Fred Smith has been described as "Australia's secret weapon" in international diplomacy. As a career diplomat, he served for two years in southern Afghanistan. Working alongside Australian soldiers in Uruzgan Province, Fred's second career as a musician came to the fore, his guitar serving as a bridge not only to the troops, but also to the people and tribal leaders of that war-torn region. His song, "Dust of Uruzgan", captured the hearts of many serving in Afghanistan, and "Sapper's Lullaby" has become an anthem for soldiers and their families. His acclaimed album, Dust of Uruzgan, earned him comparisons to Eric Bogle, John Schumann and Don Walker.
Now, with Australian forces out of Uruzgan, Fred has written a book – The Dust of Uruzgan - the first comprehensive on-the-ground account of Australia’s involvement there. Part memoir, part history, part eyewitness reportage, it offers a sympathetic explanation of an obscure and impoverished province where tribal leaders conspire against one another in a society devastated by thirty-five years of warfare.
In conversation with Genevieve Jacobs, Fred Smith offers reflections from two years working as a diplomat, political officer and songwriter on the frontline of Australia’s mission in Afghanistan, recently distilled into his fascinating memoir, The Dust of Uruzgan.