Australia Supporting Warlordism in Afghanistan?

The Australian Defence Chief has defended the training of militiamen loyal to a notorious Afghan warlord of Uruzgan, on Australian soil. According to Australian media reports, about six men loyal to warlord Matiullah of Uruzgan have been flown to Australia for training with the elite Special Forces at the Cultana base in South Australia and at Holsworthy Barracks in outer Sydney. The report also says,

The Herald can also reveal that the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, discussed their relationship with the warlords at a meeting in Kabul on October 2. A leaked summary of their meeting reveals that Mr Karzai told Ms Gillard tribal leaders had praised Australia’s co-operation with ”warlordy types”.

Matiullah is a notorious warlord in Uruzgan. He runs a private militia with about one thousand fighters.  He pays a triple of what an Afghan policeman gets, salary to his militiamen. And all the money comes from his contracts with the US and NATO troops. Matiullah’s heavily armed men secure the roads for one day in a week–when military vehicles of the US and NATO forces move–in the provincial capital and towards Kandahar and Helmand.

Matiullah is infamous for murders in Uruzgan. He is a former Highway Police Chief, but has no official connection to the Government or Afghan Security Forces now. Training of his militiamen by the Australian Special Forces is a negative involvement of the Australian troops in Afghanistan, with future risks for this country.

After criticism in Australian media, Defence Chief Air Marshal Angus Houston has defended saying they should work within the ‘cultural norms’ of Afghanistan. What else can be more shameful and ridiculous than this? Cultural norms have been warlordism, and now they are saying to keep with it, in areas it works for them. He went further saying Australian forces in Uruzgan have an ‘enlightened’ view of the ‘tribal dynamics’ in Afghanistan.

Why the Australian Forces do not do the same thing with the Special Forces of the Afghan National Army? The  infamous notorious warlord is not associated to the Afghan Government or Defence Ministry in any official way, though he is an ally of President Karzai. But by training private militias, what the Australian Forces are doing is pursuit of short-term purposes, leaving the greater long-term risks for Afghanistan. They are promoting and supporting warlordism in Afghanistan. Even if the warlord is an ally of international troops and President Karzai, it does not mean they should be supported and their private militiamen trained with elite forces on the Australian soil. If they want to involve Afghans side by side with Australian troops in Uruzgan, a unit of Afghan commando or Special Forces from the National Army should be taken for training, not private militia of a notorious warlord alleged for murders.

Millions of dollars have been spent for programs of disarmament such as DDR and DIAG. Such trends will promote warlordism and embolden the silent-warlords who have apparently joined the political process, but their influence is still deep in their respective areas. And particularly when they see that their rival warlords are getting their men trained in western countries, they will keep the prevailing mindset of influence and private militias.

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