Thursday, September 25, 2008


(ADF archival photos): Greg Combet (right)- future Defence Minister or PM?

Expert questions Rudd’s leadership

By Sasha Uzunov
Copyright 2008

Former Trade Union boss and current ALP Federal MP Greg Combet should become Australia’s Prime Minister, according to an influential political commentator.

Mr Bruce Haigh, a retired Australian diplomat and expert comments man on international and security issues, said:

“Prime Minister Kevin Rudd can’t change a light bulb; he has about as much comprehension on defence matters as Kim Beazley or Brendan Nelson.”

Mr Haigh said Combet should take over as Defence Minister prior to becoming Prime Minister.

Mr Combet (pronounced COM-BAY) is the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement and served as Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (1999-2007).

Joel Fitzgibbon in the firing line?

Mr Haigh is a long standing critic of current Defence Minister Mr Joel Fitzgibbon.

“The US-Australian military alliance is dead. The financial crash has/will gut the US, it does not have the money or the capacity to assist Australia,” he said.“The world has changed, although it will take some time for the Australian media and politicians to catch up.

“Fitzgibbon and the current crop of senior defence leadership in the same league as Australian bankers.“On Defence, water, infrastructure, Australia is going to do some hard thinking and undertake positive action in the very near future.”

- Combet in political Combat? (Packing heat)

A high ranking ALP source has called nonsense any suggestion that Mr Combet would challenge for the Prime Ministership.“Everyone knows Greg wants to be Defence Minister, that‘s no secret” he said. ‘But Joel is doing a good job and playing it with a straight bat.”

Bruce Haigh is a rarity in the Australian media; as a defence expert he has actually served in uniform. He was called up for National Service as a soldier in 1966 and served with the Royal Australian Armoured Corps, Australian Army. He served on Centurion tanks and M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers.

He has questioned the Defence department’s purchase of the US Army’s Abrams tank. “We have no use for the Abrams tanks and the F35 is a lemon,” he said. “The F22 or nothing.

“The US cannot afford the cost of its adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. The war in Afghanistan is breeding terrorists. Australia cannot affect the outcome.

We need to build up and train our forces for regional undertakings.”


Call for Combet to Head Defence

by Bruce Haigh
5 August, 2008.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Sasha Uzunov dressed in native Afghan clothes behind the camera taping Mullah Zaeef. On the right is Canadian journalist David Pugliese, also in native dress. (Photo by Scott Taylor)


by Sasha Uzunov

David Hicks, the Australian convicted of supporting terrorism in Afghanistan, has been in the news again.

Whatever you think of David Hicks, there is certainly more to the story than meets the eye.

In May 2007 as an Australian journalist, along with Canadian colleagues, Scott Taylor and David Pugliese we were granted an interview with a former Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan, who spent 4 years in Guantanamo Bay, and were surprised to hear his negative thoughts about David Hicks...

This was an exclusive Australian story in the Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper at the time.

I also video taped an interview with the ex-Taliban diplomt.

Herald Sun newspaper

David Hicks not 'true Muslim'

Sasha Uzunov
May 17, 2007 12:00am

DAVID Hicks was not a true Muslim and was regarded as a possible spy by other accused terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, says a former inmate and one-time Taliban diplomat.

"All the people, including me and the Arabs, we're thinking he was a spy," said Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, back in Afghanistan after spending nearly four years in US custody including at Guantanamo Bay.

"He was separated from us. The Americans were scared he would be killed by the other prisoners," the Afghan man said in an interview in Kabul. "He was not a true Muslim."

After five years in US custody, Hicks is expected to leave Guantanamo Bay within days for Australia, where he will serve nine months in a jail near Adelaide before being set free. He is being returned to Australia under a deal after pleading guilty in a US military commission to a charge of providing material support for terrorism.

Hicks was captured in Afghanistan in late 2001, where he was accused of training with al-Qaida and of fighting alongside Taliban troops. But Zaeef, a former Taliban minister and ambassador to Pakistan, denied Hicks was part of the Taliban regime, toppled from power in Afghanistan by the US invasion in 2001.

After his release without charge by the US, Zaeef now lives in Kabul but under the close watch of the Hamid Karzai Government, which provides a security guard for his protection. Zaeef said he was not in contact with the current Taliban leadership, who are fighting Australian and other coalition troops. He said Australia was now an enemy of the Afghan people because it had supported the US-led war in Afghanistan. Zaeef said coalition forces had killed a lot of Afghani people.

"And the people became enemies of the Americans, of the Canadians and others," he said.

"People are not thinking the Americans, the Canadians are neutral, that they have come for peace and stability. "The people are thinking that the Canadians, the British, the Americans are all enemies since they are killing us."



NATO, U.S. stand in way of peace in Afghanistan: Taliban chief

Most Afghans blame foreign forces for civilian deaths, former official says
David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Wednesday, May 09, 2007

PHOTOS of 2007 Afghan trip


ADF photo: PM Rudd meets the troops


By Sasha Uzunov
Copyright 2008

In recent weeks we have witnessed the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, deliver sermons from the mount which have struck a chord with the defence community. Is the PM the long awaited Messiah, the Real McCoy?

First there was his government’s decision to award medals to the Long Tan heroes from the Vietnam War after a 42 year wait; then there was talk of changing the Nelson-Howard military doctrine on Afghanistan by allowing our infantry soldiers to take over the fighting from the Special Forces; and announcing that Australia had to strengthen its defence forces to counter an arms race in our Pacific-Asia region.

Whatever PM Rudd’s true motivation is, you have hand it to him he is a very clever strategic/foreign affairs operator that many pundits have not given him the credit. Let me explain by drawing a comparison with Bob Hawke, another ALP Prime Minister (1983-91), also with messianic tendencies.

Hawke was known as the great conciliator whose claim to fame was his ability to bring opposing groups to the negotiating tables and hammer out a deal. During his Prime Ministership he brought in British academic Professor Paul Dibb and ex-Fairfax journalist Hugh White. Their brief was to transform the defence department with a number or reports, Defence White Papers and so on. Instead we ended up with a mess that took over a decade to bring under some form of control.

Mr Bruce Haigh, a former diplomat revealed during an interview with SBS TV’s Dateline program on 27-9-2000 that:

“Defence is the department that’s divided amongst itself, as far as I can gather, and there are certain people inside Defence who’ve taken a certain line for a long period of time - the Paul Dibb line, if you like, which is high-tech, US-alliance - and you’ve got others who are saying, "No. We’ve got the situation to the north- we need to have more people in uniform, we need to have them trained, we need to have night-vision equipment provided for them. “… the Australian Army can see what needs to be done, but many of the civilian Defence personnel, who’ve built their careers on playing up to this particular line, are arguing the other case, and feeling increasingly isolated, because they are not facing reality. That’s the problem.”

Respected Brigadier Jim Wallace, former Special Forces Commander, wrote in 2003:

“Unfortunately, Australian defence policy has been mainly wrong for the whole of this period. Even after we committed troops to East Timor, Professor Paul Dibb, the policy's chief architect, was standing in front of parliamentary committees vowing that Australia would not be conducting what he called "expeditionary" operations out of the region. This was despite a series of major UN deployments over many years to places as far a field as Rwanda and Somalia. Afghanistan and Iraq have hopefully now discredited this logic.

“At the same time, Dr Hugh White was arguing in initial drafts for the 2000 white paper to reduce the size of our army to about 19,000, on the basis that, like Professor Dibb, he didn't see the Government needing options for deployment out of the region, particularly for sending the army. The result has been an incredible demand on the dedication and professionalism of our special forces as they have again been thrown into the breach that our supposedly expert defence planners couldn't predict.”

Professor Dibb’s response was to make the snide remark on the ABC TV Lateline program on July 11, 2002 that Wallace was a “retired brigadier.”

In contrast to Dibb’s retired brigadier sentiment, current PM Rudd has taken on board his government “retired colonel” Iron Mike Kelly, as parliamentary undersecretary on defence.

Furthermore, the PM told a RSL National congress last week: “…the first responsibility of government is the security of the nation. And it follows therefore that government has a particular responsibility towards those who have worn the nation's uniform. Because there is in my view no higher calling than to wear the uniform of Australia.”

To counter the possible Asia-Pacific arms race and the emergence of China, he said:“Our armed forces must be equipped to deal with the emerging security environment That is why the Government has already committed to making sure we stay ahead of the game by extending the real growth of the defence budget by 3 per cent per annum to 2017-18.”

Taxpayers, veterans, and serving defence personnel have heard it all before from politicians promising heaven and earth. Time will tell if Rudd can deliver on his pledges. One thing is for sure, those who have served in uniform will never again be dismissed as taking no part in the defence debate.


Brigadier Jim Wallace -
Iraq lesson can help correct defence policy
April 20 2003
Dr Gerard Henderson
Defence policy war heats up
November 26 2002

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


One of the Dutch soldiers who saved me from a beating in Skopje, Macedonia

Balkan flashback--Australian journalist reveals:


By Sasha Uzunov

Last week the Australian government warned that Australian journalists should leave Afghanistan because they were being targeted by the Taliban. But since when have journalists ever been safe in an area of conflict?

I owe a big favour to our Dutch military ally in Afghanistan!

On 3 July 2002, a day before American Independence Day, I was set upon by an angry mob of ethnic Albanian merchants who were protesting against the Macedonian government closing down Bit Pazar market in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia.

In 2001 there was a short lived war--an ethnic Albanian insurgency in Western Macedonia as a spillover from the 1999 Kosovo conflict. A year later inter-ethnic tension was still running high.

As a freelance photo-journalist working for western agencies, I was photographing the demonstrators, who were putting up barricades and blocking traffic, including three NATO buses containing Greek soldiers bound for Kosovo.

About 10 or so demonstrators came running towards me and demanded my camera. A man with a mobile phone was giving orders to the others to attack me.

One man grabbed me by the shirt and starting pulling me towards the ground, whilst another tried to take my camera. I would have been in for a severe beating or worse.

Four Macedonian Police officers stood nearby and watched the whole incident and didn't intervene to help me. Luckily for me there where two Dutch NATO military observers close by and as I struggled free from my attackers, I ran like lightening towards them. The protestors chasing me then backed off and disappeared.

Seeing those two Dutch soldiers was a godsend. I could not thank them enough. To this day I still do not know the names of these two good Samaritans.

I know of journalists who have a negative attitude towards the military but when they get in a tight squeeze all of a sudden become friendly towards them.


Journalists warned to get out of Afghanistan
September 9, 2008
AUSTRALIAN journalists in Afghanistan have been targeted by terrorists and were warned yesterday by the Federal Government to consider leaving the country.

Web posted July 03, 2002
Transcript of NATO press conference - 3 July 2002.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Ken Pedler with Australia's national symbol and as a digger (K. Pedler photos)

DVA (Department of Veterans Affairs- Australia)

By Sasha Uzunov

copyright 2008

A former Australian Army corporal who saw action in Rwanda in 1994 is trying to organise a return to that African hell hole to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide next year but has received no response from the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Mr Ken Pedler, who now lives in Queensland, served with 2/4 RAR on a United Nations peacekeeping mission in the African nation of Rwanda and later with the famed 6RAR in East Timor in 2000.

“What I am trying to do is get backing for someone to pay flights so the guys and girls who want to come can make it over,” he said.

Mr Pedler said he had contacted the Prime Minister’s Office and RSL and had not received a response.

“There was no media interest from Channel 7 and 9 or ABC TV,” he said.A decade’s long civil war between rival ethnic groups Hutus, the majority and the Tutsi, the minority, led to the genocide of 1 million Rwandans. It was into this hell hole that Australians were sent.

In 1994 Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating and Foreign Minister Gareth Evans as part of United Nations mission deployed a contingent of army medics, who were protected by a company of infantry soldiers from 2/4 RAR, to Rwanda.

Despite the limitations of the UN mandate, Australian peacekeepers were able to do the best job possible in treating the many wounded and suffering.

The then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said:

“We must never forget our collective failure to protect at least 800,000 defenceless men, women and children who perished in Rwanda.

“Neither the UN Secretariat, nor the Security Council, nor member states in general, nor the international media, paid enough attention to the gathering signs of disaster. Still less did we take timely action.”

Ken Pedler contact details: ---email: (
In commemoration of the 15th year of the Rwandan genocide Join us in Rwanda!

‘’Gathering of Forgiveness, A Step to Reconciliation’’

February 10 through 18, 2009 In addition to conferences and field trips, together we will launch a Garden of Forgiveness.

In a period of 100 days in 1994, nearly ONE MILLION innocent women, men and children died.
Leaving many widowed and children orphaned and traumatized. It is our hope to continue bringing healing to this nation by creating a ‘Culture of Forgiveness’ and encouraging and empowering leaders.

Gathering of Forgiveness, Feb. 10 – 18, 2009, Itinerary, Cost & other Details We hope that you will consider joining us on this journey! Gathering: Arrival Tues., FEBRUARY 10 and depart Wed. FEBRUARY 18, 2009Conference: Evening of the 10th through evening of the 13th : • Variety of speakers (Africa, USA, Canada, Australia and Europe) to address our theme of forgiveness and reconciliation. • Perpetrators and survivors of genocide that have repented and reconciled will share their experiences.Field trips : will include trips within Rwanda and to nearby Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

RELATED STORY - Australian Peacekeeper & Peacemaker Veterans' Association

This Sunday 14 September marks Australian Peacekeepers Day.

The hundreds of Australians involved in peace operations worldwide and their families will take a moment to reflect on the contribution they are making to restore order and security to communities affected by war and civil unrest and to remember those who have given their lives for that cause.

Since 1947 there have been more than 66,000 Australians engaged in peacekeeping globally from the Middle East and Sudan to places closer to home such as East Timor.

Australia’s excellent reputation and 61 year history in peacekeeping is a proud one but tends to go largely unreported. The Australian Peacekeeping Memorial Committee is working hard to change this and give peacekeepers better recognition through the dedication of their own Peacekeeping Memorial in Canberra.

A site has been approved for the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial alongside the various memorials along Anzac Parade in Canberra and the design competition is in its final stages with the final concept due to be unveiled next month.

“This Memorial will commemorate and celebrate the past and present role of Australian Peacekeeping around the globe, and the very real contribution by Australian military and police in the often dangerous situations they face. We encourage all Australians to commend and support the service of our Australian police, military and civilian peacekeepers" said Peacekeeping Memorial Project Chairman Major General (Ret’d), Tim Ford AO.

“The Peacekeeping Memorial will provide a national focus for gathering and commemorating the service of our peacekeepers on days such as Australian Peacekeepers Day and we look forward to providing these brave men and women a fitting monument to their service.

The Memorial seeks to show that Australia's contribution to peacekeeping exemplifies Australian values of openness, fairness, egalitarianism, mateship, initiative, and respect for diversity and social justice for all people.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008




By Sasha Uzunov
Copyright 2008

The Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) has today hosed down concerns from some of Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) traders by saying that an alleged increase in fire call outs were not due to training runs but were the real thing.

Three CDB traders, who did not want to reveal their full details and business names for fear of being branded paranoid, had over a two month period noted an alleged “increase” in the number of fire trucks driving along Swanston Street.

Mr Andrew Zammit, MFB spokesman, said the organisation responded to genuine calls and did not undertake training runs in the city.

“We’re always on high alert and our focus is to get out of the door quickly and respond to an emergency,” he said.

Mandy, who works in a clothing store; Ken, who runs a restaurant; and Hari, who works in a convenience store, said they were concerned at the frequency of the fire trucks with sirens blaring.

“My real worry is that maybe the MFB is undertaking training runs to get us used to the regular sight of fire trucks whizzing down the city and making all sorts of noise,” Mandy said.

“Are we being prepared or inoculated against a possible disaster or terror attack?” Ken asked.

Mr Zammit said he wanted to put people’s fears to rest.

“I would suggest that any CBD trader organization send us on official letterhead their concerns. The MFB Chief Executive Officer and I will address it.

“They should tell me the times of all the call outs they have noted. I’m a hundred percent confident that I can answer any query relating to these call outs. They can even access Freedom of Information if they want to,” Mr Zammit said.

On Tuesday (yesterday) panic erupted in Melbourne when 3,000 shoppers had to flee the Myer department store building which was on fire but the MFB reacted immediately.

Ironically, a media query was sent to MFB on Monday, a day before the Myer building fire.

news link to Myer building fire story (Herald Sun):,21985,24322259-2862,00.html

---extract of email--

Date: Mon, 8 Sep 2008 10:01:33 +1000

Attn Media/PR Officer


My query is:

Over a two month period (July-August), anecdotal evidence comes from CBD traders that there has been an alleged 'increase' in the number of fire brigade trucks/appliances driving along Swanston Street with sirens blaring.

My questions are

1. Are some of these call outs simply training or exercise runs, used to test the efficiency of response time of emergency teams to a fire or other disaster?

2. Is this part of a plan to get CBD dwellers, visitors, traders used to seeing and hearing fire trucks driving by on a regular basis in case of a major disaster or terrorist attack without creating undue panic?

3. Has the MFB been placed on a high state of alert recently by the authorities?

Sasha Uzunov

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

photo credit: ADF

By Sasha Uzunov
copyright 2008

The political and military fallout of the Taliban ambush attack on Australian soldiers in Afghanistan can be traced back to the failure of 2006 Nelson-Howard doctrine on the Afghanistan war.

Nine Australian Special Forces soldiers in Afghanistan were recently wounded in some of the heaviest fighting seen so far. If I was the current Defence Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, I would be raising questions in the Federal Parliament over the previous government's handling of the war.


As the then Defence Minister, Dr Brendan Nelson, together with the Prime Minister John Howard made the decision to withdraw our Special Forces troops from Afghanistan in November 2006, giving the Taliban the breathing space it needed to re-organise.

Then Dr Nelson denied that there was a rift with our coalition partners the Dutch which was causing a delay in restoring stability to our Area of Operations in the Oruzgan province. But later read the Dutch the riot act if they pulled out of the mission.

“The consequences of a Dutch withdrawal, if we can't find another partner, is that we would be far too exposed to continue,” Dr Nelson said in August 2007.

German expert finds the "smoking gun" --Dutch-Aussie rift over mission

When I was in Afghanistan in May 2007, I bumped into a well respected Ulrich Ladurner, who is the foreign editor of the German weekly Die Zeit and co-author with Gerow von Randow of The Iranian Bomb. He said he had been to the Dutch-Australian base at Tarin Kowt in Oruzgan.

"The Dutch and Australians are making a big effort but it is too slow in bringing stability to the province," Mr Ladurner said."'The local people are not happy with the progress made. It is still not safe. The region is still wild." In the vacuum left by the Special Forces departure, the Taliban were roaming into other provinces such as Helmand, run by the British, and Kandahar, run by the Canadians.

KEVIN 07--Rudd was right on Afghanistan

Later, the Special Forces were sent back to Afghanistan in mid 2007, an admission that a mistake had been made. In the irony of ironies, the then Opposition Leader and now Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the previous reduction of Australian troops in Afghanistan was an absolute mistake that let Osama bin Laden, leader of the terror group Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, off the hook. In response to the criticism of withdrawing the SAS, the then Prime Minister John Howard said:

"But we will not win it without renewed and increased effort and that is why we are playing our part. It's important, in dealing with the Taliban, not to be too passive."


To top that off, a legacy of the Nelson-Howard military doctrine has the Special Forces doing most of the fighting, because of the fear of casualties to our regular infantry units. The long term effect could be burn out of our Special Forces. But the irony is if we withdraw our SF units and do not replace them with infantry units, then the pressure on Taliban is eased. It is one contradictory military doctrine, to say the least.


"Twice now we have had to deploy special forces in Afghanistan and twice now we have had to withdraw them because they are too tired," said Neil James, of think tank the Australian Defence Association in October 2006.

The highly respected Brigadier Jeff Sengelman DSC CSC, deputy commander of Special Operations, revealed the SAS had faced problems with recruiting and retaining soldiers but put a positive spin by also saying that it did not affect its operational capability.

The Australian Defence Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, was on the money when he said days ago that the increase in Taliban activity against Australian troops in Afghanistan was a last attempt to inflict casualties before the northern winter set in, bringing a close to the traditional war season for another year. But let us take a closer look and read between the lines, if we can.

"It was an ambush. My understanding is it was gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades," Brigadier Robert Dawson, Defence PR, said.

Brigadier Dawson said the Taliban were fighting hard to repel Coalition incursions into their heartland areas. "Some of the operations which ISAF are conducting are in areas where Coalition soldiers have not been before," he said. "I think we can expect more heavy fighting." (Herald Sun, 4 Sept 2008).

Our diggers were operating against the Taliban in the strategic Chora valley north east of Tarin Kowt.

Okay, an ambush means that the enemy knows you are coming and are waiting for you. Obviously the Taliban’s intelligence gathering is working excellently and it must be getting some form of support from the local population. However, what is distressing is the statement that our troops are operating in areas they have not been before.


We have been in Afghanistan since 2001 that is 7 years so far and have not been able to still secure our AO. Is this because of the Nelson-Howard "breathing space" given to the Taliban in late 2006? In the military when a senior commander makes a mistake he accepts full responsibility and falls on his sword. Under our Westminster system of Parliamentary democracy, the buck stops with the politicians.


Victory in Afghanistan can be achieved through political means backed up by the surgical use of force. When you give the local people, security, clean water, education and hope, they will turn against the Taliban.

More force does not translate into winning.



Let the infantry do its job
Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor September 06, 2008

THE wounding of nine Australian soldiers in a Taliban ambush on Tuesday night is not only the biggest single combat casualty incident since Vietnam. It also tells us important things about the Rudd Government, about the nature of the Australian Army, about the dreadful
Sasha Uzunov story - 10 July 2008,21985,23995986-5000117,00.html
New options to blunt Taliban Sasha Uzunov
July 10, 2008 12:00am

The SASR and 4RAR (Commando) are our two Specials Forces units and are a precision tool to be used sparingly, not as a blunt instrument. Australian infantry soldiers have recently expressed their dissatisfaction at being kept away from the sharp end in Afghanistan. And the question must be asked: how long can the new Rudd Government use the SAS Regiment and 4RAR (Commando) in an infantry role before they become worn out? When will the Government allow our infantry to do the job they have trained for?

In 1999 the Howard government used the army's elite Special Forces unit, the SAS, to do most of the fighting in East Timor, which should have been performed by the infantry. The political logic was that the public and media would accept SAS casualties rather than a young infantryman, fresh out of home or from a small country town. That political priority seems to remain. But political logic does not necessarily make good military sense, and vice-versa.

In East Timor, the pro-Indonesian militia tried to inflict as many casualties as possible on our infantry units, including battalions made up of many reserve soldiers, in the hope that Australia would withdraw. The moral of the story is, no matter how hard the Australian Government tries to insulate our infantry from combat by using the SAS, the unexpected happens.
- August 31, 2007.
The Australian
Nelson warns Dutch on Afghan pullout
Dennis Shanahan August 31, 2007

BRENDAN Nelson has warned Dutch MPs that a decision to remove their troops from southern Afghanistan could lead to the withdrawal of Australia's military personnel based alongside the Dutch in Oruzgan province.

The Defence Minister met 12 Dutch parliamentarians in the Afghanistan capital of Kabul this week after meeting President Hamid Karzai and Australian commanders.The Dutch parliament is considering withdrawing the country's troops from Oruzgan province following a series of combat deaths and rising public concern in The Netherlands about the wisdom of the fight against theTaliban.

The Australian engineers and special forces - part of a 970-strong Australian contingent in Afghanistan - have had increased contact with Taliban fighters in recent weeks, with small arms fire being directed at police checkpoints being built by Australian soldiers to protect local Afghani police.The checkpoints are being used to control traffic around the Oruzgan town of Tarin Kowt and to monitor movements by Taliban insurgents.

Apart from the small arms fire near the Camp Holland base at Tarin Kowt, Australian soldiers on patrol have made contact more frequently with Taliban fighters in the nearby mountains and hills.Two weeks ago, Australian forces had a decisive victory against local Taliban forces with a US air strike killing 18 Taliban leaders, including one of their most senior commanders in Afghanistan.

The Dutch forces provide vital helicopter air cover for the Australian troops working and patrolling around Tarin Kowt, and Australian commanders fear they would not be able to operate without it.The Dutch parliamentary committee members met Dr Nelson and the Chief of Defence Forces, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, at Kabul Airport.

Dr Nelson told The Australian that the Dutch MPs were informed that Australia was against any decision to reduce the Dutch presence in the region."We are not in a position to increase our numbers in Afghanistan and we won't and can't take the lead position in Tarin Kowt," the minister told the MPs.

"There are Australian soldiers who owe their lives to the Dutch Apache helicopters and they play a critical role."The consequences of a Dutch withdrawal, if we can't find another partner, is that we would be far too exposed to continue."The Dutch have 2200 troops at the Camp Holland base at Tarin Kowt and have suffered the deaths of six soldiers, including one on the day the parliamentary delegation was visiting Kabul to assess the situation in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan 6 Jun 2007
News from the Front By Sasha Uzunov

Australian journalist Sasha Uzunov reports from the Afghan front

The Forgotten War Sometimes it takes an outsider to tell us the most uncomfortable truths.
Last week, Defence Minister Dr Brendan Nelson took a swipe at critics who question the pace at which Australian troops are securing their designated province in Afghanistan, saying:

Any suggestion Australian troops are not pulling their weight in southern Afghanistan is beneath contempt. Australia is steadfastly committed to Uruzgan as shown by the recent decision to deploy a Special Operations Task Group of approximately 300 people to the region. However, the recent decision to send Special Forces back to Uruzgan could also be read as a tacit admission that not all is well with the mission. (Who was the genius who decided to remove our Special Forces soldiers from Afghanistan late last year?)

When I asked the Defence Minister if a rift had developed between Australian troops and the Dutch Army engineers they are serving alongside, over who was doing the most to secure Uruzgan, Nelson would not comment.

The controversy was sparked by prominent German journalist, Ulrich Ladurner, who claimed, in an interview he gave to me at Kabul airport on 14 May, that both the Australians and Dutch were being slow in establishing security in the province. Ladurner, who is the foreign editor of the German weekly Die Zeit and co-author with Gero von Randow of The Iranian Bomb, spent weeks as an embedded journalist with Dutch Army engineers in Uruzgan Province at the Tarin Kowt base they share with Australian troops.

'The Dutch and Australians are making a big effort but it is too slow in bringing stability to the province,' Ladurner said. 'The local people are not happy with the progress made. It is still not safe. The region is still wild.'

One of the reasons it takes a non-Australian to provide this insider's view of the situation around Tarin Kowt is the Defence Department's obsession with controlling media access to our troops.
Ulrich Ladurner interview at Kabul Airport, 14 May 2007

Ulrich Ladurner on Afghanistan Australian and Dutch troops were making slow progress despite their best ...

Interview can be seen on:

Monday, September 08, 2008



Aussie infantry 'won't engage Taliban'

The Age -

September 8, 2008 - 5:56PM

The federal government is not actively considering deploying infantry soldiers to take on the Taliban in Afghanistan, Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon says.

Mr Fitzgibbon played down reports infantry soldiers would be sent to Oruzgan province as part of the offensive battle against the Taliban insurgency.


Comment: Talk about confusing signals. First it was the infantry allowed to do its job but now the Defence Minister has backed off. Talk about sending confusing signals.

It is not a question of sending more troops but the precise use of troops. We do not want to burn out our Special Forces. It looks like the Federal government is too afraid to let go of the Nelson-Howard doctrine of making the SF do all of the fighting regardless of the long term consequences.


photo credit: ADF
Australian Prime Minister John Howard (1996-2007) with the troops

by Sasha Uzunov

The current Australian Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has tacitly acknowledged the wearing down of our Special Forces, because of the failed Nelson-Howard military doctrine, in the Afghanistan War.

But we must remember two things:

One, we must be prepared to accept casualties of young infantry soldiers, grunts.
And, secondly, more force does not necessarily mean success. The answer to winning in Afghanistan involves a combined political and military strategy.

Sasha Uzunov story - 10 July 2008
The Herald Sun,21985,23995986-5000117,00.html

New options to blunt Taliban Sasha Uzunov July 10, 2008 12:00am

The SASR and 4RAR (Commando) are our two Specials Forces units and are a precision tool to be used sparingly, not as a blunt instrument. Australian infantry soldiers have recently expressed their dissatisfaction at being kept away from the sharp end in Afghanistan. And the question must be asked: how long can the new Rudd Government use the SAS Regiment and 4RAR (Commando) in an infantry role before they become worn out? When will the Government allow our infantry to do the job they have trained for?

In 1999 the Howard government used the army's elite Special Forces unit, the SAS, to do most of the fighting in East Timor, which should have been performed by the infantry. The political logic was that the public and media would accept SAS casualties rather than a young infantryman, fresh out of home or from a small country town. That political priority seems to remain. But political logic does not necessarily make good military sense, and vice-versa.

In East Timor, the pro-Indonesian militia tried to inflict as many casualties as possible on our infantry units, including battalions made up of many reserve soldiers, in the hope that Australia would withdraw. The moral of the story is, no matter how hard the Australian Government tries to insulate our infantry from combat by using the SAS, the unexpected happens...
courtesy of The Aussie Digger

website/forum ...

quoting ABC NEWS
8 September 2008

Fitzgibbon signals possible infantry combat role Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has not ruled out using Australian infantry in combat for the first time since the Vietnam war.

All Australia's offensive combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have been carried out by elite SAS and commando units, but there are calls within the Army for regular infantry units to be given some of the combat burden.

The issue was raised in the autumn issue of the Australian Army Journal when two serving officers wrote that keeping the infantry out of the front line was having a negative effect on morale.

Mr Fitzgibbon says more than 1,000 Australian soldiers are currently in Afghanistan and he does not intend to increase that number.

But he says he will consider using the infantry in combat roles for the first time to ease the load on the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG).

"It is true that our Special Operations Task group - that is, our special forces people - have had to sustain rotations for a long, long time now," he said.

"We'll constantly look at how we can take the pressure off our special forces by constantly reviewing and potentially reconfiguring our commitment."
The Herald Sun newspaper

A grand political warrior
by Sasha Uzunov
21 January 2005

...Some have criticised General (Peter) Cosgrove on his over reliance on the SAS to do the fighting in East Timor that would normally have been taken up by the regular infantry.
But I think this criticism is unjustified.

Criticism should be aimed at the government of the day (Howard 1996-2007) and those at home squeamish about seeing a 19 year old lad away from home for the first time fighting a war. Better to send the SAS, whose identity cannot be revealed...



Saturday, September 06, 2008

Defence shares

Update: Defence reviews rules on shares

courtesty of


Phillip Hudson, September 6, 2008

THE Defence Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, will review the rules for senior Defence chiefs owning shares and the use of military equipment and facilities to host functions for sports teams.

Yesterday he demanded a written briefing from the Department of Defence by September 19 after the Herald revealed a 4200-tonne navy guided-missile frigate was used to host a function involving the failed fuel pill company Firepower after Defence chiefs became investors.

Defence Force chief, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, yesterday said he had a small investment in Firepower but denied a conflict of interest because HMAS Sydney was used to host a function organised by Firepower for the Sydney Kings basketball team.



Comment: As I suggested yesterday, there needs to be some kind of inquiry/review/investigation. We will be following this story in the media.

Friday, September 05, 2008



Syndey Morning Herald

Top brass swallow the Firepower pill

Gerard RyleSeptember 5, 2008

A 4200-TONNE navy guided missile frigate was handed over at taxpayers' expense for a gala sponsorship function involving the failed fuel pill company Firepower soon after Defence Force chiefs became investors.

Herald Sun

Australia's military budget doubles

Belinda Tasker September 05, 2008

AUSTRALIA'S defence budget is the 13th-biggest in the world, an international table shows.
Australia's defence allocation has leapt by about 56 per cent in the past seven years to $25.6 billion, meaning it now spends more than some European Union countries.


1. US $832.7b
2. Britain $94.8b
3. France $78.6b
4. China $69.4b
5. Japan $57.9b
6. Germany $52.4b
7. Saudi Arabia$46.1b
8. Russia $44.2b
9. Italy $37.8b
10. South Korea $34.1b
11. India $32.7b
12. Brazil $29.6b
13. AUSTRALIA $25.6b
14. Spain $23.3b
15. Canada $19.5b

SOURCE: Jane's Industry Quarterly
The Daily Telegraph

Wounded Digger on the mend in Afghanistan

By Ian McPhedran
September 05, 2008

A CRITICALLY injured Australian soldier who suffered wounds to his chest and stomach in a rebel ambush is expected to survive and will be joined by his family in Germany.

The Digger was with SAS soldiers who ran headlong into a powerful Taliban force on Tuesday afternoon.

During a fighting withdrawal lasting more than two hours, nine Australians were wounded.



Top brass swallow the Firepower pill

It is common practice for Defence PR to associate with sporting teams in order to promote recruitment of young people within the Defence Forces. There is nothing new or sinister in this.

However, a Defence Department investigation into the serious allegations raised in the Sydney Morning Herald article would probably clear the air for all concerned.


Australia's military budget doubles

We actually spend more than Canada, which has a bigger Armed Forces than Australia. However, we are committed to many operations overseas. The Canadians take part in many UN peacekeeping missions around the world.

Let's hope the extra money for Australian Defence is used wisely.


Esprit de Corps magazine (Canadian military)--

David Pugliese (Defence Watch - Ottawa Citizen newspaper blog--Canada)


Wounded Digger on the mend in Afghanistan

It must have been one hell of an ambush. Two hour fighting withdrawal and 9 diggers wounded.

Upcoming Team Uzunov article will take a closer look at Australia's military-political strategy in the Afghanistan War....... STAY TUNED!

Thursday, September 04, 2008



The Herald Sun newspaper is describing the wounding in action of 9 Australian Special Forces soldiers as the heaviest casualty toll since our involvement in the Vietnam War (1962-72). One digger is still fighting for his life and has been evacuated to a military hospital in Germany.

The Australians share a base with the Dutch NATO troops at Tarin Kowt, Oruzgan Province.,21985,24292387-5005961,00.html

"The soldier was one of nine special forces troops wounded in a hail of gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades on Tuesday, Australia's single biggest injury count since the Vietnam war. They were returning from a raid on Taliban forces when they were ambushed by a significant Taliban force.

"An unknown number of Taliban insurgents died in the fighting."

The Canadians operate out of the Kandahar province, the traditional Taliban stronghold.

The Canadian Press has reported that 3 Canadian soldiers were killed and 5 wounded.

comment: The traditional war fighting season in Afghanistan runs over the warmer months in the northern hemisphere.

With the onset of winter, the Taliban and other insurgents in the past have melted away and hibernated. So is this a last attempt to inflict casualties before the cold comes?

Then again, we have a US Presidential election in November of this year.


But could the Australian casualties have been minimised? Stay tuned for an up-coming article in takes a closer look at Australia's political-military strategy in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Leading conservative intellectual Dr Gerard Henderson has tried to offer some balance to the hysterical reporting by the Sunday Age (Fairfax media) about my story on Garrie Hutchinson

His letter to the crikey news website:


Gerard Henderson writes: Re. "Fairfax bosses put strikebreaking to good use" (yesterday, item 17). Crikey editor Jonathan Green yesterday bagged the quality of last weekend’s Sunday Age -- asserting that it provided "a little window on the world of journalistic practice as senior Fairfax managers see it". He objected to the fact that the Sunday Age Page One story during the journalists’ strike featured "the routine weekly compilation of Melbourne house sale results". Well, at least house sale results are news.

This cannot be said of the Sunday Age’s lead story in the two weeks before the strike. On 17 August the Sunday Age ran a Page One lead by Tom Hyland, with a flow-over to Page 8, on the fact that freelance journalist Sasha Uzunov had opposed the involvement of one time leftist Garrie Hutchinson in Vietnam Veterans Day. Gee wiz. There was also an editorial on this.

Hutchinson has never denied the fact that, at Melbourne University all those years ago, he took the fashionable leftist line and supported the Viet Cong, Ho Chi Minh and all that. In view of this, it is hardly surprising that a returned serviceman like Uzunov would object to Hutchinson’s involvement, as a Victorian public servant, in Vietnam Veterans Day. In any event, the Vietnam War ended over three decades ago. For the record, on 17 August the Sunday Age reported Russia’s contemporary invasion of Georgia towards the back of the first section. How’s that for news sense?

Then on 24 August the Sunday Age ran Michael Bachelard’s whinge titled "Going for gold, but at what cost?" as its Page One lead. This was the familiar we-spend-too-much-money-on-sport mantra. With the help of a self-declared "sports academic", Bachelard calculated that "taxpayers have forked out $16.7 million for each of the 13 gold medals won by Australia’s Olympic team in Beijing". This analysis implies that silver and bronze gongs were won for zip. How’s that for logic? And it’s certainly not news. This suggests that and Page One of the Sunday Age is more newsworthy when the likes of Hyland and Bachelard have downed their computers and are busy on the picket lines. Fancy that!

Sasha's comment

For the record, I never opposed Mr Hutchinson's position as a Veteran's Heritage Officer. I was simply reporting on the views of a number of Vietnam Veterans.



Tom Hyland on Gerard Henderson (September 4): I think Tom is being too clever here. For the record I never objected to Garrie Hutchinson as a Veteran Heritage Officer. As a journalist I was simply reporting anger from the Vietnam Veteran community.

But I think Dr Henderson is right because the tone of Tom's article by clever inference left no doubt that I was somehow pushing a hidden agenda. Im a journalist, not a spokesman for any group. Let me quote the Hyland article (17 August 2008, Sunday Age):

"The opening round was fired by freelance journalist Sasha Uzunov, a man on a curious crusade."

"Last Thursday, after Mr Hutchinson stepped aside from his position, Uzunov issued an email describing himself as a "fearless freelance photo-journalist" and boasting he had broken a story "that others seem to be too afraid to raise".

"Uzunov, a former soldier who served in East Timor, describes himself as a military affairs expert. He complains he is not taken seriously by mainstream journalists who are jealous of his claimed expertise. His self-published stories include emails in which he demands that men who were of military age in the 1960s justify why they didn't serve in the army."

I hope this will be the final say on this.

The Hyland article, in salty army barracks language, tries to tear me a second behind!

The part about the fearless freelance photo journalist comes from a group email addressed to The Age's Defence correspondent, Brendan Nicholson, who actually has a sense of humour....and calls me from time to time seeking defence tips. I wrote ...whilst Brendan Nicholson was having cookies and warm milk in cold Canberra, fearless reporter Sasha Uzunov breaks the story etc etc. It was a piss take! But Tom didn't mention that.

As for asking why our leading defence experts do not volunteer for military service, as a journalist Im proud to be asking this question. If I were a journalist covering the legal beat, i would be asking if "legal experts" had some form of training in the law; likewise if they were medical experts, I would ask if they had medical training.

Tom Hyland, The Sunday Age, writes: In his note to Crikey, Gerard Henderson (Tuesday, comments) criticised recent story selection by The Sunday Age. He referred to my August 17 story in the paper, regarding Garrie Hutchinson. Minor detail, I know, but the story was not the page one lead. Another minor detail, I suppose, but on any reading the story was not about the ''fact'', as Henderson put it, that Sasha Uzunov had objected to Hutchinson's involvement in Vietnam Veterans Day.

No one I spoke to stated any such objection, nor am I aware of any planned involvement by Hutchinson in the day. Instead, the story was about how veterans' representatives objected to Hutchinson's work in the veterans unit of the Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development. As to whether the Hutchinson issue was newsworthy, I'd have thought Henderson of all people would be aware that positions people took during the Vietnam War -- and the Cold War -- continue to resonate, decades on. Come to think of it, it's a theme Henderson has laboured more than twice. Final point, but I spent no time on the picket line last weekend. There was no picket line. Fancy that. Sorry if I quibble, but perhaps Henderson's propensity for pedantry is infectious.


By Sasha Uzunov
Copyright 2008

A report in today’s The Australian newspaper by Mark Dodd has revealed that Australian soldiers are detaining Afghan Taliban suspects in dog pens, which are culturally insensitive.

Before we jump on the Abu Ghraib Iraqi prisoner scandal bandwagon here, let us get all the facts before we condemn our soldiers.

I have visited Afghan administered prisons in Kabul in 2008, and Kandahar in 2007 and 2008.

Let me tell you, it is not the place I would like to be held. The NDS (Afghan Intelligence) run Detention centre for Taliban suspects in Kandahar has improved as the local authorities are eager to comply with western standards.

I am sure our soldiers are aware of the Geneva Convention and prisoner of war procedures and so on.

The balance that needs to be weighed up is keeping suspects safe and secure, and cultural sensitivity. In a war zone this is something very hard to juggle. But it is part of the winning of hearts and minds.

Photo of Taliban suspect being held in NDS detention centre in Kandahar 2007. A small, clean cell. copyright Sasha Uzunov 2007.

Fury as Diggers admit Taliban held in dog pens - 181k

Video: Interview with an Afghan suicide bomber

Scott Taylor on NDS Detention Centre, Kandahar

Sasha Uzunov interviewed on Triple J ABC radio about captured teenage Afghan suicide bomber

Vandalised monument given a clean

Vandalised monument given a clean

Good news. The statue of Naval explorer Matthew Flinders in Melbourne, reported as being vandalised, has been given a clean by the local authorities.
Photo taken at 12.20pm, Tuesday 2 September 2008.
Hoons attack Melbourne Naval monument


Photo taken: Saturday 30 August 2008 at 11.30am, Swanston Street, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

A prominent Melbourne city monument, the Matthew Flinders statue, has been vandalised late last week right under the noses of Victoria Police.

The statue is situated outside St Paul's Cathedral on Swanston Street and around just around the corner is a Victoria Police station in Flinders Lane.

Matthew Flinders was a famous British naval explorer (1774-1814) who became the first European to circumnavigate Australia in 1803.

The vandals left a possible calling card or clue by daubing the figure "3047" a possible reference to a suburb in Melbourne, which is Broadmeadows !

Photo is copyright Sasha Uzunov 2008.

Posted by TEAM UZUNOV at 2:02 PM

Monday, September 01, 2008


Melbourne Writers Festival ends...


by Sasha Uzunov
copyright 2008

I spent thirty minutes waiting for the scheduled start of controversial journalist John Pilger's talk on the "silence of the media" at the Melbourne Writers Festival on Saturday 23 August after organisers had botched the seating plan. But the wait was worth it.

Friendly fire is a military term meaning shooting or bombing your own side, so it came as a great surprise when Pilger turned his guns on fellow travellers Michael Gawenda, former The Age editor, and Professor Robert Manne.

What is remarkable is that the Age is also the sponsor of the Writer’s Festival and made no mention of this very public spat. A clear case of "silence of the media."

It was like a Pearl Harbour job, completely unexpected and out of the blue. We are all accustomed to Pilger venting his spleen about American foreign policy. On the night he did not disappoint, calling every western political leader, including our own Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a liar on the war on terror and even taking a pot shot at US Presidential candidate Barak Obama over his support for the "good war" in Afghanistan.

To say Pilger was furious would be an understatement. He was livid that Gawenda had taken a swipe at English journalist Nick Davies, also a speaker at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival and angered by Professor Manne, self proclaimed public intellectual.

Watching Pilger in action was like watching boxing great Muhammed Ali in action. The verbal punches, jabs, uppercuts, hooks, incredible stuff! I don’t think Gawenda or Manne would’ve have been able to get up from the verbal knock-down.

If you pardon the salty barracks language but I think Pilger tried to tear Gawenda and Manne a second behind. The genteel crowd would’ve been choking on their soya lattes.

So what had angered the great man to open up such a barrage, where terms such as character assassination, hatchet job, smear campaign, gatekeepers controlling flow of information were rolling off his tongue?

As the Andrew Landeryou blog,, revealed in more detail, Gawenda had fired a salvo at Nick Davies in a book review of Davies' Flat Earth News, in the Age (Saturday 23 August 2008) Gawenda’s gripe related to an incident in 1995 when the British journalist was on exchange with The Age:

"Davies had a big scoop. He had managed to get hold of a letter signed by seven doctors who said they favoured voluntary euthanasia...The letter was cleverly constructed so that none of the doctors individually admitted to having helped patients die...

"Oh, by the way, that scoop that Davies came up with shortly after he arrived at The Age...Well, Davies actually drafted that letter and took it to the doctors who signed it. Is there something wrong with that, the journalist as participant in a story? You decide."

What is Gawenda implying by this? Moreover, if he had his suspicions about the story then why didn't he do something about it in 1995? It's a bit unfair to hit someone over the head with an allegation after they have become a famous book author? Perhaps there might be a case of professional envy showing?

Pilger also attacked in equal ferocity Professor Manne, who is notorious for changing ideological sides. The good professor launched a critique of leftist reporter Wilfred Burchett, an Australian who was accused of working for the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

"These gatekeepers haven't recovered from the cold war," he said.

In an extraordinary move Pilger then directed the audience to check Professor Manne's article on the web. (

They do not seem to be a group of happy campers down at The Age and the Writer's Festival. But because of the "silence of the media" you did not hear about it in the Fairfax press!



By Sasha Uzunov
copyright 2008

The Australian Army’s new Chief, Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie, has recently called for a dramatic change in the way our army fights in a modern and complicated world. This is long overdue, but we will have to wait and see if that ever materialises or just gets buried away in some report.

General Gillespie has acknowledged the need to peel away the layers of headquarters and bureaucracy that hinder the chain of command’s ability to direct soldiers in battle. This makes excellent sense.

For the record, General Gillespie is held in high esteem by many.

The Chief of the army has also acknowledged that the “enemy” the Taliban has cleverly adapted the use of modern technology such as the internet to wage war. However, his claim that “our operations will often be less about killing the enemy than about making them irrelevant to the population,” is pie in the sky stuff unless we make some dramatic changes in our Army.

I do not believe that the Generals or politicians would be prepared to do that.

Let me explain, General Gillespie has acknowledged that soldiers will have more to do on the battlefield overseas.

That is they will have to undertake humanitarian assistance, nation building, and so on. We will need to have flexible soldiers. But where will these flexible soldiers come from? Army training can only do so much.

You have a 19 year old who enlists in the Army and his life experience is limited and yet he maybe required going to Afghanistan and assisting in that country’s restructuring. Or a 20 year old who is commissioned as an officer lead men into battle.

The current professional army does not allow for flexibility. I am not talking about changing the traditional chain of command structure or hierarchy. No army can function as a democracy, unfortunately. It is the nature of the beast.

What I am saying is a fully professional army consists of enlisted men and officers who, if they play the game, get promoted and move up the career ladder. Therefore, you do not encourage flexibility or initiative or the ability to think outside the box.

One way to overcome this is to have officers first serve two years as enlisted men before they can be lead men, the way they do in the Israeli Army. But our traditional military system inherited from the British is unlikely to change. There would be too much resistance because officers have a privileged role in our army.

Moreover, we need to encourage people from a wide variety of professional backgrounds to join the army. At present the system, known as Direct Entry Officer or Specialist Service Officer takes lawyers, dentists, doctors, engineers, journalists directly out of civilian life and puts them in fields related to their professions. This is a great idea.

However, we need flexible soldiers who will have to do the fighting. We need warrior-scholars, as opposed to a lawyer in uniform. We need to get people into infantry corps, the frontline troops.

How do we do that? One way, and this is highly controversial, is to re-introduce conscription. You might say why do you want people who do not want to be in uniform? They are precisely the people we need. It sounds crazy but a person who does not want to be in the Army is not interested in playing the career/promotion game and is more likely to speak his mind, within the boundaries of course. These are the people we need to fight these complicated new wars.

Let me give you an example of someone thinking outside the box. Colonel David H. Hackworth, US Army’s most decorated soldier from Vietnam, once proposed to the Pentagon that it hire a caving specialist (speleologist) who claimed he could locate all of the Viet Cong underground tunnels. But the Pentagon Generals with their narrow minded view knocked back the idea. It is one of the great what ifs of that controversial war.

Whilst the Taliban modify, adapt, change, organise, we just talk and pass ideas around.




After some confusion over who paid and who did not pay, we are happy to report that the mess has been cleared up over the medals for Long Tan veterans, as reported earlier.

Sasha Uzunov

Hoons attack Melbourne Naval monument


Photo taken: Saturday 30 August 2008 at 11.30am, Swanston Street, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

A prominent Melbourne city monument, the Matthew Flinders statue, has been vandalised late last week right under the noses of Victoria Police.

The statue is situated outside St Paul's Cathedral on Swanston Street and around just around the corner is a Victoria Police station in Flinders Lane.

Matthew Flinders was a famous British naval explorer (1774-1814) who became the first European to circumnavigate Australia in 1803.

The vandals left a possible calling card or clue by daubing the figure "3047" a possible reference to a suburb in Melbourne, which is Broadmeadows !

Photo is copyright Sasha Uzunov 2008.


By Sasha Uzunov copyright 2008

There used to be a long running joke within the Australian Army about Canada's touchy feely military that had gone soft because of years of peacekeeping.

Canada's National Defence Department (DND) became the butt of jokes when it employed an expensive California guru to run meditation sessions and bongo drum classes for senior bureaucrats during the 1991 Gulf War whilst Canadian soldiers were complaining about a lack of proper equipment.

Ex-Canadian soldier turned award winning journalist Scott Taylor initially drew a lot of heat from the media establishment when he published his ground breaking book, Tarnished Brass--Crime and Corruption in the Canadian Military, which exposed the guru incident as well as other scandals.

Recently in Afghanistan, we have heard of discontent from our infantry soldiers not being allowed to fight on the front lines whilst our Canadian cousins had finally got their act together. Even when Australians are permitted to fight in Afghanistan, there is no guarantee if they get wounded or seriously injured that they will be evacuated in time.

Questions were also raised over Australia's Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon bringing a mate on a joyride into a war zone at taxpayer expense last year. A fortnight ago the Australian government after 42 years finally recognised our heroes from the epic Vietnam War Battle of Long Tan (August 18, 1966). There were wild rumours that the government was also refusing to pick up the tab for a South Vietnamese bravery citation, which costs $12 a piece.

You could make all sorts of jokes about penny-pinching and bureaucratic red tape. A lot of these so called experts in Canberra spend more on morning tea or cappuccino.

In 1998 the then Chief of Australia's Army Lieutenant General Frank Hickling was so concerned that our army was following the Canadian path that he issued his famous back to basics directive ordering all soldiers sharpen up their war fighting skills. A year later his move had potentially saved the lives of many young Australian soldiers engaged in a conflict with pro-Indonesian militia in East Timor. General Hickling had to fight off opposition from some of Canberra's desk warriors and self-appointed experts who "knew better."

Let us not forget some of the hair-brained schemes to save money from the Defence budget. Highly paid academic and a former Secretary of Defence, Professor Paul Dibb, proposed in 2006 to "civilianise" some trades within the Army. He complained that there were too many Army cooks. But what he failed to understand is first and foremost cooks are trained soldiers who can be used to patrol bases, and secondly how many civilian cooks are prepared to work in a warzone. Maybe if we hired many Gordon Ramsey styled chefs, they could hurl abuse at the Taliban!

Maybe we need to employ some unorthodox methods to beat the Taliban. Here is a suggestion to the Defence Minister why don’t you commission Professor Dibb to go to England and recruit these foul-mouthed cooks who would strike terror into the terrorists.

Let us call it Dibb’s Deli. It would also be televised. Great reality television.

We cannot do any worse; consider the Canadians hired a guru and bongo drummer!


Tarnished Brass - Crime and Corruption in the Canadian Military,23739,24271772-953,00.html
Govt to pay Long Tan commander's bill for gallantry awards
Professor Paul Dibb's Army cooks!

New options to blunt Taliban,21985,23995986-5000117,00.html

The Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper (Australia)

New options to blunt Taliban
Sasha Uzunov

July 10, 2008 12:00am

THE death of Sean McCarthy in Afghanistan may send the message to allied forces that the time has come to meet insurgent attacks with an unorthodox approach.

The SAS signaller is the sixth Digger killed in action in Afghanistan and unfortunately it seems we can expect more casualties as our Special Forces soldiers bear the brunt of the fighting.

Canada has had 87 deaths, Britain 110 and Germany 25.

The SASR and 4RAR (Commando) are our two Specials Forces units and are a precision tool to be used sparingly, not as a blunt instrument.

Australian infantry soldiers have recently expressed their dissatisfaction at being kept away from the sharp end in Afghanistan.

And the question must be asked: how long can the new Rudd Government use the SAS Regiment and 4RAR (Commando) in an infantry role before they become worn out? When will the Government allow our infantry to do the job they have trained for?

In 1999 the Howard government used the army's elite Special Forces unit, the SAS, to do most of the fighting in East Timor, which should have been performed by the infantry.

The political logic was that the public and media would accept SAS casualties rather than a young infantryman, fresh out of home or from a small country town.

That political priority seems to remain. But political logic does not necessarily make good military sense, and vice-versa.

In East Timor, the pro-Indonesian militia tried to inflict as many casualties as possible on our infantry units, including battalions made up of many reserve soldiers, in the hope that Australia would withdraw.

The moral of the story is, no matter how hard the Australian Government tries to insulate our infantry from combat by using the SAS, the unexpected happens.

But why put more Australian soldiers' lives on the line in Afghanistan when there are alternatives?

I recently interviewed elusive Afghan General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the former warlord who helped the US remove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan in 2001. Dostum claims he can defeat the Taliban, but his offer has been ignored by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

This former leader of the Northern Alliance claims he has a 5000-man militia just itching to go down south and take on the Taliban.

If a hardened force of 5000 militia were to be introduced to Oruzgan province, it could make an important impact on a determined enemy.

In insurgency or guerilla warfare, there are no set-piece battles where armies face off.
It is about hit and run, hearts and minds, use of roadside bombs and booby traps. To defeat an insurgency you have try the unorthodox.

Famed US army commander Colonel David "Hack" Hackworth made two interesting observations about the Vietnam War, also an insurgency.

He said that to defeat the guerilla, you have to think and act like the guerilla. And he said: "There are two groups who know how to fight the Vietnam War: the Viet Cong and the Australians."
It seems our politicians may have forgotten the lessons learned by our brave soldiers in Vietnam.
Sasha Uzunov is a former Digger and a freelance journalist who's just returned from Afghanistan