Knight: Minister, does the Afghanistan war still scare the hell out of
Foreign Minister Rudd: Afghanistan has always been a difficult operating
environment from the time the Government changed back in 2007.
The very claim that this was a very difficult, dangerous and bloody and at
times grim situation - that’s reflected in what the Government was saying
at the time, and also reflected in terms of our analysis at the time as
As of the last couple of years, of course ourselves and the Americans have
embarked on a fundamental and re-directional reform of strategy both within
Afghanistan, ourselves, but also in partnership with the other NATO and
Knight: Why did you… Why did it scare the hell out of you?
Rudd: Firstly, if you are referring to Wikileaks, let me just again
say very plainly, that the Government will not comment on the content or
the accuracy of any cables which have been the subject of unauthorised
release. There is a reason for that, and the reason for that is if you are
going to maintain a system of international diplomacy based on confidential
communications, those communications should remain confidential. The
Government routinely and consistently condemns any such breach including
these breaches as well.
And on the general policy on Afghanistan let me make some other remarks.
When the Government assumed office at the end of 07, it was quite plain
from the situation on the ground there that we were in a difficult,
dangerous, bloody and at times grim environment and the Government was very
frank about that with the Australian people, frank about also the basis for
our redirection of Australian Government strategy, redirection of US
strategy, redirection of NATO/ISAF strategy.
That process began in 09 and you see it reflected also with the decisions
of the recent NATO/ISAF summit.
Knight: Was that your view and is it still your view?
Rudd: Again I won’t go to the content and the accuracy of what may
have been contained in cable traffic which has been the subject of
What I will say, just go to the public record; grim, difficult, dangerous,
bloody, these are the things that I consistently said to the Australian
people back in 08 about the situation we faced, and therefore, when it came
time for Australia to step up more, and to increase our troop presence on
the ground by nearly 50%, we did so in the context by a redefinition of
Australia’s Afghanistan strategy, in Uruzgan, to train the Afghan security
forces, to build up capacity within the Afghan provincial government within
the province of Uruzgan, and provide a basis for ultimate Australian
withdrawal. And we did that consistent with the redefinition of US and
NATO/ISAF strategy as well.
That’s what we have done since then, those were our views then, and they
are reflected aptly on the Government’s public record at the time.
Knight: Minister, Wikileaks has put your Prime Ministership quite back
in the spotlight. How much more is to come?
Rudd: You know something, as I have said before, the subject of
unauthorized release of cables is a matter for debate in every capital in
the world right now. Foreign Ministers, Prime Ministers answering all sorts
of questions which have arisen through the claims contained in various
cables which have been the subject of unauthorised release.
The bottom line is if you are going to be in the business of diplomacy,
diplomatic communications are supposed to remain confidential and that’s
why we condemn their unauthorized release and we continue to do so, but the
job of being the foreign minister of Australia means getting on with the
Why am I right now here in the Sinai with you? I’m here in the Sinai right
now because we have got a whole bunch of dedicated Australian defence
professionals who are doing their job to maintain peace and security in a
highly unstable part of the world in a line which separates Israel and
Egypt and with Gaza and Hamas not far away, in fact, 15 kilometres away
from where we stand at the moment - that’s the business of proper diplomacy
right now. They are the challenges which the international community faces
right now. They are the challenges which the Australian government faces
right now. I’ll leave it to the historians to deal with any other matter
that you care to raise.
Knight: Just one final questions minister. As Australia’s foreign
Minister, have you detected any change or reticence amongst the diplomats
that you are dealing with?
Rudd: Absolutely not. The attitude of foreign policy professionals
and diplomats and heads of Government around the region and around the
world is to get on with the business of the challenges of today.
We have a peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority which
is running into all sorts of trouble. We have Hamas operating barely 15
kilometres from where we are right now. We have got a number of Australian
defence force personnel on the ground here right now. This is the sort of
practical stuff which foreign policy and foreign policy professionals and
foreign ministers are dealing with as we speak here in Cairo, in Dubai,
right around the Middle East, and guess what, the United States and
The job with foreign policy like defence policy is to get on with the job
and not rake over the embers of the past.
Knight: Kevin Rudd thank you.
Rudd: Thank you.
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