Coalition MP and Afghanistan war veteran Phil Thompson is calling for a review of Australia’s entire drawdown from Afghanistan to make sure the lessons are learned before leaders send the nation’s bravest into harm’s way again.
His call comes as Australia tells the hundreds of Afghans with visas who were left behind to wait to hear from Home Affairs officials about when it might be safe for them to leave the country.
Mr Thompson, who served with the Army in East Timor and Afghanistan, says the review should be done by a parliamentary committee, independent of Defence. He’d like an examination of the entire drawdown over the past seven years, starting from when Australia was at full operation in the Uruzgan province, moving to the scaling back and plans with the US for transferring the bases, and then onto the emergency mission of the past fortnight to evacuate Australians and Afghans who helped Defence Force personnel.
But he doesn’t want it to be a “blame game”, saying leaders needed to improve their knowledge of “why we send people to places like this and how we can support them”.
“I look around parliament and I see very few people who understand why we were actually there,” he said, adding there were a lot of “armchair experts” now emerging.
“If there’s another war or there’s another time when we do have to send our bravest into harm’s way we should know why we’re doing that.
“We had lessons learned from Vietnam, we had lessons learned from East Timor, from Rwanda, from Somalia but I don’t think we’ve had the lessons from here.”
He’s raised the idea of a review with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Peter Dutton and intends to keep doing so, but said he didn’t want to speak publicly until the mission to evacuate people had ended.