This outstanding contribution was made today by Andrew Wilkie MP, the newly elected Independent member for the federal seat of Denison, Tasmania, as part of the Australian Parliament’s belated debate on the War in Afghanistan.
PS: I fully support Mr Wilkie’s views on this matter. The Australian people need to hear his important message. May I suggest that you circulate this speech as widely as possible to ensure that this debate enters the public arena to better inform and encourage Australians to mobilize in support of bringing Australia’s troops home, ASAP.
Andrew Wilkie’s Speech to Afghanistan Debate – 20 Oct 2010
Thank you Mr Speaker.
Mr Speaker, I’m a Duntroon graduate and former Army Lieutenant Colonel. For a time I served as a senior intelligence analyst. I believe in just war and supported the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan on the grounds that al Qaida was involved in the 9/11 terror attacks, and so significantly intertwined with the Taliban that any effective US response warranted regime change in Kabul.
Unsurprisingly I’m a strong supporter of the Australian Defence Force, and have been as saddened as anyone that it’s my old battalion – the Sixth, based at Enoggera in Brisbane – which has lately borne the brunt of casualties in Afghanistan. I was a platoon commander, the adjutant and then a company commander in 6 RAR and understand well the difficulty of the job our soldiers are doing in our name.
On balance I’m also pro-US. The United States and Australia are natural allies on account of our common histories, cultures, values and strategic security interests. The US-Australia bilateral relationship is understandably one of Australia’s most important and I can understand Prime Minister John Howard’s decision to invoke the ANZUS alliance after 9/11. When the US is in strife it is right that we should come to its aid, as in fact we should try and help any country so long as doing so is within our means and consistent with our national interests.
But, despite all this, I’m a vocal critic of the war in Afghanistan and believe we must bring our combat troops home as soon as possible. And when I say as soon as possible, I envisage a withdrawal timeline carefully planned by military professionals, not politicians, which speedily hands military responsibility over to Afghan security forces in a matter of months.
Yesterday the Prime Minister was talking about us still waging war in Afghanistan in ten years time. That was an extraordinary admission of the difficulties we’ve gone and got ourselves into and entirely inconsistent with our national interest. If it was up to me, I’d be very concerned with any military plan that still had us fighting in Afghanistan in 10 months time, let alone 10 years.
Mr Speaker, in 2001 Afghanistan was a launching pad for Islamic extremism. But now the country is irrelevant in that regard because Islamic extremism has morphed into a global network not dependent on any one country. Yes, countries like Pakistan are incubators for terrorists. But so are countries like Australia, Indonesia, the United Kingdom and United States which now grow their own terrorists. And this is a much more worrying situation because it enlarges the threat and buries it deep within us where it’s even harder for the security services to detect.