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Oz was 'pessimistic' about involvement in Afghan: Leaked papers

world Updated: Dec 10, 2010 15:43 IST

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Australia was "very pessimistic" about its involvement in Afghanistan, with it then prime minister Kevin Rudd saying the outlook in the war-torn country "scares the hell out of me" while his top officials describing as hopeless the task to train Afghan police, according to leaked US cables.

Even though there were public assurances made on progress in Afghanistan, secret cables from the US embassy in Melbourne, released by the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks, showed that some of the Australian top diplomats and officials had serious concerns about the success, 'The Age' reported.

The cables also disclosed further embarrassing revelations about the conduct of Rudd, who is now the foreign minister, the report said.

According to one of the cables, Rudd derides the contribution of France and Germany to the fight against the Taliban as "organising folk-dancing festivals" and confides that the outlook in Afghanistan "scares the hell out of me."

Another cable sent to Washington in November 2009 by the US embassy in Canberra records the Australian special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ric Smith, a former secretary of the defence department, delivering a bleak assessment of the international community's Afghan strategy.

"Smith had just returned from a visit to Oruzgan and described the mission in Afghanistan and Afghan government presence as a 'wobbly three-legged stool'," the cable said.

On increasing funds to train Afghan police by Australia, Smith warned it might involve "putting good money into a bad situation."

Another cable, issued in December 2009, said that "Smith questioned what the AFP (Australian Federal Police) would be able to accomplish given the 'train wreck' that they had to be given to work with in the Afghan National Police."

A cable from October 2008, which records what Rudd, then the prime minister, told a group of visiting US Congressmen, said that he "concluded by noting that the national security establishment in Australia was very pessimistic about the long-term prognosis for Afghanistan."