By Bill Frilay.

Note This article was written prior to Stephen Smith’s announcements concerning Australia’s commitments in Afghanistan.

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN (January 23, 2002)Afghanistan has been described as ‘the graveyard of empires’. The British suffered defeats there before reaching agreement on the border between India and Afghanistan during the great empire game with Russia in the 19th century. The former Soviet Union, too, had its nose well and truly bloodied when it invaded and occupied in 1979-883. The country is made up of tribal regions – only in 1747 did a leader of the Pushtun form a confederacy, and not until the 1830s did it take on the appearance of a single nation. Yet violence seems endemic; a hostile geographical environment hinders communications; the climate is very harsh; and above all there seems a fierceness in the people who defend their lands. It is traditionally peopled by regional tribes headed by warlords.

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains, 
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains,
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier. 
Rudyard Kipling The Young British Soldier

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Photo courtesy San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, flickr cc.

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