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Goff calls for SAS to come home

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, March 3rd, 2010 - 47 comments
Categories: afghanistan, war - Tags:

As the SAS get into their first gunfight and criticism emerges that their LAVs aren’t armoured enough to resist IEDs, John Key shrugs his shoulders and says there may be casualties. Phil Goff, on the other hand, is calling on the PM to do something before it’s too late and bring the SAS home.

Yeah, Labour deployed the SAS three times to Afghanistan. I didn’t support that decision at the time but anyone can see that a lot has changed between then and now. When Labour deployed the SAS the Taliban was all but vanquished and there was real hope for building a stable, democratic government. I never believed it would happen but if you did think it was possible then sending our SAS to help protect that fledgling democracy made sense.

But what are our SAS doing over there now? Whose interests are they fighting to protect? Hamid Karzai has proven to be completely corrupt and repressive. His government is losing security even in once relatively safe Kabul and its authority is only propped up by a loose and shifting alliance of warlords and drug dealers, all protected by foreign soldiers. On the other side is another loose alliance of warlords, grouped around the name Taliban. There’s little fundamental difference between the two.

The SAS aren’t protecting a legitimate government anymore – Karzai cheated his way back into power. Instead, they’re fighting for one side that is pretty much as bad as the other, fuelling a civil war. It is not worth risking casualties for that. That’s why Labour stopped deploying the SAS.

What we should be doing is peacebuilding, like the Provisional Reconstruction Team in Bamyan. The dumb thing is that National is going to pull out the PRT that has been so enormously successful and keep the SAS in. That doesn’t stem from any sensible thinking. It comes from the Right’s Boy’s Own worldview that glamorises war and violence by authority.

[btw. On the topic of the LAVs, I could never understand why we bought so many but they were a good choice of vehicle at the time before IEDs became the main threat in warzones our military faces. The US operates them calling them Strykers. The Stryker is one of only a handful of non-US made pieces of equipment the Yanks use and they’ve performed well in Iraq]

47 comments on “Goff calls for SAS to come home”

  1. war on you and me 1

    the Afghan war is not about stability in the region, finding the Taliban or helping bring Democracy to the Middle East. It is about a right flank manouveur to balance the left flank of Iraq. It is about securing Oil transport. It is about keeping an eye on Russia and China. Mostly though it is about securing billions of dollars of opium production for Pharmacutical companies and the ever growing drug trade.

    since America went in to save the world from the Taliban the poppy production has increased at an alarming rate and is now higher than at any time in recent history.

    The war is illegal and our soldiers should not be there

  2. Neil 2

    I think Key’s paying more attention to Obama than Goff. And Obama’s not realy in keen on abandoning Afghanistan to the Taliban.

  3. open your eyes 3

    the u.s built up the taliban, they gave them their weapons, they trained them, they have supported them for over fourty years. do you really believe a bunch of guys in caves are able to resist a billion dollar a day military occupation. wake up people, and smell the oil pipelines.

    our government is in bed with these occupiers and the real lovin is yet to come

    • prism 3.1

      oye – As you say the Afghanis have been fighting invaders successfully for many years and with the help of the USA kept Russia out. Its strange to hear how USA have to train fighters now, as if Afghanis didn’t know anything.

      When we were in the province helping build and keep the peace we did something positive – now its a save face offense by the USA and its great for them to be able to spread the casualties to other troops. With luck they might be able to withdraw and leave the rest of the world fighting on as ‘the cause’ turns gangrenous and stinks.

      But running down Afghani leader Hamid Karzai or any other is a waste of time, as the leader and the country have to creak on day after day the best way it can including corruption. No leader could contain the forces against good government.
      The Afghanistan mess follows too closely the Iraqi debacle and the way that advisors’ opinions were ignored by political manipulators. Quote from yahoo news – “Campbell, Downing Street’s former director of communications and strategy, resigned in August 2003, the month after Ministry of Defence weapons expert Dr. David Kelly was found dead near his home with slashed wrists.

  4. Lew 4

    Marty, if you think this is the first firefight the SAS have gotten into in Afghanistan, you might need to rethink how much you know about the conflict and the media stance of the government until a few weeks ago.

    Anyway, the argument doesn’t hold water: continued involvement was a better decision when it looked comparatively easy and straightforward, but it’s a worse decision now that it looks more difficult and complicated? NZ has a duty of care to Afghanistan; as the US and other members of the coalition do to Iraq. By their initial involvement they contributed to the mess as it is now (as opposed to the mess it was then) and they now have a responsibility to see things through to some sort of a conclusion.

    This doesn’t mean he has to be happy about it, but it means he ought to sustain the commitment he initiate. A flip-flop like this makes Goff vulnerable on defence issues, which ought to be one of his strongest suits. Also, from his prior positioning on these topics, it doesn’t ring true to me — looks like he’s been handled and is taking popular positions rather than principled positions. Like his switch on the foreshore and seabed; he runs the risk of being seen as an adapter rather than a leader.

    L

    • Bright Red 4.1

      There are right wars and wrong wars.

      Fighting to protect a nascent democracy is one thing. Fighting to prop up a corrupt regime is another.

      Yes, we have a duty to the Afghani people but that duty is best carried out with the PRT.

      • Neil 4.1.1

        our ability to carry out the PRT relatively free from attacks by the Taliban is due the fact that the troops of other countries, our allies, are risking their lives fighting the Taliban. I doubt we would be very popular if we cherry-picked safe missions.

      • You are right Bright Red , Most wars can and should be avoided . The only war in modern history that was justified was the Spanish Civil War.
        If the Fascists had been defeated then the educated opinion is that there would have been no WW2.However the political Right in NZ and the UK backed Franco.As a matter of fact even the future king of England supported Mussolini and Franco.
        The republican returned heros were blacklisted here and the UK . Many remained unemployed until the start of the second world war.when once again they had to fight Fascism . Afghanistan is another war we should not be involved in .Bring our force home now.

    • Neil 4.2

      Goff’s position is really weird. He never addresses any of Obama’s points in support of continuing involvement.

  5. tc 5

    I’m not getting into the should/shouldn’ts but raising another issue being the loose and unecessary statements Johnny Clown makes about our troops/where they are/what they’re doing.

    This raises the risk of specific targetting by the taliban to weaken our resolve/remove us and reduce their opposition……it’s not like they don’t read/follow the world media.

    Yet another case of opportunistic/PR motives trampling common sense and the basic premise of ‘need to know’…..guess he’s relaxed about it….wonder how many SAS voted for their brighter future under their supremely comfortable commander.

  6. Lew 6

    Yes, BR, and there is legitimate discussion as to which Afghanistan is. I side with it being legitimate, but I have some sympathy for some of those who don’t. However, I have no sympathy for those who thought it was legitimate when they were in charge of committing troops, but now that the other lot is doing so they want to claim it’s illegitimate. It looks like political point-scoring. If it’s not, let’s hear a full and robustly-justified defence of the U-turn from Goff, rather than waffly populist soundbites. We both know he’s got the depth of understanding needed to justify such a move, if the reasons he made it are sound.

    The regime’s corruptness is in no small part the responsibility of the ISAF involvement — it’s an omelette/eggs situation. The only thing which is sure to make corruption more entrenched is to leave it to the warlords. That’s what pulling out troops would mean — not ours alone, of course, but if we pull ours, what keeps Turkey there, or Portugal, or Sweden?

    L

    • Captain Rehab 6.1

      He has made the argument at length. I heard it on a long-format piece on RNZ but no other media will cover in-depth argument. That’s why you haven’t heard about it Lew. Rather than blaming Goff for your ignorance you should blame the media for not telling you or your own laziness for not seeking out the rare cases where he has been quoted at length. Goff’s soundbite will satisfy 99% of the population. If it doesn’t satisfy you you should seek out a more thorough answer yourself rather than crying to be spoon fed like a little baby.

      • Lew 6.1.1

        I’ve searched the Radio NZ site for the past year, and found a four-minute report defending the proposal from August last year — before the elections which demonstrated how corrupt the Karzai government was and is, and before the substantial escalation of hostilities which has been observed recently. If things changed so much in the last few years of his government, how haven’t they changed sufficiently to require a restatement now?

        I’m open to the argument of focusing on the PRT rather than involving the SAS — but the argument needs to be made, and at present it’s not being.

        L

        • Daveo 6.1.1.1

          Goff made an extensive argument about it in a feature piece in the Dom Post at the time National decided to deploy the SAS. He made the argument in other media too. You’re simply wrong about this Lew.

  7. ghostwhowalksnz 7

    Remember how it was ‘only’ a training mission- In Kabul- so there wasnt any problems with civilians or road side bombs.

    Foolish Key has to admit its not like what he was lead to believe- hello they never are- yet some say we have to stay to look tough ?

    Weaken our resolve ?.
    Thats the whole idea of the Taliban/Mujahadeen as they cant win by overwhelming force.
    Since its their country their only aim is to get the west to leave.
    Which will happen so the sooner the better

  8. Bill 8

    Oil.

    Oh, and Lew, how’s a duty to Afghanistan performed by supporting one set of warlords over another, by terrorising the populace and bombing their weddings and other festivities, by trundling troops and vehicles up and down their streets and through their houses and villages, by arresting, detaining and torturing young men or civilian survivors of these firefights that John Boy finds so panty wetting?

    No fan of Goff, but 9 or 10 years late is better than never.

    And did I mention oil?

    Which oil extraction companies and pipeline construction companies are the SAS fighting for again? And why? Will it secure affordable oil for me and you? The answer is no. Will the US backed corporate adventurism in Afghanistan be a success? Probably not. Smart money is on China and/or Russia.

    Will it take a US military invasion of oil rich nations in S. America after their failed effort to tie up the middle east to get your head out of those grossly misleading orthodox textbooks that shrill how we are all benevolently in this together and only ever guilty of innocent mistakes in our quest to share our higher purpose with the worlds’ ingrates?

    And did I mention oil?

    • Lew 8.1

      When it’s warlords or warlords, Bill, I’ll pick the ones which are in the full glare of the world view, and whose actions are governed by civilian commanders accountable to civilian populations.

      Oil is a red herring. It’s a factor, but it’s not the factor.

      L

      • Bill 8.1.1

        Democracy is the red herring Lew…dehydrated, dead possibly smoked.

        And the Taliban was, as far as the people of Afghanistan were concerned, preferable to the Northern Alliance that preceded them. Check out the RAWA archive.

        But you believe the Bin Laden crap, don’t you? You believe the Taliban harboured him and encouraged him, don’t you? Which means that the Taliban are somehow responsible for terrorist activities in the US or wherever, right? Which justifies pulverising a country that had already been bombed back to the stone age into dust, right?

        You really need to do some reading on what the actual situation was in Afghanistan with regards the relationships between the US and the Taliban, what their discussions were about and what the relationship between the Taliban and Bin Laden was and the sanctions placed on him by them and why. Seriously.

        • Lew 8.1.1.1

          Ah, Bill. The situation in Afghanistan is one of the few foreign affairs topics I do actually know a bit about. Let’s just say that, for now, we’re going to have to disagree. I’ll keep my faith in the horrible charade of democracy, and you can keep your wacky shadow-puppet conspiracy theories. Cool?

          L

          • Bill 8.1.1.1.1

            No Lew, not ‘cool’.

            Just another instance of you laying claim to some superior but unstated perspective while throwing unsubstantiated demeaning shit by way of a parting shot as you disappear back up your own arse.

            Such a talent.

            • Lew 8.1.1.1.1.1

              Aww, piss off, Bill. I’ve got work to do and I’m not spoiling for the intractable quagmire which is arguing Afghanistan with people who simply don’t believe there’s a difference between flawed democracy and theocratic warlord dictatorship.

              L

              • Bill

                Gee.

                “..flawed democracy and theocratic warlord dictatorship.” ?

                And here was me thinking the comments were about whether all this shit is about controlling resources (gas and oil) on the one hand or whether it was about ‘a duty of care’ and , presumably as an unavoidable adjunct, ‘gifting’ them a version of ‘our’ (read ‘corporate’) preferred system of governance on the other.

              • SPC

                Some need to move onto post Cold War thinking. Both by those in Washington and their critics.

  9. tc 9

    Why does goff have to take a position on anything ?

    The last leader of the opposition never did aside from a cheesy grin and going ‘…yeah what he said….’ why can’t he be aloof and non-commitall….worked for the last guy.

  10. bought and paid for 10

    the way you talk about the influence of politics is hilarious, the only real influence comes from a truly corrupt regime of warlords that we shall umbrella title as AmeriCorp. Afghanstan and Iraq have a very real purpose. It is not the Democracy for Everyone purpose. It is not some Humanitarians’R US purpose and it is decidely not political.

    Every single day these wars contribute billions of dollars of income to private companies. These monies are taken from taxpayers all over the world and the only thing [AmeriCorp] want to see happen is more of the same

    these billions are not from sales of stereos and new cars. These are from bombs and bullets and the accountancy is proven with corpses. Regardless of whether you, or I, believe our country should be there, we should have left the bullets at home.

  11. Scott 11

    I support Goff on most things, but Goff’s position on this issue is disappointing. I’ve heard the arguments why we shouldn’t be in Afghanistan, and they don’t stack up. The fact of the matter is the West helped create the mess in Afghanistan, so we owe it to the people there to fix it.

    Walking away from the country will only leave power in the hands of the Taliban. However corrupt members of the current Afghani government are, they are positively angelic compared to some of the worst elements of the Taliban.

    We also have international commitments to keep, and we have to do our share if we want to be taken seriously by other countries.

    • Draco T Bastard 11.1

      The problem is that we can’t actually do anything. The people of Afghanistan need to agree on the governance of their country and, ATM, they don’t have that agreement and they’re not likely to get it as the warlords control everything.

      • The Baron 11.1.1

        Yes, we can – we can try and keep those warlords in check while the people of Afghanistan make those decisions – i.e. exactly what we are doing.

        To leave them to it is to invite those same warlords to answer those questions in a violent manner. That would be a far worse outcome for the people of Afghanistan.

        I’m happy to have our professional soldiers working to protect that – its the least bad outcome, and is what we have these guys for.

        • Draco T Bastard 11.1.1.1

          That’s a nice idea but we’re talking inter-generational change. It’ll take decades until their society is stable enough that we could leave without the present warlords just turning round and taking control again and we just don’t have that long.

          • Neil 11.1.1.1.1

            the Obama plan is to strengthen civil govt so that a troop draw-down can happen within the next few years. we can probably hang around for that long. And the Afghanis don’t get a choice about hanging around.

            that might all be deluded wishful thinking, but judging by how he’s handling Iraq I think there’s good grounds to believe he knows what he’s talking about and that he’s acting in good faith.

            Now if Goff has a problem with that then he’s had plenty of opportunity to say “I disagree with Obama because…”. But he hasn’t. He’s either stupid or a cynical opportunist. Given how he’s acted towards Maori, I’d go for the latter.

  12. poor lew 12

    i really worry when intelligent sounding people say stuff like

    “I’ll pick the ones which are in the full glare of the world view, and whose actions are governed by civilian commanders accountable to civilian populations.”

    who the hell is he talking about. not America i tell you that for free
    they invade two countries on illegal terms and torture and bomb and corrupt and lie and steal and so on and so on

    how naive can a citizen be? how low is a shadow in a coal pit?

    [Ed: Please stick to one handle when commenting.]

    • Lew 12.1

      I worry when people see the shadow and jump, because it looks like a scary conspiracy monster.

      L

      • poor lew 12.1.1

        please try to inform yourself with resources other than the daily papers and Television

  13. BLiP 13

    For purely pragmatic reasons, it might be better if we just leave our soldiers over there, provided they volunteer. I’m as unhappy as the nest person about Kiwis spilling blood in a needless corporate war, but it might just have to be the price we pay to keep the US from meddling even more in our domestic politics.

  14. SPC 14

    Our position is irrelevant to what has happened, what is happening and what will happen in Afghanistan. So righteous positioning is only for selfish reasons – and so is ascribing motives for others (those others involved are so and so and why should we be associated with them).

    So the real issue for us is, whether we want to take an independent position on this issue, or be part of a collective contribution.

    Our tradition is multi-lateralism, so it’s no surprise we are involved already and the PRT contribution is foreign aid to a country which needs it and thus is rightly uncontroversial.

    The SAS work in developing a local capability to combat terrorism (killing civilians etc is not liberation fighting) is part of developing a nations ability for self-defence. It is both a part of a fight with those who resort to terrorism and also to allow an earlier departure by foreign forces.

    It also supports a policy of a show of committment by foreign forces and negotiation with Taleban, which is the only constructive option available.

    But it’s no surprise that Labour is adopting the less “involvement of fighting forces” option, and given Giff has personal experience with loss of life in such fighting it’s no surprise. However it can be argued that Labour is differentiating itself from the government more for political reasons than because they see the current course as being wrong.

    Of course when National does bring the SAS home, after having completed the training role and a participation in a collective work and Labour becomes the next government they will be able to draw on that (even while opposing any further role by the SAS at the moment). And let’s note NATO is involved, not just the Americans.

  15. Darel 15

    On the LAV question:

    The AG’s report is here: http://www.oag.govt.nz/2001/lav-lov/docs/lav-lov.pdf

    Cab approval for $ to construct a capability was granted in May 1999, but not the number of vehicles (para 2.12)

    MoD sought a tender for 2 battalions without authority. Cabinet had rejected the two batt idea (para 3.46)

    Cab approves 105 LAVIII (para 3.60) for 2 batts.

    I think the army obfuscated until they got what they wanted

    The AG comments include a section entitled :
    Pursuit of the project diverged considerably from Cabinet approvals in a number of respects

  16. BLiP 16

    There’s the LAV’s – and then there’s the helicopters.

    • The Baron 16.1

      Not often you and I agree, BLiP, but it certainly appears that our military has a pretty shocking record when it comes to military procurement – and you can add the Upham and the Canterbury to this list too of course.

      It appears we tend to buy over-priced, over-specced kit that matches well with allies that don’t play with us; and that are pretty damn useless for the scenarios that our troops need them for (i.e. the primary peacekeeping missions). And my, the numbers are astronomical too.

      Who is responsible for these recommendations?

      • Rascally_Rabbit 16.1.1

        I can’t fathom it either – for instance with the 757’s why not lease a passenger jet? (I understand this may present complications for military use but I am sure it wouldn’t be out of the realms of possibility) and purchase a heavier military lift aircraft? (C17’s may be too expensive but there are alternatives…C130J’s or the under-development A400m and KC-390)

        Now that the 757’s have purchased why not make as many small adjustments for improved capability as possible (on top of the ones already made) such as blended winglets? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_757#Winglet_upgrades – reminiscent of not fitting IED protection to LAV’s maybe?!

        Similar winglet upgrades on AirNZ’s 767’s have worked remarkably well http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC0910/S00034.htm

        Taken at face-value defence procurements seem about finding the best option at the time and then proceeding to cock it up over the coming months and years of endless reviews….

    • Draco T Bastard 16.2

      So, a report that’s just been released makes a decision based on best previous information bad?

      • The Baron 16.2.1

        Our processes “based on best previous information” seem to unwind in this manner quite regularly, Draco. Hence my listing of similar errors.

        I wonder about your comprehension sometimes – though I appreciate that for once you didn’t launch into some bizarre, misinformed rant about your favourite aspect of anarcho-communism.

        • Draco T Bastard 16.2.1.1

          I suspect that’s the nature of military spending and not the total incompetence that you seem to imply. The US uses the LAVs as well – Are they incompetent? Did they have to do the IED modifications as well? Did they have the budget to do it immediately or was it put off for a bit like the HMMWV?

          You make decisions on what you know now projected into the future. Some things just can’t be foreseen and some things, even if they are foreseen, aren’t economically viable to do.

          As for the price, well, there’s not that much demand for military stuff so the price is going to be higher.

  17. poor lew 17

    the same people year after year after year after year, they are called The Armed Forces and should never be trusted to recommend a ham sandwich without independant scutiny. Many agencies in this world slaver for new gear but none do it quite so strongly, or as badly as the military

  18. Bill 18

    Just watched that TVNZ link.

    What a disgusting piece of pro war prop!

  19. Of course we should get out of Afghanistan there is no chance of winning this war .Why should we be invoved.? its time we cut our so called defence bill .For over a hundred years we have been fighting other peoples wars.We have done more than our fair share in wars .Every town in Aotearoa has a memorial to its “Glorious Dead” Its time to call time.
    Spend the savings on a Peace Force used for civil defence and disaster aid and overseas aid. After all the fact remains that if any country decided to invade us we would have no chance because of our small population . So let’s do what we do best give aid when its needed

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