Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Above: Wily Afghan General Abdul Rashid Dostum (left) pictured with Canadian journalist Scott Taylor in 2007. Dostum claims he can put together a 5,000 strong army and clean out the Taliban but is being stopped by NATO from doing so.

Australian freelance photo journalist Sasha Uzunov in local Afghan attire meets charismatic and unorthodox American woman Sarah Chayes who lives outside the wire in Kandahar, Afghanistan

On-Line Opinion - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


Out-'talibaning' the Taliban:
can the US ‘win’ in Afghanistan?
By Sasha Uzunov - 30 December 2008

The late David “Hack” Hackworth, the most decorated American soldier from the Korean and Vietnam Wars and a respected military critic, once said that to beat the guerrilla or insurgent you have to “out-g the g” or out-guerrilla the guerrilla! That is you have to use his tactics against him.

The United States - and by extension the “Free World” including Australia - now finds itself poised for a make or break year 2009 in the Afghanistan War. The Taliban has become resurgent in more than 50 per cent of the country. Some are claiming more than 70 per cent.

But can the US really win the war in Afghanistan? It depends how you define winning. It has been easy for commentators to compare the Vietnam War and Afghanistan - with the focus on beating an elusive enemy that comes and goes: the Viet Cong in Vietnam and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

With any counter-insurgency war, the key to winning is a two-pronged attack - political and military. That is removing the support for the insurgent or guerrilla from the people. The most obvious way from a political angle is to provide the local people with clean running water, sanitation, health, jobs and education and combat corruption within the government.

The sad truth is that much of the western aid in Kandahar, the Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan, is not getting through. Canadian journalist Scott Taylor and I had the opportunity to see for ourselves, outside the wire in June 2008, that local schools did not have books or computers. Literacy is at the heart of weaning the locals from the need for the Taliban.

One brave woman, Sarah Chayse, a former American journalist, lives outside the comfortable NATO base or western style compounds in Kandahar. She has gained street credibility by running a simple soap factory that employs local men and woman. She is Afghanistan’s version of John Paul Vann, the famous American advisor from the Vietnam War. The Commander of Canadian Forces, Brigadier-General Denis Thompson even paid her visit while we were her guests earlier this year.

Moreover, at some point the Taliban will probably have to be brought to the negotiating table. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has left the door open for such a possibility.

Critics always point out that the US is not good at winning counter-insurgency war with Vietnam cited ad nauseam as the example; that US military doctrine is geared towards set piece battles with enormous fire power. The irony of all this is that US has the answers staring it right in the face. The Whitehouse and the Pentagon need only go back into the history pages, back into the time of the founding of the US in the late 18th century.

Rogers Rangers or Petraeus' Patriots

Rogers Rangers were a group of irregular colonial American soldiers recruited by the British in the late 1700s to fight the competing French Empire and Indians in North America. They were famous for using what has now become known as guerrilla tactics, ambushing, hit and run and so on. Later, some of these tactics were used by the Americans fighting for Independence against the British. Those ex-Rogers Rangers that remained loyal to the British Empire during the American War of Independence moved to Canada.

Both the United States and Canadian Armies claim the legacy of Rogers Rangers. The present day 1st Battalion, 119th Field Artillery (United States) and the Canadian The Queen's York Rangers (1st American Regiment) trace their roots back to Rogers Rangers.
Both countries are now fighting side by side in Afghanistan. The Canadians have taken many casualties, with a hundred soldiers killed already.

Perhaps the US military might want to re-create a 21st century version of Rogers’s Rangers and call it Petraeus’ Patriots, after the famous US Army General David Petraeus from the Iraq War known for thinking outside the box.

Another man who could help the US is an articulate and fighting Colonel, HR McMaster, who in 2005 was successful in counter-insurgency operations in Northern Iraq. I had the good fortune to meet Colonel McMaster in Tal Afar, Northern Iraq in 2005.

Perhaps promoting him to Brigadier-General and giving him a command in Afghanistan should be considered top priority by incoming US President Barak Obama

The US, Australia and Canada, have their Special Forces units operating in Afghanistan. The Commander of Australia’s Special Operations Command, Major General Tim McOwan has claimed during a recent media meet and greet and slide show in Canberra that the elite SASR (Special Air Service Regiment) and 4RAR (Commando) were beating the Taliban at its own game.

"In many instances your Special Forces soldiers are able to clandestinely capture these leaders without ever firing a shot. On one occasion the commandos infiltrated undetected into the heart of a Taliban safe haven to capture the Taliban leader Ahmad Shah in his bed," he said.

General McOwan has not revealed in great detail what tactics the SASR and Commandos are using but it does not take a genius to work out that the key to any operations is to remain unpredictable - the enemy not knowing where and when you will strike. Moreover, not leaving a signature, that is the enemy does not know how you will strike: will you enter (insert) the battle with helicopters, armoured vehicles or just walk in?

The Black Hawk down episode in Somalia in 1993 saw a band of militia with cheap but effective weapons, Kalashnikov assault rifles, RPG rocket launchers, bring down two very expensive American Black Hawk helicopters and inflict casualties on US Army Specials Forces (Green Berets, Delta Force and Rangers). The political result was President Clinton withdrew from the mission. The Somali militias had learnt when and where the US military would strike because it had become routine in its operations and left a “signature”.

In 2001 when the US invaded Afghanistan and successfully removed the Taliban from power, Green Berets joined forces with Northern Alliance rebels, namely ethnic Uzbek forces led by the wily General Abdul Rashid Dostum. One of the traditional ways they travelled into the battlefield was by horse because of the hostile terrain.

Irregular and radical tactics

As a suggestion, and if it has not been already been adopted, why not have a brigade or regiment (over 1,500 soldiers) of US Army Green Berets or Petraeus Patriots dressed as local Afghanis, full beards, using traditional weapons such Kalashnikovs and RPGs supplemented but not dominated by the high-tech gadgets that the US likes to use in warfare, hunt down the Taliban. Throw in some tracker dogs as well. We could have a contingent of Canadian Special Forces, JTF 2, along for the ride. They could be nicknamed Hilliers’ Harrassers, in honour of the hugely popular Canadian Defence Chief, General Ricky “The Big Cod” Hillier.

In 2,000 years no one, including the British or the Russians has been able to subdue Afghanistan. History is against the US. However, history can also find the answers.

Afghanistan is a nation made up of various ethnic groups, Pushtuns namely in the south, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras, the descendents of the Mongols, and two strands of Islam, Sunni and Shiite. Trying to keep Afghanistan, like multi-ethnic Iraq, as a central state is downright crazy. Some kind of federation should be considered, devolving power as a safety mechanism.

Pushtuns have their kinsmen living in neighbouring northern Pakistan. It comes as no great surprise that the Taliban, which draws its support from the Pushtuns, has safe heavens across the border in Pakistan. To revisit the Vietnam War, the communist North Vietnam used neighbouring Cambodia as part of its Ho Chi Minh trail as a supply line to the Viet Cong (Communist insurgent forces) in the South.

The US now has to also cut off the “Osama bin Laden Pass” connecting Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A federal Afghanistan with the national army complemented by regional forces - and private armies run by warlords are a fact of life in Afghanistan today as they were centuries ago - would act as a counter to the Taliban.

In June 2008, Canadian journalist Scott Taylor and I were told by Dostum in Kabul, the Afghan capital that he could round up an army of 5,000 fighters and clean out the Taliban. Similarly, leader Pocha Khan Zadran said he could do the same in the East alongside the border with Pakistan.

Critics, pundits, defence experts, armchair generals, and the media constantly bombards us with the notion that we need to be able to think outside the box, and have a willingness to try something unorthodox. But it seems many of these groups are set in their ways.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Brisbane Courier Mail newspaper article, Australia


Holiday hypocrisy

by Sasha Uzunov
December 17, 2008 11:00pm

UNION protest at dropping the long weekend rankles with Vietnam War veterans stung by past anti-war action.

For some of Queensland's Vietnam veterans who watched this week as the Queensland Council of Unions jumped on the Anzac legend bandwagon to keep a public holiday next year, painful memories have been dredged up.

Anzac Day falls on a Saturday in 2009 and the Queensland Government will not be giving either the Friday before or Monday after in lieu of April 25 as a public holiday.

As one veteran quipped on a website: "After striking during the Vietnam War and withholding supplies destined for troops, the unions now want to benefit from their shame, I think not."
Keith Tennent, a Rockhampton veteran and editor of influential website,

www.theaussiedigger.com, added his thoughts on the issue by writing:

"Anzac Day is a day of solemn remembrance, not an excuse for a barbecue and a beer."

Not all trade unions are the same and cannot be blamed for the past actions of other unions. But you can understand Vietnam veterans' anger at the hypocrisy of those who opposed our involvement in the Vietnam War, and now all of a sudden are flag-waving super-patriots when it suits them.

Paul Ham, in his excellent book, Vietnam –The Australian War, reveals:

"In November 1969, the Sydney branch of the Waterside Workers Federation refused to load the Jeparit, the military supply ship that shuttled between Sydney and Vung Tau (Vietnam). This time the ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions) did nothing to restrain them . . . vital supplies were delayed. The postal unions urged their members to take industrial action."

A staunch supporter of the massive national anti-Vietnam War moratorium protests in 1970 was the Queensland Trades and Labor Council.

Bob Hawke was the ACTU president at the time of the fierce opposition to the Vietnam War. That didn't stop him, as prime minister, from basking in the limelight at the welcome-home parade for Vietnam veterans in 1987.

Now, having said all that, I understand that allowing an Anzac Day long weekend for many would be great.

We are constantly bombarded, by social scientists and other experts, with the fact that we Australians work longer hours than ever before and are dedicated to our careers.

We are made to feel guilty about not spending quality time with our family or loved ones because of work. Marriages and relationships are put under strain.

Doctors and psychologists warn us constantly of stress that could damage our physical and mental health because of over-work in trying to keep up with mortgage repayments and paying the bills.

Time off would be great, but is it really so bad if we miss one public holiday on a rare occasion when it falls on a weekend. It's not the end of the world, but missing an arm or a leg because of a war wound is close.

The Queensland Council of Unions needs to put things into perspective.

If we want to pay our respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in war then let us honour April 25, Anzac Day, on whatever day it falls.

Sasha Uzunov is a journalist who has worked in Iraq and Afghanistan and a former Australian soldier who served two tours of duty in East Timor.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Private Bruce Kingsbury VC - Kokoda WWII

Private Les Farren - Vietnam


Sasha Uzunov, a Reservoir freelance photo journalist and former Australian soldier who served in East Timor, says he wants to propose to Darebin City Council that they place a statue of one of Australia’s greatest World War II heroes Private Bruce Kingsbury VC at the Reservoir Cenotaph in Edwardes Street, Reservoir, Melbourne, Australia.

Sasha Uzunov spent 15 years campaigning for a memorial plaque for Victoria’s first National Serviceman (conscript) killed in Vietnam, Pte Leslie Farren of the northern Melbourne suburb Reservoir, (within Darebin City). Sasha was eventually successful and a plaque was placed at the Reservoir Cenotaph in 2006 amidst great fanfare by the Darebin Council and the media.

Private Kingsbury lived in the City of Darebin (covering the suburbs of Northcote, Thornbury, Preston, Reservoir, Regent and Kingsbury).

See link: below:

Bruce Kingsbury VC (1918-42)

Bruce Kingsbury was born in Armadale in 1918. After working interstate for a while he joined his fathers real estate business in Northcote. Kingsbury lived in Gilbert Road in West Preston.

When the World War II broke out Kingsbury quickly enlisted. Sent to Palestine Kingsbury saw action in both Egypt and Syria. In 1942, Kingsbury’s unit, the 2/14th Battalion was posted to Port Moresby.

On 29th August 1942, the 2/14 was involved in heavy fighting on the Kokoda trail. Japanese attacks were successful in pushing back the Australians. With the Battalion Headquarters in danger of being overrun it was vital that a counter attack was made. Kingsbury’s unit had been severely handled by the Japanese so Kingsbury joined another platoon assigned to make the counter attack.

Charging the enemy, firing his machine gun from his hip, Kingsbury inflicted heavy causalities upon the Japanese defenders. Taken by surprise by his attack the Japanese defenders scattered and the Australians were able to regain a precious 100 yards of territory.

But the cost was high. Kingsbury was now about 15 yards in front of his colleagues. A Japanese sniper fired a single shot, killing Kingsbury, before fleeing into the jungle.

In sacrificing his life Kingsbury had saved the headquarters and prevented the Japanese from taking a decisive dominance in the battle for the Kokoda trail. Bruce Kingsbury is buried in the Kokoda War Cemetery.

Mr Pete Crockett - Secretary of The Kingsbury Society is seeking to have created by renowned local sculptor, Peter Corlett, a full-sized bronze statue of Bruce Kingsbury, to cost approximately $100,000 and to be located in Melbourne's City of Darebin.

“Unfortunately we are many years away from reaching that target of funding,” Mr Crockett said.
“Darebin Council had rejected a proposal to place a life-sized statute of Kingsbury VC outside the Preston Town Hall on the corner of High Street and Gower Streets, Preston.”

The Reservoir Cenotaph would be an ideal place for the Kingsbury monument, Sasha Uzunov said. But we would need to get permission from the Reservoir RSL, which administers the site. Hopefully we can get DVA to fund the project.


PETER CROCKETT - Secretary of The Kingsbury Society. To contact him call 0404 560 424
Email: bsk@alphalink.com.au

5RAR - Pte L.T. Farren memorial plaque / ceremony

Leslie Thomas Farren. Killed in Action, 10 June 1966

A First Angry Shot Remembered (The Melbourne Herald Sun, page 20)

by Sasha UzunovAugust 24, 2006 12:00am

Bank teller Les Farren did not live to hear Prime Minister John Howard's apology for the reception his mates received from a disillusioned public when they returned home from Vietnam.

This little-known soldier from the Melbourne suburb of Reservoir was the first Victorian National Serviceman to die in that controversial war.

But he will be remembered when his 86-year-old mother, Lillian Farren, unveils a plaque on Monday at the Reservoir Cenotaph.Forty years after his death, Mrs Farren still grieves for her son.

"It was awful to see Les go and never see him again", said Mrs Farren. "This way he will be remembered."

Les was always in the shadow of another Melbourne suburbs boy when he went to Vietnam. The 1960s Australian pop legend, Normie Rowe, was one of his schoolmates at the Northcote High School before they were called up for Vietnam.

Les, two years older than Normie, was quietly spoken and looking forward to being an accountant in the suburbs.Normie, in the era of Beatlemania, was being mobbed by screaming hysterical teenage girls and had the music world at his feet.

But Vietnam changed their lives. Pte Leslie Thomas Farren was conscripted in 1965 and posted to 10 Platoon, Delta Company, 5th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, Infantry Corps.

He was also a keen amateur photographer and the only son of Thomas and Lillian Farren.On June 10, 1966, while on patrol in South Vietnam, Pte Farren was severely wounded by Viet Cong mortar fire.

He was 19 days short of his 21st birthday. Cpl Frank Donovan was the army medic who tried to help Les."Les Farren actually died in my arms from massive lower body wounds," said Cpl Donovan. The extent of his wounds and loss of blood made survival impossible.

Trooper Norman J. Rowe got the call up in 1968 and went to Vietnam in 1969 with A Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, Armoured Corps.He survived but it almost ended his musical career.

I took an interest in Les Farren after reading about him in a newspaper more than 15 years ago.

I was surprised no one had acknowledged his service. Les was one of the unsung people who do
their duty without fuss or fanfare.Len Barlow, secretary of the Victorian branch of the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia helped me to lobby Darebin Council for the commemorative plaque that will be unveiled by his mother.

To its credit, the council quickly approved the proposal. Les Farren has not been forgotten but it has taken too long to acknowledge his service.

Following the Prime Minister's words on Vietnam Veterans Day last Friday, the sacrifice of these veterans might now be better remembered.

Videos and photos of Private Leslie Farren (10 Platoon, D Company, 5 RAR) Memorial Plaque Ceremony First Victorian National Serviceman to be killed in Vietnam War on 10 June 1966. - MONDAY 28 August 2006, Reservoir Cenotaph, Reservoir, City of Darebin, Victoria.

Photographs of the Occasion

Mr Bob Elworthy, President of Australian Vietnam Veterans Association - Victorian Branch, chats to some 5RAR veterans at the Leslie Farren memorial plaque ceremony. VVAA - Vic Branch sponsored the plaque.

Mr Frank Donovan, then an Army Medic with 5RAR, who held Leslie Farren, as he died of his wounds, giving a speech. Next to him is Councillor Stanley Chiang, the Mayor of Darebin City Council, which lent his support behind the memorial.

Cr Stanley Chiang, lays a wreath at the Reservoir cenotaph

The last surviving next of kin, Mrs Lillian Farren, aged 86, unveils the plaque to her son. Cr Chiang is on hand to help.

The memorial plaque, kindly sponsored by the VVAA - Vic Branch, and with technical support from the Darebin City Council. The plaque inscription reads: "

In Memory of 3786921 Leslie Thomas Farren - First Victorian National Serviceman Killed in the Vietnam War, 10 June 1966. Sponsored by: VVAA - Vic Branch 28 August 2006

Sasha Uzunov, freelance photo journalist and East Timor veteran, who proposed the plaque.