PRT Activity in Afghanistan: The Australian Experience

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Australia in 2005 inaugurated an imaginative deployment of forces to Afghanistan, which culminated in the linking of elements of the Australian Defence Force (ADF ) to the Dutch Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in the province of Uruzgan. Coming after a period of some years in which only one Australian soldier had been posted in Afghanistan, it marked a dramatic return to a theatre of operations in which Australian forces had been actively employed in kinetic roles in 2001-2002. The new deployment enjoyed bipartisan support from the major political parties within Australia, but experiences on the ground point to both opportunities and constraints associated with the PRT model. To Australian policy makers, committed to a ‘whole of government’ approach to peace building, the Uruzgan deployment provided the chance to integrate military and reconstruction activities in pursuit of both effective counterinsurgency strategies and the achievement of broader stability. However, the complex political environment in both Uruzgan specifically and Afghanistan more broadly has limited what can be achieved. Furthermore, political developments in the Netherlands resulted in the withdrawal of the Dutch contingent (Kulish 2010); and Australia, after its August 2010 election, is ruled by a minority government, dependent on the support of several Members of Parliament (MPs) who are opposed to the Afghanistan commitment. As a result it is increasingly unclear what long-term approach Australia will take. More seriously, a decline in US commitment would be likely to flow through to Australia, given the importance of its strategic relationship with the United States in shaping force deployment decisions. Australia falls into the category of ‘servant’ set out in the introduction to this volume: it is driven much more by a sense of alliance dependence than it is by threat balancing (Walt 1987: 21-8). This chapter is divided into six sections. The first gives some background information about the history of Australia’s international deployments, the structure and organisation of the ADF, and the development of thinking about civil and military responsibilities in disrupted states. The second outlines the circumstances that surrounded the present deployment and the various activities which it has involved. The third looks in more detail at the complexities of the situation in Uruzgan and in Afghanistan as a whole since the commencement of the deployment in 2005. The fourth examines the way in which Australian domestic politics is shifting, and the fifth examines the likely response of Australia to declining US commitment. The final section offers some brief conclusions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationStatebuilding in Afghanistan: Multinational Contributions to Reconstruction
    Editors Nik Hynek and Peter Marton
    Place of PublicationAbingdon, UK and New York, USA
    PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis Group
    ISBN (Print)9780415620499
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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