TRANSCRIPT: INTERVIEW WITH DERRYN HINCH ON 3AW MELBOURNE
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 17 April 2012
DERRYN HINCH: Anyway on the line now the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Senator David Feeney, good afternoon.
DAVID FEENEY: G'day, How are you?
DERRYN HINCH: Well this is good news. I mean we've got a fairly tangible timetable here. Of course on the other side you've got people who will be saying well why should you tell the Taliban what you're doing, they'll just out wait and out sit you? But you've got to set a deadline sometime don't you?
DAVID FEENEY: Well I think the Government's always made it plain that our approach for Afghanistan was that we were working on a conditions based approach, we weren't working in a sort of a doctrinaire way to a timetable. So I think your point's well made that we're not in the business of establishing a schedule that defies or ignores what the reality is on the ground.
DERRYN HINCH: I spoke to a representative from the NATO, the international force yesterday about it because I'd raised the possible similarity with Tet . The Tet offensive during Vietnam which shows that the allies weren't going as well as they thought they were. The attacks in Kabul in recent days and the ease at which they seemed to do it sent a message, I think, to the west that maybe we aren't in as much control as we thought we were.
DAVID FEENEY: Very interesting point that I'd love to debate with you for a while because of course one of the fascinating things about Tet was that it was a military defeat for the Viet Cong although it was a propaganda victory.
DERRYN HINCH: Yes it was but we seem to forget that bit.
DAVID FEENEY: Of course - too many people forget that bit. I'm sure our soldiers and veterans don't. And of course what happened yesterday is, on a smaller scale, is very similar. I mean we have I think something in the order of 37 Taliban fighters killed in this operation, one policeman killed, several civilians killed.
From a military perspective an abject failure for the Taliban and part of their continuing degradation into really nothing more than an urban terrorist movement. But the pictures, the drama of it mean that often people get a different impression. In fact I think in a sort of very sombre way yesterday was good news in the sense that the Afghan security forces were able to manage the position, the Taliban force were wiped out, and really, on balance, had very little effect.
DERRYN HINCH: Yeah and that's - it was always said that the Tet offensive was a victory for the Viet Cong, the North Vietnamese had almost lost the war but they won the media war immediately after Tet because it was - it looked very effective.
DAVID FEENEY: The power of the media, that's right.
DERRYN HINCH: Right. Now so what is it - not the timetable, but what is the hope to get the troops out? They've got 1500 men there, what's the countdown sort of thing?
DAVID FEENEY: Really what the Prime Minister did today was provide all of us with an insight into the thinking that she'll be taking to the Chicago conference in May where the leadership of the coalition and Afghanistan will be making further decisions about the future. And really the thinking that she's taking to that conference is that she expects parts of Uruzgan province, where Australia is committed, to transition into becoming Afghanistan led security operations. And that means that by something in the order of mid 2013 conditions might be appropriate for the Australian forces that are there training the Afghan force brigade to return to Australia.
So I guess she was outlining a series of milestones that lie ahead of us, and a reasonable timetable in which the Australian forces there can confidently assert that the Afghans are ready to take responsibility for their own security.
DERRYN HINCH: Now with that in mind the Prime Minister is also saying in the speech that the international community will have to help support the Afghan national security forces after the transition.
DAVID FEENEY: That's true.
DERRYN HINCH: Now how does that translate? Is that we help them with money, do we leave advisors in there? What does that actually mean?
DAVID FEENEY: It might mean several of those things. I guess the first point is that - this is a transition that is not dependant on there being a reconciliation in Afghanistan. That is to say we are leaving behind an Afghanistan Government and military that is able to manage the counter-insurgency war against the Taliban.
But that means that the security forces, the Afghan security forces, need to be large and they need to be capable and will need to be supported by the international coalition in a financial sense.
The Prime Minister has also indicated that while the bulk of Australian military assistance to Afghanistan will be complete by 2013, she is open - the Government is open to considering the need for perhaps special operations assistance, that is to say special operations forces from Australia assisting Afghan special operations forces in counter terrorist operations going forward. But all of that will depend very much on what's happening on the ground, how people are feeling about the transition in 2013, and of course what is the mandate because we can't forget we're there in Afghanistan as part of a coalition operating under a UN mandate.
DERRYN HINCH: That's true. Senator Feeney thanks for your time.
DAVID FEENEY: A pleasure. Thanks for having me on.