Why we lost Afghanistan: War hero BEN ROBERTS-SMITH says the West never understood the Taliban were more than a ‘rag-tag group of bogey men’ – and remembers the sacrifice of the 41 Aussies who died in combat and 500 who took their lives back home
- Australian military prepares to launch a desperate rescue mission in Afghanistan
- The Afghan capital of Kabul is besieged by Taliban fighters on all sides of the city
- Among the trapped and terrified population are a long list of Australian citizens
- Australian government also plans to evacuate some of their Afghan employees
- Ben Roberts-Smith VC says he is saddened Afghanistan has fallen to Taliban
- The war hero is fighting his own battle after being accused of battlefield crimes
I feel a great sense of sadness that Afghanistan is back in the hands of the Taliban.
I feel for the people of Afghanistan and the horrors they now face; I feel for the families of our fallen who will question the purpose of their sacrifice and I feel for the men and women who served their country with distinction throughout the Afghanistan War.
Only two months ago the current Chief of the Defence Force stated to a senate committee that he ‘did not believe the former Islamist extremist rulers of Afghanistan would overrun the entire country once NATO and its allies leave’.
Such a comment reinforces how far removed the leadership is and was from the realities of the situation in Afghanistan.
It also serves as a reminder of why our senior leadership was unable to provide a successful strategy for Afghanistan or to ever fully understand our enemy.
Australia’s most decorated soldier, Ben Roberts-Smith, has revealed his ‘great sense of sadness’ as the Taliban takes Afghanistan where his actions earnt the Victoria Cross. He is pictured with the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2011
Members of the Special Operations Task Group take part in a memorial service for SAS Sergeant Blaine Diddams who was killed in Afghanistan in 2012. Sergeant Diddams was a close friend of Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith
What is happening in Afghanistan today is not a surprise to the men and women who served there. It is just one of the reasons why today’s veterans are so disenfranchised with our senior military leadership.
Not because the withdrawal was ordered but for not giving us a chance to win.
The Taliban were never a rag-tag group of bogey men. They were a political entity with vast networks and resources who ruthlessly killed innocent men, women, and children.
It is time for our leaders to stand up and take responsibility for their failure of the Afghanistan people and their continuing failure of those who fought the war on their orders.
Forty one Australians died serving their country in Afghanistan. More than 500 veterans have taken their own life since returning home.
Ben Roberts-Smith says: ‘It is time for our leaders to stand up and take responsibility for their failure of the Afghanistan people and their continuing failure of those who fought the war on their orders.’ He is pictured in Afghanistan in 2006
Aussie soldier unleashes on Australia for abandoning Afghanistan saying he’s ‘ashamed’ of the PM’s decision to walk away – and reveals the Taliban have a better army now than when the West invaded 20 years ago
By Stephen Gibbs
Retired major Heston Russell, who served in Afghanistan with the 2nd Commando Regiment, was appalled by the way Australia had abandoned the people of Afghanistan.
‘I’m disgusted,’ he told Sky News on Monday. ‘I’m disappointed. I’m angry and I’m ashamed at the way we’ve left Afghanistan.
‘The prime minister can stand up and say all he wants about fighting for freedom.
‘We’ve literally left a better-equipped and well-armed Taliban. We’ve put the Afghan people back into the oppression that we were there to liberate them from.’
Mr Russell’s comments come as an army of Taliban fighters descends on Kabul and a desperate rescue mission is urgently being undertaken by Australian special forces.
Retired major Heston Russell, who served in Afghanistan with the 2nd Commando Regiment, was appalled by the way Australia had abandoned the people of Afghanistan
Taliban fighters are pictured in a vehicle on the roadside in Herat, Afghanistan’s third-largest city, on August 13 after government forces pulled out the previous day
Mr Russell is the founder of Voice of a Veteran and managing director of Veteran Support Force and a strong critic of how Australian troops were pulled out of Afghanistan after 20 years of involvement.
He said veterans like him who had fought in Afghanistan were watching the Taliban sweep through the country on television and realising ‘it was not worth it’.
Mr Russell was ashamed that Australian military personnel were ‘too busy deployed keeping Australians in their homes in western Sydney’ to be on the ground in Afghanistan, ‘to make sure things like this don’t happen’.
He said the ‘heroes’ of the Australian Defence Force who had fought the Taliban had been badly let down by governments making poor decisions.
‘We are so much better than this and the Australian people deserve a legacy better than this,’ Mr Russell said.
Mr Russell said Afghan interpreters and other locally employed civilians used by Australian troops were at risk of retaliation by the Taliban. Some had been trying to get visas to come to Australia for seven or eight years.
‘This isn’t just this government, this is successive governments, but this government right here and right now is the one who decided to withdraw the last of our troops and allow what is going on right now to occur.
Mr Russell is the founder of Voice of a Veteran and managing director of Veteran Support Force and a strong critic of how Australian troops were pulled out of Afghanistan after 20 years of involvement
He said veterans like him who had fought in Afghanistan were watching the Taliban sweep through the country on television and realising ‘it was not worth it’. Australian soldiers are pictured in Afghanistan
The Taliban is now closing in on the capital of Kabul from all sides, now controlling territories in the north, south, east and west
‘Those that are left to bear the brunt of it are those on the ground, the Afghan people, and those who were on the ground, the Australian personnel who served over there.’
Mr Russell said instead of ‘a complete capitulation’ what was needed was a ‘political planning, a whole of government approach, a deliberate draw-down… and ongoing support.’
He also warned US-led forces had left military hardware behind in the Middle East, with its porous borders near European countries Australians wanted to visit safely when international resumed.
‘All of a sudden we’ve unleashed a new threat upon the rest of the world because we have failed in the final actions of nearly a 20-year campaign.’
Taliban fighters sit on a vehicle along the street in Jalalabad province after seizing the city as the terror group makes huge gains (pictured on Sunday)
Australian troops man vehicle-mounted machine guns at Tarin Kowt as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in February 2007
The Australian newspaper reported an RAAF flight was scheduled to leave Townsville for Afghanistan on Monday afternoon with two infantry platoons aboard.
The Afghan capital is all but lost after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and Islamist insurgents sacked every provincial city on the way to Kabul, just over a week since the US military pulled its troops from the country.
Taliban militants have surrounded Kabul and panic has set in among its five million terrified residents, with roads flooded with vehicles and citizens desperately trying to escape.
Also trapped in the embattled capital are Australian diplomats, journalists, aid workers and private security contractors, as well as hundreds of Afghans refugees who worked for the Australian Defence Force over the past two decades and now face the possibility of being imprisoned.
With time quickly running out, a daring aerial operation is set to be undertaken by SAS troops, infantry soldiers and the Royal Australian Air Force to bring them all Down Under.
Government sources said plans were also being put in place to give Afghan nationals extra spots on Australia’s humanitarian visa program, according to SBS.
Afghan policemen stand guard at a checkpoint along the road in Kabul on Saturday
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was ‘a heartbreaking time’ and a ‘difficult day’ given the ‘terrible oppression that women and girls face in Afghanistan’ at the hands of the Taliban.
But Mr Morrison remained tight-lipped about the rescue mission which was given the go-ahead by the national security committee on Saturday.
‘I don’t think it is advisable for me to go into operational arrangements that are being put in place for the security of those we are seeking to help,’ Mr Morrison told reporters.
‘What I can assure you is this task has the utmost urgency and priority of the government and, of course, has been considered at the highest levels of the government yesterday.
‘And we’re in very constant engagement with our allies and partners as part of that broader effort.’
A Taliban fighter stands guard over surrendered Afghan security member forces in the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Friday
The militants were seen in the districts of Kalakan, Qarabagh and Paghman hours after taking control of Jalalabad, the most recent major Afghan city to fall to the insurgents
Leading the contingency planning, strategic communications and the close personal protection of evacuees will be SAS soldiers based in the nearby United Arab Emirates, The Australian reported.
Backing them up will be two infantry platoons made up of 60 soldiers from the Townsville-based 1st and 3rd Battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment, along with battalion and company headquarters teams.
They are expected to have a ‘non-combatant’ role in the evacuation and will be flown in on RAAF C17 and C-130 transporters early this week.
The Department of Home Affairs revealed 650 humanitarian visas had already been granted to former local employees since April, with just 30 applications yet to be processed.
However some estimates say there are still over 200 Afghan interpreters who worked with the ADF who are yet to secure a visa for themselves and their families.
About 200 more contracted security guards, and about a dozen former aid workers, are also hoping to seek asylum in Australia.
But because they were not direct employees of the Australian government, most had been barred from applying.
A Taliban fighter rides a motorbike through a street in Laghman province. A US defense official has warned it could be only a matter of days before the insurgent fighters take control of Kabul
Afghanistan war analyst William Maley said Australia’s rescue operation was coming ‘far, far, far too late’.
‘It is something that should have been put in place weeks and weeks ago, when people were warning that the window to mount an effective extraction could close very suddenly,’ Professor Maley said.
The Taliban fighters had promised a ‘peaceful transfer of power’ if the Afghan government stands down.
But over the past week on the march to Kabul it was widely reported that jihadis were going ‘door-to-door’ forcibly marrying girls as young as 12 and forcing them into sex slavery.
Commanders ordered imams in captured areas to bring them lists of unmarried women aged from 12 to 45 considering them to be ‘spoils of war’.
Taliban fighters stand armed with guns in Laghman province after making major gains across Afghanistan in the wake of the US departure
Mr Morrison was asked by reporters what he would say to the families of Australian soldiers who died in the 20-year military campaign in Afghanistan.
‘To the families of those 41 Australians, I say what I’ve always said. Thank you. Thank you for the sacrifice of your sons,’ he said.
‘They have fallen under our flag, under our name, wearing our uniform, serving. And we are forever in their debt.
‘They don’t get to decide where they go or what mission they’re asked to perform and yet they sign up and they go anyway.
‘We can only offer our humble thanks of a grateful nation to them, and that I don’t believe any Australian who falls in that service dies in vain, because what we always seek to fight for, which is freedom, is always important in whatever cause, regardless of the outcome.’
The United States has already evacuated diplomats from its embassy by helicopter, however about 10,000 more citizens remained stranded.
Britain has scrambled RAF planes to evacuate about 6,000 British diplomats, citizens and Afghan translators with key embassy personnel moved to secret locations awaiting their departure.
The Taliban have now taken over Jalalabad, spelling the fall of the last major Afghan city other than Kabul to the extremist fighters as the US withdraws its troops from the country. Pictured Taliban forces patrol Herat on Saturday
Taliban fighters drive the vehicle through the streets of Laghman province Sunday – the same day Jalalabad fell
US defence and intelligence analysts had estimated it would take about three months before the Taliban could try to mount an assault on the capital.
But the Taliban has all but captured the city and Afghanistan’s provincial capitals in just over a week.
US President Joe Biden has vowed that any action that puts Americans at risk ‘will be met with a swift and strong US military response.’
But Mr Biden is now copping a flurry of criticism from Republican lawmakers, and even his own party, over the monumental foreign policy blunder.
A US Chinook helicopter flies over the city of Kabul as diplomatic vehicles leave the compound after the Taliban advanced on the Afghan capital
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