The Dust of Uruzgan
Fred Smith has been described as 'Australia's secret weapon' in international diplomacy. As a career diplomat, he served in Afghanistan during the time Australian Defence Forces were engaged in our 'longest war' against Taliban insurgents.
It was Fred's second career as a musician that came to the fore in Uruzgan province, where his guitar served as a bridge not only to the Australian troops, but also to the people of this war-torn region. His song about the death of Australian soldier Ben Ranaudo, 'The Dust of Uruzgan,' captured the hearts of many serving in Afghanistan and was recoded by Lee Kernaghan on his bestselling Tribute to Anzac album. A second song, 'Sapper's Lullaby' has become an anthem for soldiers and their families...Now, with Australian forces out of Afghanistan, this book is the first comprehensive insider account of Australia's deep involvement there.
Part memoir, part history, part anecdote, it is set against a subsistence agricultural province with a 5% literacy rate, in which tribal leaders colluded and conspired against one another in a society where trust had been smashed by 35 years of brutal warfare. The cast of characters includes charismatic tribal leaders, corrupt Provincial Governors, domineering warlords, bustling US colonels, and courteous interpreters, all of whom Fred worked with daily during his unique mission... The Dust of Uruzgan recounts the struggles, setbacks and successes of a contingent of Australian soldiers, diplomats and aid workers trying to make a difference in the midst of a hellhole, where truth and clarity were often buried and where 40 young Australian soldiers perished in the dust of Uruzgan.
Over the last 15 years Fred Smith has emerged as one of Australia's most interesting songwriters. He has spent the last 15 years all over the joint: working on peace keeping missions in Afghanistan and the South Pacific, touring in America and travelling the Australian festival circuit...He is the subject of the film Bougainville Sky about his time in the war-torn islands of the South Pacific where his work as a musician and radio broadcaster contributed to the success of the world's first unarmed peace keeping force...Fred was the first Australian diplomat to be posted to Uruzgan in July of 2009. He wrote a powerful collection of songs about the realities of life for soldiers and civilians in this difficult war, recently released on a high acclaimed album called Dust of Uruzgan...He has put out about eight CDs, two of which won National Film and Sound Archives Awards. Some of these were joint efforts with Liz Frencham and the Spooky Men's Chorale.