Sunday, 4 September 2011

A Lost War

Nicky Hager’s [pictured] new book, “Other People’s War” has just hit the stands Gordon Campbell on Scoop wrote the following: “It was most ironic that after less than a week in office our new Governor General Jerry Mateparae is now in the hot seat and will no doubt be asked to answer some difficult questions. Here is one from me, ‘Who were the British civilians that our SAS were attempting to rescue? Were they mercenaries or security persons hired by British or American private security companies… who are making millions of dollars each month by profiting from death and destruction? So far our main stream media is silent and it certainly lacks the investigative skills of Nicky Hager to give us answers. Maybe some one should ask our new military GG that question.
If there are fantasies involved here, they are not on Hager’s side of the equation. The real and willful fantasy is that the defence bureaucracy always passively enacts the defence policies of the government of the day... Every New Zealander should read this book. It shows us the workings in current Third World hot spots of the pattern of subservience to Canberra and Washington that the current government is busily resurrecting”…

John Key and Afghanistan:
BY 2009, with Bush gone and Obama as president, it was suddenly all right to voice an uncomfortable idea that until then had lingered only on the fringes: US politicians and military figures began to ask if the United States was losing the war. Many western commentators also simultaneously noticed that the Karzai government was deeply corrupt.
It was at this inauspicious moment that the new National government conducted a review of its future Afghanistan policies. But the government refused to release this advice under the Official Information Act, claiming that would threaten New Zealand’s “security, defence or international relations”.
These are the words they deleted: “The situation in Afghanistan is fragile, probably more so than any time since 2001. Security has been steadily deteriorating. There are almost daily bombings, kidnappings and assassinations in Kabul and, in some provinces such as Wardak (which neighbours Bamiyan), the Taliban openly patrol the streets. Opinion varies as to the prevalence of the Taliban presence and the feasibility of its defeat by foreign forces.” The war had reached the capital.
Two months later, in August 2009, the National government agreed to a US request to send the SAS back to Afghanistan. The 70-person contingent flew to Afghanistan the following month. Guess where it was going.
The government refused to say, but only a few weeks later the news got out: the New Zealanders were in Kabul. The location had been published in a newspaper in Norway, quoting a Norwegian military chief whose Kabul-based special forces had been replaced by the SAS. They were in a very different role from the earlier deployments, helping to train a fledgling Afghan government anti-terrorist unit called the Crisis Response Unit. Prime Minister John Key had assured journalists that the SAS would not be fighting with any Afghan forces they were training because that was “particularly dangerous”.
Three months later, it emerged that the SAS was not just training and mentoring the Afghan unit, but accompanying it on dangerous missions. SAS soldiers, including Willie Apiata, were photographed in January 2010 leaving a bloody battle in downtown Kabul. John Key promised greater openness over future SAS operations. He said they would work “alongside” the Crisis Response Unit and CDF Lieutenant-General Jerry Mateparae gave a new assurance: “In essence, there must be an Afghan face to activities, which means Afghanistan security force participation in all NZSAS operations.”
ON Christmas Eve, 2010, an SAS team raided a building in Kabul that intelligence said contained two car bombs destined for an attack on the US embassy. The intelligence was wrong. The location they raided was a company called Tiger International that hired vehicles to the US-led forces. The SAS soldiers, believing they had been shot at, killed two local security guards with shots to the head and just missed another. The SAS had led the raid and, according to witnesses, they stormed the building on their own. Only later did Afghan National Security Directorate staff arrive. It was about an hour before the SAS soldiers were informed of their mistake. Neither the New Zealand military nor the US forces have offered any compensation or support to the families of the people killed or for the wounded.
It turned out that the National government had provided the SAS for one of the bloodiest and most dangerous military roles in Afghanistan: frontline operations against suicide bombers and other attackers in the deepening insurgency. Some SAS soldiers were not at all happy about being used in the new roles.
John Key was using them, essentially, as a signal of its pro-American loyalties: the more dangerous the role, as other countries began withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, the more appreciation it could expect from the US. But the soldiers risked paying the price. In February 2011, Key extended their deployment for another 12 months and in August 2011, the first Afghanistan-deployed SAS member, Corporal Doug Grant, died during a battle with insurgents in Kabul.

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