troops. The civilians are dying in ever increasing numbers and no amount of technology is making headway against an almost invisible Taliban. The military decision makers from all countries are uncomfortable with pulling their troops out, without achieving victory, but they seem to be at a loss to stop the infiltrations of the Taliban. There is a new phenomenon whereby, local Afghanis are hitting back at the troops and this is almost impossible to stop.
One has to ask--- do the locals actually want us there? I think they do but that is underlined by their war-weariness and an almost unspoken belief that the Talban are unbeatable, no matter how much military hardware employed to root them out. That women and girls would suffer from their return is not in doubt, but at what point will the West’ decide that the cost is too high? For New Zealand, I believe that time has arrived.
We should concentrate in the area re reside; the pacific and parts of Asia--- those natio0ns we are closest to. Entering a war because it suits our trade relations is becoming a complex driving force as we become closer to a wider group of trading partners. Entering a war because we are pressured to do so is abhorrent in the least. It is time to re-evaluate the role we play on the world stage as a whole.