Australia — Stephen Smith on Afghanistan and the loss of Sapper Rowan Robinson

Min­is­ter for Defence, Stephen Smith — Inter­view with Kier­an Gilbert, Sky News
KIERAN GILBERT : Min­is­ter, thank you very much for your time. I want to ask you that you and the CDF have described recent­ly the win­ter is the most suc­cess­ful win­ter the ISAF has had against the Tal­iban and yet we’ve more than — well four Aus­tralians killed in just over a fort­night. It does­n’t look like the capac­i­ty of the Tal­iban has been too dimin­ished.

STEPHEN SMITH: Well a cou­ple of things. First­ly yes, we have been say­ing over recent months that we believe that we have made sub­stan­tial progress in denot­ing the Taliban’s capac­i­ty but I’ve been say­ing as has the Chief of the Defence Force for weeks that in the run up to the start of the north­ern fight­ing sea­son, the sum­mer fight­ing sea­son, that we had to steel our­selves for the Tal­iban to fight back. We had to steel our­selves for fatal­i­ties and we had to steel our­selves for high pro­file attacks by the Tal­iban and trag­i­cal­ly it’s been a very bad fort­night for us with four fatal­i­ties in two weeks and of course the ter­ri­ble death of Sap­per Rowan Robin­son.

We’ve been steel­ing our­selves for bad news but it has been ter­ri­ble news. But we con­tin­ue to very strong­ly believe that we have made progress, indeed Sap­per Robin­son was involved in an oper­a­tion which was tak­ing away from the Tal­iban the capac­i­ty to make fur­ther IEDs, the road side boo­by-traps and that’s been one of the most dan­ger­ous aspects of our time in Uruz­gan province in Afghanistan.

KIERAN GILBERT : The Prime Min­is­ter and the CDF and your­self remain res­olute in the wake of this lat­est facil­i­ty. We’re hear­ing reports out of the Unit­ed States, out of the White House that Pres­i­dent Obama’s actu­al­ly look­ing to increase the size of his with­draw­al beyond the 5000 fig­ure that was men­tioned before the death of bin Laden, are there two dif­fer­ent approach­es here that we’re see­ing that our Gov­ern­ment remains res­olute but the Unit­ed States look­ing at start­ing the pull­out?

STEPHEN SMITH: No I don’t believe that’s right. I mean I’ve made the point before we should sim­ply wait until Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and his admin­is­tra­tion make their deci­sion over the next few weeks about the size of this draw­down but that needs to be put in the con­text of a surge by US troops of some 30,000 to 40,000 in the last 12 to 18 months to help put us in the posi­tion that we are in.

We have 1550 on aver­age troops in Afghanistan and we believe that’s the right com­ple­ment for us to do our job in Uruz­gan province which is to train and men­tor the Afghan Nation­al Army 4th Brigade. We’re train­ing some 3500 mem­bers of that 4th Brigade.

But as we make progress we can utilise resources to do oth­er things and the train­ing and the men­tor­ing role is most impor­tant because in the end we’ve got to put the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces, police and army, in a posi­tion where they can take con­trol of and respon­si­bil­i­ty for secu­ri­ty mat­ters.

So yes we’ll see a draw­down of some forces so far as the Unit­ed States is con­cerned but that’s in the con­text of a sub­stan­tial increase of 30,000 to 40,000 over the last 12 to 18 months.

KIERAN GILBERT : The CDF Angus Hous­ton says that the troops believe they’re win­ning on the ground in Afghanistan, from your talks at ISAF and the NATO meet­ing there in Brus­sels, do you think we’re win­ning?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well I start­ed my talks today. I was in the Nether­lands yes­ter­day and spoke with their Deputy Prime Min­is­ter, the Nether­lands of course we work very close­ly with­in Uruz­gan province. They’ve since with­drawn their com­bat forces and they’re now look­ing at police train­ing.

Today I had lengthy con­ver­sa­tion togeth­er with the Chief of the Defence Force Des­ig­nate, Gen­er­al Hur­ley with the Com­man­der of Allied Forces in Europe in NATO Admi­ral Stavridis and the assess­ment that NATO forces in Europe have is exact­ly the same as ours which is we believe we’ve made sub­stan­tial progress, we believe that the oper­a­tions over the win­ter months have been very suc­cess­ful and the work that Aus­tralian forces does, par­tic­u­lar­ly our Spe­cial Forces who’s very, very high­ly regard­ed.

But we’ve seen con­sis­tent­ly Unit­ed States analy­sis, the ISAF Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assi­sance Force analy­sis and our own analy­sis that we are mak­ing progress. It will con­tin­ue to be tough but we do believe that we are mak­ing progress.

I’ll be see­ing for exam­ple in the course of Wednes­day, Brus­sels time, I’ll be see­ing Gen­er­al Petraeus, see­ing a range of my defence min­is­te­r­i­al col­leagues but I believe that our assess­ment is one which is over­whelm­ing­ly shared by the rest of the 48-strong Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force.

KIERAN GILBERT : Defence Min­is­ter Stephen Smith from Brus­sels, appre­ci­ate your time, thank you.

STEPHEN SMITH: Thank you, thanks very much.

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Aus­tralia

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →