Veteran calls for troop recall

Former Rat of Tobruk Gordon Wallace, 90, a special guest at the Nambour Operation Bulimba memorial service, reckons Australian troops should withdraw from Afghanistan.
Former Rat of Tobruk Gordon Wallace, 90, a special guest at the Nambour Operation Bulimba memorial service, reckons Australian troops should withdraw from Afghanistan. Warren Lynam

A DECORATED Second World War veteran has implored the government to bring Australian troops home from Afghanistan, conceding that the Taliban will probably assume power there again.

Former Rat of Tobruk, Gordon Wallace, broke ranks with the RSL to say it was "obvious" Australian troops should no longer be in the trouble spot.

His comments came as veterans gathered in Nambour to mark the 70th anniversary of Operation Bulimba, a North African offensive during the Second World War.

The 2/15th Battalion was in the thick of the action and Mr Wallace is president of the 2/15th Battalion Remembrance Club and also head of the Queensland Rats of Tobruk Association.

He was one of the youngest members to join the 2/15th Battalion but now, at 90 years of age, is adamant Australia has no part to play in Afghanistan.

"We shouldn't be there and I think that's obvious," he said.

"They still grow opium there and that's the only thing they have to live with."

Mr Wallace said he believed the Taliban would return to power at the completion of an allied force withdrawal as happened when Russia withdrew in 1989.

"Once we pull our troops out of there it will go back to the little war lords that were there before and the Taliban will take over," he said.

"The Russians were in Afghanistan for 11 years and the same thing happened then."

His views are at odds with many veterans, including Vietnam veteran and Victoria Cross recipient Keith Payne, who was also a guest at yesterday's ceremony.

He visited Afghanistan in 2009 as a guest of former Minister of Defence Joel Fitzgibbon and believes Australia is making good progress there.

A well-structured withdrawal plan was of utmost importance, he said.

"I visited Afghanistan three years ago and I was impressed with what our troops were doing and the success that they are having.

"As I said to the Minister for Defence, I don't want to see the withdrawal of Afghanistan being like Vietnam in reverse.

"We sent advisers first to Vietnam and then the troops came later, so I wouldn't like to see advisers left in the field in Afghanistan."

Mr Payne said he had advised Mr Fitzgibbon of the importance of a unanimous Australian troop withdrawal.

"To leave advisers in Afghanistan so that the Afghan people can have tactical air support and artillery would be wrong," he said.

"I've mentioned to the Defence Minister and the chief of the army that if you pull them out, you pull the bloody lot out."

70th anniversary of Operation Bulimba

  • Occurred on September 1, 1942
  • 61 killed or mortally wounded in three hours
  • Nambour man Les (Sandy) Plater died of his wounds from the battle on September 2, 1942
  • The Battalion was named after a Queensland beer

Topics:  afghanistan rats of tobruk rsl veteran

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