Rising Attacks in Afghanistan: Stay the course

The CBC is reporting that 3 Canadians were injured by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan today.

Is the moon full today? … because today I’m going to the words of George W. Bush.

“Stay the course”.

For the most part though, his words and mine are directed at very different things. He’s talking about the continued occupation of Iraq… and I am talking about the security forces sent to stabilise and secure Afghanistan.

And this is where I may diverge from what others of my political leaning might think. Jack Layton, for example said that the NDP would ensure no more troops were sent to Afghanistan.

Specifically, he said:

We appear to be drifting from our original mission there – which was to provide security in the capital region – and into a combat role side-by-side with American troops…. Canadians need to have a debate on whether they want Canadian service personnel to become deeply involved in an initiative that’s pressed forward by (U.S. President) George Bush”

I certainly have done my fair share of Bush-bashing (not the same as bush-beating) on this website. And I fully admit it. That said, I think in this instance Layton is simply playing on peoples dislike for the name “George Bush” rather than talking about what Canadian soldiers are really supposed to be doing in Afghanistan and what Canadians want to be done.

Remember that Afghanistan was a direct response to the attacks of 9-11. NATO invoked its’ “self-defense clause” for the first time ever in it’s history and it was clear that Afghanistan was Al-Qaedas’ base of operations. The vast majority of Canadians supported this military action and supported Canadas’ significant contribution.

The invasion of Afghanistan did much to cripple Al-Qaedas’ ability to use Afghanistan as it’s base, but that was not the whole story. When the Taliban was run out from power our job was only beginning. Canadians helped to protect Kabul so that the newly elected government of Hamid Karzai could have the best chance of building up his ruined country. We provided, military, police and administrative help for the new Afghan government, all these were desperately needed.. and appreciated.

It is now 4 years on and we are still in Afghanistan. But I believe our military planners and government, indeed NATO and the UN recognized that Afghanistan would be a very long term commitment. This is nation building, not peacekeeping, and it’s not a clear cut or simple process (not that peacekeeping is ever simple anyway).

There has also been an increase in “offensive” operations conducted by our Joint Task Force 2 squad in conjunction with US and Afghan forces. Unfortunately, Al Qaeda still lurks in many regions in Afghanistan. And as our original mandate was to go in and ensure that Al Qaeda could no longer operate in any region of Afghanistan, then we have a responsibility to carry that through as well.

We must allow our soldiers to do what needs to be done to ensure that Afghanistan is left in a better position than it was when we got there. If and when the Afghan people wish us to leave, we will do so, fully and completely, but not a moment before. That would be unfair to them, our soldiers and ourselves.

If Jack Layton wants to discuss with Canadians and revisit our goals and priorities in Afghanistan, then by all means we should do that. But to simply say that Canada should not contribute any more soldiers to Afghanistan is irresponsible and frankly dangerous for us, our soldiers, and Afghans.

I will discuss the juxtaposition of my views here with my views on Iraq in a later post.

5 thoughts on “Rising Attacks in Afghanistan: Stay the course”

  1. “And as our original mandate was to go in and ensure that Al Qaeda could no longer operate in any region of Afghanistan, then we have a responsibility to carry that through as well.”

    I appreciate your post here and you may know the terms of the original mandate better than I do. But I thought the original mission was to prevent al-Qaida from using Afghanistan as a base for terrorist operations outside the country, not to prevent the organization from operating inside the country as an insurgent movement. The NATO force in Afghanistan is not large enough to secure the entire country. This is the future task of Afghan army troops and police.

    Our mission is to help the Afghans take responsibility for the security of their country. This will not be easy (and may not even be possible) until the Afghan forces are representative of the population as a whole. We have an obligation to stay as long as a process in this direction continues. What we don’t want is for NATO to be drawn into the kind of strategy that U.S. forces pursued in Iraq during the first two years of the war there. The role instead should be one of training and support.

  2. I’ll be the first to disagree with you, Chris. We should never have been in Afghanistan because we were never keeping a peace, and the fact that there was no debate about it only serves to underscore the lack of forethought both here and abroad. As North Americans, we have been so focused on “fighting terrorism” that we forget often how the terrorists were created. We created Al Quaeda, we created Saddam Hussein, and we’re just reaping what we’ve sown. The trick is to extricate ourselves physically from the mess we’ve made while offering support to reasonable and peaceful groups of Afghanis (and Iraqis). The real trick is to not create or participate in the creation of situations likely to engender conflict. While I’m not all that keen on Jack Russell Terrier Layton, I prefer his willingness to open debate on these matters than Martin’s knee-jerk support of the War on Terror(TM) and Harper’s slavering desire to be part of the US war machine. We are, in effect, at war in Afghanistan and it’s time we realized that we’re doing no good for either the Afghanis nor for ourselves, it’s time we skedaddled on out of there, as well as Haiti, and the Persian Gulf, and that we re-evaluate any other “peacekeeping” in which we’re engaged. Better to make peace in the first place…

    Oh, yes, I forgot to append a couple of interesting items:

    http://www.harpers.org/CartoonSaddam.html

    The comment on Rumsfeld is pertinent to our place in current conflict, and

    http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/2421/

    An article by Kurt Vonnegut that sheds some light on why we are where we are.

    Thanks, and don’t forget the Solar Death Ray

    http://solardeathray.com/index.html

  3. While I absolutely agree that the presence of our troops in Afghanistan could be a catalyst for yet more terrorist activity against us, I do believe that the reaction from 9/11 was a justified one… if Canada had been attacked our allies would have been compelled to help us respond. So we must return the favour.

    Now that we’re there we should do everything we can to ensure that we fix everything that we broke before we leave. Otherwise, we will have done nothing to help the Afghans nor ourselves.

    There is a terrible lack of information concerning the actual state of life Afghanistan and it’s progress towards a self-sufficiency.

    Oddly, yesterdays earthquake might put some focus back on that country and some evaluation might happen, but probably not enough.

    What we need is information. If we don’t get that in a satisfactory time frame or quantity then I would agree that we are simply playing “follow the leader” and it’s time to leave.

  4. David:

    You bring up a good point, you said:

    “I thought the original mission was to prevent al-Qaida from using Afghanistan as a base for terrorist operations outside the country, not to prevent the organization from operating inside the country as an insurgent movement. “

    That’s an important distinction to make… at the moment I think there are two military operations going on in Afghanistan. One is primarily a policing and security force for major centers. This is under NATO command and up until a couple months ago was limited only to Kabul in order to help stabilise the central government. That operation has now expanded to include Kandahar, which still has a strong Taliban element and is thus more dangerous than Kabul, but I think the mission is the same.

    The other operation is the ongoing operation to find and kill Al Qaeda operatives in the rest of Afghanistan. And this is the controversial aspect of the foreign presencee in Afghanistan. Yours is the first time I have heard mention of the word “insurgent” used in the Afghan context. I’m not sure if what JTF2 and the American offensive forces are doing would be classed as counter-insurgency as it is in Iraq. Again, this is largely due to a lack of information. Al Qaeda is well armed wherever they go, so we could be be fighting them… or we could be fighting indigenous Afghans. The former I would support, the latter, not.

    One thing that I think has been sorely lacking from any post-9/11 reaction has been the implication of Law on Bin-Laden and his associates. This “hunt” in the wilds of Afghanistan should be seen not as a military operation, but rather a policing operation. When Bin-Laden is caught, if we are true to our values, we would bring Osama in front of a court of law and prove to the world that he was the one who masterminded 9/11.

    The fact that the US would likely keep (or kill) him in a prison like Gitmo or another “secret” jail, is HUGELY detrimental to the moral authority of the United States and any country associated with them. Including Canada.

    I’ve forgotten what I was working towards as a point.. but I think you get it anyway. 🙂

  5. “I’m not sure if what JTF2 and the American offensive forces are doing would be classed as counter-insurgency as it is in Iraq. Again, this is largely due to a lack of information. Al Qaeda is well armed wherever they go, so we could be be fighting them… or we could be fighting indigenous Afghans. The former I would support, the latter, not.”

    There is no question that an insurgency has been going on in Afghanistan since 2001. Surviving Al-Qaida and Taliban members fled to the tribal areas of Pakistan, where they have mounted cross-border attacks just as they did against Soviet forces in the 1980s. The difference is that insurgent numbers are much smaller and they do not have the kind of outside support given to the mujahideen.

    Afghanistan is a country with a population slightly larger than Iraq. During the post-Soviet civil war, two-fifths of these people (the Pashto or Pushto tribes along the eastern border) backed the Taliban, while the Tajiks and several other groups formed the rival Northern Alliance. Following the US war in late 2001, the Northern Alliance took Kabul and is still the backbone of the government there, although elections have now brought in a much wider spectrum of the population. Warlords control much of the country outside Kabul, though, and the economy depends heavily on illegal opium exports. The army is drawn mostly from Tajiks and other groups that formed the Northern Alliance.

    Most Afghans do not want the Taliban back in power but it is not clear how deeply they want a strong central government. The army and police have grown at a snail’s pace. The Taliban and al-Qaida have not made any new headway but their losses have been replaced and so they are able to keep going. If these people become more effective at inflicting casualties on NATO forces, Afghanistan could become as controversial as Iraq.

    “One thing that I think has been sorely lacking from any post-9/11 reaction has been the implication of Law on Bin-Laden and his associates. This “hunt” in the wilds of Afghanistan should be seen not as a military operation, but rather a policing operation. When Bin-Laden is caught, if we are true to our values, we would bring Osama in front of a court of law and prove to the world that he was the one who masterminded 9/11.”

    The best information we have suggests that Bin Laden is in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where he enjoys sanctuary. Whether he could be convicted on the basis of evidence obtained without torture I don’t know. Even if the Bush administration succeeds in Iraq and Afghanistan, its willingness to condone torture will be a black mark on its legacy.

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