RNZAF C130 in Afghanistan

Ardern’s C130 Gambit: Too Little Too Late

A brief recent history of New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan shows all too clearly the incompetence of Prime Minister Ardern, Foreign Minister Mahuta and Defence Minister Henare. The last Kiwi troops left Afghanistan in May this year. There has been constant calls since then to allow Afghans who supported our efforts and whose lives would be at risk to come to New Zealand. Ardern and her Cabinet have spent the time since then in a ‘Nero-like’ consideration of the ‘immigration settings’ for this with Immigration Minister Faafoi doing his best to hide from the media outlets he used to work for as a journalist.

Bamyan, the province in which we based our provincial reconstruction team, fell to the Taliban while this Government was taking the weekend to reflect before Cabinet met on Monday. By then, the Taliban controlled Kabul. Helen Clark, who this Government always reels out whenever they don’t know what to say, blames a western intelligence failure.

Ardern’s solution was to send an RNZAF C130 to evacuate remaining Kiwi civilians and those locals who assisted us – departing tomorrow. A few hours ago, Taliban predictably blocked all approaches to Kabul airport.

Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow. Easy to say. In Afghanistan now, those words represent life and death.

There was no western intelligence failure despite what Clark claims. It has been known even on OSINT channels that, from early last year, the Taliban have been paying off Afghan government officials to either switch sides or to offer no resistance. Put that in the context of corruption where soldiers and police haven’t been paid by their Government for months and you can understand how the country has fallen so quickly without much resistance. It has been systematically bought over the last eighteen months to two years right under the nose of the peace talks. There is more than one foreign country that has the resources and motive to fund such a campaign. Students of Sun Tzu will be nodding in acknowledgement of the maxim – the greatest victory is that which requires no battle.

Back to Ardern and her Government’s incompetence. Kabul Airport is dual military and civilian. Nothing is flying out of the civilian side. U.S. and other western troops are defending the military side and trying to keep hordes of desperate civilians off the runway. The Taliban have done exactly what I or any occupying force commander would. They have taken control of the approaches to the airport. The only way to get through now is bribery or risking your life by trying to sneak through. That’s assuming you’re in Kabul. Many of the people we would want evacuated will have scattered to the four winds weeks ago while this Government sat on its hands.

The question remaining is what price will the Taliban demand for allowing western aircraft to come and go unimpeded? Certainly, any attempt to fly without arranging this will see wreckage at the end of the runway. Aircraft are extremely vulnerable on takeoff and landing to almost any weapon known to mankind and troops on the ground are powerless to stop a stand-off attack.

If the plan is to park an aircraft in, say, UAE and wait to see who makes it there for a free ride home, then why send a tactical airlifter? Perhaps no B757 are available to sit on a runaway for a month – I don’t know. But my great concern is that Ardern, enabled by Mahuta and Henare – thinks everyone loves Kiwis and we will be able to fly in and out with a smile and a wave as long as all the women wear hijabs and the men don’t shave.

It would be safer to simply ask the Taliban how much but paying someone in the Presidential Palace is no guarantee that some kid who has just joined won’t put an RPG up your tailpipe.

So, my message to Ardern and co is this – the blood of the remaining Kiwis and our Afghan comrades and their families is on your hands due to your incompetence in a situation that required a war-time Prime Minister but instead was run by one fixated with opinion polls.

My greatest fear now, is that this situation will be compounded by the loss of a fully laden C130 attempting to fly out of Kabul at the direction of this government whose trademark is kindness and concern wrapped in a heavy cloak of hubris.

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A Poke in the Fifth Eye by Simon Roberts. Book Cover. Available on Amazon Kindle
A Poke in the Fifth Eye by Simon Roberts. Book Cover. Available on Amazon Kindle