Red Alert

Posts Tagged ‘afghanistan’

Nicky Hager: Uncomfortable truths, NZ foreign policy in the ‘war on terror’

Posted by on May 4th, 2013

Author and investigative journalist Nicky Hager delivered this year’s Capt Jack Lyon Memorial Lecture. He draws on his book Other People’s Wars, telling the story of New Zealand’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan over the decade of the ‘war on terror’.  As I say in my introduction, I think it is a cautionary tale for any future Labour-led government with a progressive, independent foreign policy. I am proud of the determination shown by Helen Clark and the Fifth Labour Government to keep New Zealand out of the invasion of Iraq. Nicky marshals some persuasive evidence that the military and intelligence establishment saw the ‘war on terror’ as an opportunity to work their way back into close operational engagement with our former ANZUS allies and worked assiduously to make this happen, in a way that at times undermined the Government’s foreign policy position.

Here’s Nicky Hager delivering the fifth Capt Jack Lyon Memorial Lecture.

On behalf of the North Shore committee of the Labour Party thanks to Nicky for adding to the Jack Lyon tradition; and thanks also to all the volunteers who made this year’s event a success: Frances; Michelle, Heather and the kitchen team; Syd for the PA, Kane for recording the speech; as well as Mark, and Danielle at Paradigm for the programme.

Final 5 Interpreters Make Desperate Plea

Posted by on January 16th, 2013

Last night several MPs received a letter from a group claiming to be the last five Afghan interpreters who worked with the NZDF and wish to leave Afghanistan but have not been offered any package by the Government.

If there are indeed only five more families that wish to be relocated the Government should act swiftly to grant them asylum. There is no logical justification for denying these former interpreters when all others have had a satisfactory outcome. Their situation is no different to the others.

Here’s what they had to say:

To: Honorable NZ Prime minister, Cabinet and Parliament Members
From: Five former NZDF Interpreters

Warm Greetings!

First of all, we would like to thank on our behalf the Government of the Right Honorable John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand, for the resettlement offer to the interpreters (our brothers and countrymen). The decision will surely save many lives as all interpreters fear retribution from the Taliban.

Secondly, please kindly consider this letter as an application for the extension of the asylum offer to the five former NZDF interpreters who served the New Zealand Defense Force alongside the Kiwi soldiers in Bamyan Province for several years in the early days of their deployments in Afghanistan, as interpreters/translators and cultural advisers. During our assignments with NZDF soldiers, we accompanied them on numerous patrols all over the province and even outside of the province, as well as on countless meetings with key government officials, warlords/Taliban, Mullahs, village elders and other locals. As most of these meetings were held in public or in contentious areas of the province, it has exposed us as a person working for the coalition forces. We have also appeared in the Media as allies of NZDF. By the end of our time with NZDF, we were very well-known amongst the Taliban, warlords, locals and security forces for having a strong working background with NZPRT. This fame has already put our lives in danger and might end our and our families’ lives once the ISAF/NATO forces leave Afghanistan and the insurgents/ Taliban start re-gaining power.

It was our hope that peace would prevail in Afghanistan, but unfortunately security across the country has deteriorated. The insurgents are on the offensive across most parts of the country gaining control and eliminating those of us who had connections with coalition forces especially interpreters. We have become prisoners of our country and are unable to make a living freely out of fear of the murderous Taliban. As many of us went into hiding due to direct and indirect threats received from Taliban, insurgents, local warlords and corrupt government authorities threatening to kill either us or our family members. These threats were the reason for most of the NZPRT interpreters to quit their jobs or to flee to another country in order to find a safe shelter to save their lives. We, five former interpreters were/are unable to make our way to a safer place and have been seeking assistance from NZ government to resettle us and our families in New Zealand.

Based on the latest announcement from NZ Government, the initial resettlement offer (released on October 2012) was extended to six former NZDF interpreters, but only two out of six are currently living in Afghanistan and have accepted to resettle in New Zealand, the rest (four ex- interpreters) have already resettled in abroad.

Thus, we five former interpreters who are excluded from the resettlement package, humbly requesting NZ Government to consider our cases and include us in the current resettlement offer. We, five former interpreters have full records of our services with NZDF/PRT in Bamyan and have resigned our assignments prior to December 2010.

It is worth mentioning that we are thankful from Immigration Minister, Nathan Guy who stated that we can request the grant of residence under section 72 of the Immigration Act 2009, if we apply through United Nations our cases will be considered sympathetically. We would have applied through UNHCR if, it was even a bit possible for us. According to the UNHCR asylum policies one has to move to another country as a refugee to apply for the third country. If we do so, then our families will starve to death, as most of us are the sole worker at home.

As we all know, once the coalition forces leave, the security will further deteriorate.

As soon as the insurgents regain power or get strong enough would start hunting us down. We are sure they would not let us go just because we are former interpreters and no longer work with coalition forces. We will be dealt equally with current ones.

We are extremely proud of our achievements and affiliation with the New Zealand Defense Force. We hold the women and men of the NZDF in high regard for their bravery, hard work and dedication to the people of Afghanistan.

Your kind consideration for a safe and prosperous future in New Zealand is most timely for us, our families as we live in fear in Afghanistan for what the future holds. Therefore, we are humbly requesting the Government of New Zealand to extend the current asylum offer to us (the only five remained interpreters) as well, as we have been loyal and dedicated employees of NZPRT over the past years.

We are looking forward to hearing a positive response from Honorable New Zealand Government authorities in this regard.

Former Interpreters of NZPRT

If there is any good reason these or any other interpreters are being denied, the Government should make that clear. If not, their continued discrimination is unjustified.


Tongan Soldiers off to Afghanistan…

Posted by on July 28th, 2010

The link below explains the situation and at this stage I’m not going to start ranting on about what I think – but I am geninuely worried when I see things like this.

In summary – Tongan soldiers will be supporting the British in Afghanistan.  55 will begin service in November and 220 more will follow.  They will be getting paid 30 pounds a day for putting their lives at risk…

A week is a long time in politics

Posted by on May 5th, 2010

Last week John Key was saying that the SAS would be coming home from Afghanistan at the end of March.

“I made it clear actually that the SAS are coming back at the end of March, that they need to re-group,” says Mr Key.

But a trip to Kabul and a conversation with a five four star General later, and the policy is changing. Changing so fast that neither his Foreign Minister nor his Defence Minister know anything about it.

Its easy to see why Gen McCrystal would want the SAS to stay on. He needs all the friends he can get, and especially ones as good at their jobs as the SAS. But surely this is not how New Zealand should be making a decision about sending New Zealanders into a war?

Good on John Key for going to Afghanistan to visit the Kiwis who are up there. As with Helen Clark going there, these visits are an important sign that politicians have the courage of their convictions. But making decisions about re-commitment is serious stuff. It should not be done on the hoof. It all feels a bit like someone who goes on holiday to Brisbane and decides to move there on the basis of having had a good time. Only to discover that the daily grind of living is not quite the same as being on holiday.

New Zealanders and our troops deserve better than John Key simply agreeing with the last person he talked to.

McCully all over the shop on Afghanistan

Posted by on February 1st, 2010

Hard to follow where Murray McCully is at in terms of the proposal that emerged from the London conference to pay some moderate Taleban to lay down their arms.  The Herald reports McCully as saying ” We won’t pay Taleban to give up arms” In the article McCully says they would support reintegrating Taleban fighters into society

But anything that involves significant amounts of money being used for reintegration needs to be looked at very carefully to make sure there are no funds travelling to people we would not wish to be supported.

However the Press quotes McCully talking about the fund

“It makes sense to try to provide an alternative for low-level Taleban operators who have not been involved in any serious deeds and who are not fanatically committed to creating disorder,” McCully said.

National’s positioning on Afghanistan will be interesting to watch in the next while.  They certainly made a mess of the SAS/Willie Apiata photo saga.  John Key was talking exit strategies some months back, but McCully’s desire to stay on side with the US is strong.

Hands off willie – john

Posted by on January 31st, 2010

Great piece on editorial page of SST today from Steve Braunias. Can’t get a link but worth buying the paper just to read.

“My name wasn’t mentioned in the stories that went with the photo. It wasn’t as if the Taliban were about to put a price on my head and start planning Operation Apiata.

But then the prime minister held a press conference and told everyone,’If it’s Willie Apiata, it’s Willie Apiata.’

I don’t know why he had to say my name twice.”

Wonderful bit about rations cut when Key announced that they weren’t there to eat their lunch.

And fantastic lines about the media team designed to help the SAS win the hearts and minds – of the Americans – so we can get a free trade deal.

SAS and Afghanistan #2

Posted by on January 24th, 2010

Interesting story in the Sunday Star Times today, quoting among others former Afghan Foreign Minister and now Otago University lectuer Najib Lafraie.

Revelations about the SAS in Afghanistan last week suggest Prime Minister John Key broke his promise that the elite force would not fight alongside Afghan commandos, says political scientist Najib Lafraie.

Last year Key said that the SAS would not fight alongside the Afghan soldiers that the SAS would be training. Giving this information was part of Key’s “half-open approach” on the SAS, which he continued this week. Now he has gone silent, but Wayne Mapp has waded on in

“The actions that took place were essentially the domain of the Afghan national army, which, you can see from the photos, were the people actually engaged in the fighting.” The CRU was not directly involved in the action, he said, and neither were the SAS.

The CRU is the part of the Afghan army that the SAS has been training. However those on the ground have a different view

However, Norwegian defence correspondent and author of a book on the Norwegian special forces, Tom Bakkeli, said the CRU “absolutely were involved in the fighting” and “the CRU got a lot of acclaim for their counter-action against the attacking Taliban and suicide bombers”.

The National Government handling of the deployment, and recent events in Afghanistan has been a shambles. Both Key and Mapp on one hand seem to want to tell the world about where the SAS are and what they are doing, but are now  regretting the consequences. I do not believe the SAS should be in Afghanistan at the moment, but if they are, surely we need some kind of consistent approach to ensuring their safety.

SAS and Afghanistan

Posted by on January 22nd, 2010

The furore over the publication of photos of SAS soldiers in Afghanistan brings to light a couple of issues.

1. The nature of the SAS work in Afghanistan. What is described in the story today is pretty disturbing. Phil Goff outlined Labour’s reasoning for not commiting SAS troops at this time, (emphasis added before howls of “Labour deployed the SAS”) and this story re-inforces that. New Zealanders can be rightly proud of the work our Provincial Reconstruction Team has been doing. However the overall conflict in Afghanistan has gone in a different direction and the SAS appear to be right in the thick of that.

2. The policy around commenting or not commenting on the SAS has been thoroughly compromised in recent times. From my perspective it really is an all or nothing situation. If there is a policy not to comment then leave it at that. If we decide that modern communications and other countries agenda make that impractical then accept that. But having John Key confirm that the SAS were in a particular situation, and then criticise the media for investigating further and publishing photographs is ridiculous.

Actually there is a third matter. The reaction from the New York Times blogger who originally reported the SAS role shows that blogging does not always involve research, and can lead to some shoddy reporting!

Beatson on reason for clinton visit – our agricultural expertise

Posted by on January 13th, 2010

David Beatson has been around the National Party side of politics and the media. His Pundit take on why Hillary Clinton is coming here is worth a read.

His thesis is that she is going to ask us to use some of our agricultural expertise to help wean Afghanistan off opium poppies.

You can’t give absolute assurances on athlete safety

Posted by on January 12th, 2010

Mike Stanley head of the NZOC is quoted as receiving an assurance on the safety of athletes at the Delhi Commonwealth games.

The head of New Zealand Olympic Committee Mike Stanley says he has been given assurances about the safety of New Zealand athletes.

That just can’t be correct. No one can give absolute assurances. I’ve seen plenty of reports over the years and they are always carefully worded.

The assurance that I’m sure can be given is that the has been and will be good work done by NZ Police and the SIS working with UK, Aussie and Canada as well as Indian authorities to identify threats and put mitigation and emergency measures in place. Fascinating stuff.

In a very Kiwi way, in order to save money, the SPARC team, the security people and my team stayed together in a suburban house in Athens rather than in the overpriced hotels. Was interesting.

But you can’t ever give a guarantee.

Wrong approach on Afghanistan

Posted by on September 9th, 2009

The issue of sending the SAS featured in question time again yesterday.

A  Central Government argument that is endlessly repeated goes: the Labour Government sent troops, they’re being hypocrites in opposing our sending them. They’re missing the point. The important question to ask is “why were they withdrawn?”

Labour pulled the SAS out after three tours in November 2005. The Afghanistan war had changed. It was no longer a fight against Al Qaeda but had mutated into a general civil war – where the Taliban are the dominant faction involved, but not the only one. The government had also changed, from being one of hope to being hopelessly corrupt.

Three pillars are needed to achieve success in conflict and post-conflict settings –  each of which is well understood.

  1. Development – jobs, economy, better services etc;
  2. Governance –  sound  local structures that are representative and sustainable;
  3. Security

These can ensure stability while the other parts take root. Like a three-legged stool, without one of those pillars, the endeavour falls over.

It’s what I spent a good part of my previous life trying to bring about, most recently in Iraq.

Bringing those three pillars together is what New Zealand, through its forces and development professionals, has built up on the ground in Bamiyan. It’s a success story. So why phase it out when it’s held up as a model? We’ve built strong local ties, we are well welcomed by the local community and the situation is mostly secure.

Instead of building on that and replicating it, we are sending our troops into another part of the country to serve under a different command without the other parts of the nation-building equation. The reason? I can only guess to build relationships with the US and NATO. Seventy-odd soldiers among 85,000.

That’s not good policy, nor a good enough reason to put our troops at risk, as courageous and professional as they are. It needs a rethink. We have a proud history of acting independently. We need to keep hold of it and do the right thing, not send our SAS.

Goff on Afghanistan

Posted by on August 18th, 2009

This is a very good speech – went down well with all sides in the House this afternoon:

Putting the lives of NZ troops at risk by deploying them into a combat zone is not a decision taken lightly by any Government.

Nor is it an issue to play politics with. It is too serious for that.

For the same reason, it is an issue that demands careful analysis – of the risks, of the benefits to be gained, of whether this is the most effective response to the situation we face.

There are times when it is necessary to resist aggression and to fight to protect ourselves and to stand up for what we believe in and what is right.

Thousands of New Zealanders in my parents’ generation laid down their lives for their country in the Second World War.

In Opposition I have endorsed and in Government contributed to decisions to deploy our Defence Force personnel into combat zones.

After returning from East Timor as a UN monitor in the 1999 referendum, I strongly supported the decision of a National Government to deploy troops to that country.

As Minister of Foreign Affairs, I was closely involved in decisions to send troops to the Solomons and SAS forces and our Provincial Reconstruction Team to Afghanistan and redevelopment to Timor Leste in 2006.

Read the full speech after the break…


Afghanistan – is it time for John to say ‘no’?

Posted by on July 27th, 2009

The government has confirmed that it is considering whether to send the SAS back into Afghanistan.  They have revealed an approach from the US government support.  The US would only have made a formal approach if a Minister had indicated that it would be agreed to.

The SAS are amongst the best troops in the world. They have made a brilliant contribution in multiple theatres in recent decades. They are in real demand.

We are now at a point where there is no evidence of an exit plan for Afghanistan. The point where there could be a quick anti-terrorist solution is well past. History is littered with armies that have left there defeated with tails between their legs.

Nothing I’ve seen to date convinces me that we should send the SAS back.

Update: I’d forgotten this, thanks to The Standard for the reminder.