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]