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Afghanistan: Why we should be there (or not), how to conduct the mission (or not) & when to leave

That should be required reading for all Canadians.
Very clearly stated. Anyone inquiring, or a bit confused, about our presence in Afghanistan or stance against terrorism should read this article.
Teltech said:
So when will this be forwarded to the PMO?

Here is what I sent at about 1845 on 7 Sep 06 to pm@pm.gc.ca


Dear Prime Minister;

I wish to add to the advice you are receiving re: the Afghanistan mission.


My views are expressed fully and completely by the most recent Army.ca editorial at: http://forums.army.ca/forums/threads/49909.0.html

I will be grateful and you will be well served if one of your staff actually reads it.

Edward Campbell

Once again, an excellent editorial.

Require reading, Jack Layton
I was hoping for more discussion on this topic, so I will add mine.  Feel free to lob shots or add to the ideas you see fit.

An added element to the boat analogy are the waves that are breaking over the sides of the boat by including the waves of reinforcements and supply from the Arabic jihadists, Chechnyan merceneries, sympathetic Pashtun tribesmen in Pakistan and others, all seemingly coordinated out of the newly created unofficially named state of "Talibstan."  Pushing the analogy further, does NATO/ANA need to build a "breakwater" along the border to prevent the waves from swamping the boat while the military is bailing out the internal fighters and the Provincial Reconstruction Teams are patching the holes.

Given the reluctance of many NATO members to live up to their commitments in Afghanistan following 9/11/01, the West seems to champion the minimalistic approach to solving problems.  For example, in providing the minimum number of "bailers" to keep up with in inflow of water without making much of an impact on the water level despite their best and heroic efforts all the while being criticized at home and abroad by their bailing method.

Was it not then-Col. Dwight Eisenhower who wrote his brother Milton, "Hitler should beware the fury of an aroused democracy."
Well apparently, the horrors of 9/11 certainly aroused our democracy for a little while, but it seems to have fallen asleep again as Canada and the West is pondering its commitments and becoming disconnected with what the Afghanistan mission is all about. 

As far as protecting our national interests...

Afghanistan is only one field of battle of this whole so-called fundamental Islamic clash with Western Society.  The Afghanistan mission is an important battle to win because if the West can drag Afghanistan out of the bombed out shell it is to become a stable, secure, and internationally functioning society it will truly demonstrate that the Western Society is not weak and morally corrupt as many on the fundamental Islamic side are preaching.  If Canada pulls out and undermines the UN and NATO mission is will be a victory for the fundamental Islamicists thereby demonstrating their successful strategy and rally more support for the next battleground.

Argueably Canada has demonstrated a high moral standard through its past and current foreign policies, multiculturalism, and tolerance.  If Canada unilaterly leaves our NATO allies to fight on, it will no doubt have a serious impact on foreign relations and influence.  By staying, Canada can assume a leadership role in tempering the more radical policies of the West.

Strategically, our best weapon against fundamental Islamic radicals are moderate Islamics who have experienced the advantages and freedoms the West has to offer and are willing to help lead reforms and modernization in the Islamic world.  Destroying the jihadists on the battlefield although tactically important and garners much of the media's attention is really a distraction in the grand scheme of things.

Here is another good piece with a similar view: http://www.cbc.ca/national/rex/rex_060907.html
MCG said:
Here is another good piece with a similar view: http://www.cbc.ca/national/rex/rex_060907.html

I have tried to stay out of this.

I think Jack Layton and Bill Graham were likely given the courtesy of a comprehensive, full and fair briefing prior to the commencement of Medusa.  It would have been plain and obvious to even the simplest of fools that Medusa was destined to huge, violent  and likely very protracted. He has not publicly broken his oath of secrecy as to what he was told, but this has definitely caused him to do a total reversal and has, IMO, sided with the TB, whom he has now come to view as a peasant army fighting for their land.

He has, I fear, spilled the beans internally with his closest advisors, some of whom are defintely sympathetic to the Islamic insurgency,  and with that the inner circle of knowledge and ideological based resentment against the war grows. 

All of the editorials I have read on army.ca should be required reading across Canada, but this has been the best by far.  This editorial breaks down the situation for the average, situationally-ignorant Canadians (and there are far too many of them).  Now we just have to find a way to get Mr. Harper to follow the advice and educate those who don't support the campaign in Afghanistan.
As an interesting supplement to the piece spotted by Edward Campbell earlier this year

here's another account of how Canada got into K'Har, shared  in accordance with the "fair dealing" provisions, Section 29, of the Copyright Act - http://www.cb-cda.gc.ca/info/act-e.html#rid-33409

The road to Kandahar
At an afternoon meeting in Ottawa, a decision was made that would cost soldiers' lives, billions of taxpayers' dollars and, perhaps, Canada's reputation
Bill Schiller, Toronto Star, 9 Sept 06

It was the afternoon of March 21, 2005 — 48 hours before Prime Minister Paul Martin's first visit to the ranch with presidents George W. Bush and Vicente Fox in Waco, Texas.

Members of Martin's inner circle were filing into Room 323-S in Parliament's Centre Block, among them, freshly minted Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier, a charismatic and articulate man hand-picked by the Prime Minister himself.

Martin had called the meeting to discuss an array of foreign-policy issues.

But Hillier and planners in the defence department were fixed on one thing and one thing only: Afghanistan.

The meeting was the perfect opportunity to win confirmation for an idea they'd been planning for months, one that had the potential to transform Canada's military and embolden its reputation worldwide.

Defence Minister Bill Graham had already confirmed Canada would be sending soldiers in Afghanistan south to Kandahar, the dangerous stronghold and birthplace of the Taliban. There, Canadians would run a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), a military formation combined with small components of diplomacy and development. The goal: to help reconstruct the country.

But Hillier wanted more than that — and he'd already won backing from the government's foreign affairs establishment.

Hillier wanted a battle group — at least 1,000 soldiers strong.

Three hours later, Hillier had won the room. Canadian soldiers would move from the relative comfort of Kabul to the pointy edge of combat in the turbulent south.

A cabinet committee would later refine the details, then the full cabinet would approve it.

But that afternoon in the oval-shaped room will be remembered as the day the deal was done, the day that paved the Canadian road to Kandahar.

In time, the decision would cost the lives of Canadian soldiers, billions of taxpayers' dollars and, possibly, our well-earned reputation for peacekeeping built during the last 50 years.

The mission has stirred controversy — one that will endure, especially since Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has extended that mission from 2007 until at least 2009.

How long it will actually take to stabilize Afghanistan, nobody knows. But former Canadian ambassador to Kabul Chris Alexander has been quoted as saying: "Five generations."

Some who were in the room that day (they numbered about a dozen), say there were no raised voices, no clashes and certainly no outrage.

Those assembled knew the assignment would be risky. They knew that Canadians would die. But several say that no one expected the kinds of casualties Canadian forces are now experiencing.

"It was clearly contemplated that peace was going to have to be made," says one. "And that making peace was going to lead to the potential of losing lives. But I don't think it was contemplated on this scale ... people didn't expect this many to be coming home in coffins."

Hillier himself laments the death of every soldier, and stresses that all measures are taken to diminish risk. But neither will he deny the risky reality of soldiering.

"We are soldiers. This is our profession. This is who we are and what we do."

He also argues that the battle group he argued for, and won, was absolutely essential to the mission. There can be no aid and no redevelopment without security, he says.

"We knew the Afghan army was still developing. The Afghan police are even further behind. So, we were going to have to ... provide that security and stability," he says during an interview this week.

But the loss of lives was not the only issue to be considered in the decision-making process.

A number of people in the process were uncomfortable with the fact that to go south to Kandahar, Canada was going to have to step outside of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and once again sign up with the American-led Operation Enduring Freedom. (OEF).

Jonathan Fried, Paul Martin's then-foreign policy adviser, told others he had no problem with that. It was not precedent-setting. We had been there before — in the days following 9/11, Fried said. It was not a big shift.

But others had concerns. ISAF was truly multilateral, led by an international organization. Its mandate was to assist the Afghan government. It had somewhat more restrained rules of engagement.

By contrast, Operation Enduring Freedom was an American-led, counter-terrorism mission, aimed at rooting out and killing Taliban. Other nations assisted it, but it was Washington-run and directed by an administration mainly known for its muscle. And while the operation had been approved by a UN mandate, that mandate was issued on the basis of self-defence — issued on Sept. 12, 2001.

But why couldn't Canada move into the south and remain under ISAF command, some wondered? Why did it have to come under the OEF umbrella?

A now-retired senior defence department official explained that ISAF was not yet ready to go into the volatile south. There were still "discussions" going on in Europe about whether or not to deploy in the southern region.

The Dutch were hesitant in the extreme. The British would debate the issue in Parliament. So would Canada — but only after the decision was already taken.

Following discussions with British and Dutch military officials, Canada decided to pave the way for the eventual deployment of their NATO partners and allow them time to prepare.

But Canada couldn't go there solo. It needed a larger alliance to plug into, an alliance that could provide air support and more guns, and be able to medevac out wounded soldiers and provide them with first-class medical care.

The Americans had all that in spades.

The prevailing attitude to emerge in the March meeting, however, was that "the world had changed," and Canada "had to change with it."

NATO generals were watching, wondering whether Canada was going to keep a commitment made by former defence minister John McCallum at a NATO meeting in December 2003. Was Canada going to live up to it? Would Canada provide a PRT somewhere in Afghanistan?

"There was a feeling that this was the price of being a G-8 country," recalls Scott Reid, formerly Martin's communications director. "It was a question of, you know, after having shown up all these years with a six-pack, whether we were finally going to tend bar."

And then, of course, there was the American angle.

"There was a fairly strong trail of orthodoxy," that ran through the foreign affairs bureaucracy, Reid says, "that was based on an evaluation of strategic interests in terms of our relationship with the United States. A lot of times policy was put to us based on, `This matters to this White House. And things that matter to this White House can't be taken lightly, because these guys take it personally ... So, we really have to evaluate the importance of making a decision that runs counter to this White House.'"

There were, already, decisions taken that had run counter to the Bush administration: Canada had refused to join the coalition of the willing in the war against Iraq; Canada had opted out of the Missile Defence plan. And now, Canada was not going to help the Americans in southern Afghanistan at a time when they were stretched thin in Iraq?

Former Canadian ambassador to Washington Michael Kergin remembers the post-Iraq period well. There was a definite chill there, he says.

"There was this sense that we had let the side down ... and then there was the sense that we could be more helpful, militarily, by taking on a role in Afghanistan ... we could make a contribution in a place like Kandahar."

It was, if not payback time, then pay-up time.

Kergin says that in the world of diplomacy, governments don't spell these things out.

"You don't really need to ... it's pretty obvious ... the Americans were stretched in Iraq."

"There was," says another official who played a role in the decision-making process and attended the meeting, "what you might call an inevitability about the decision."

No one would ever call Hillier "arrogant," but some say another prevailing view emerged in the room: that if you couldn't embrace the new and more dangerous world order you were just "naive."

As for Martin, he saw Afghanistan as an "obligation" from the Chrétien era, one he had to honour.

"But his real belief was that Afghanistan wasn't a natural fit for Canada," says a key adviser. "Fundamentally, (Martin) felt Canada was more suited to places like Haiti and Darfur, where we were within our natural skills — the hard, but also the soft skills in particular."

But Hillier, articulate as always, and speaking without notes, was compelling.

He had been selected by Martin as defence chief because of his transformational leadership. And Martin wanted to see the Canadian Forces transformed.

"There was no doubt after sitting with Gen. Hillier for 20 minutes that he was the man for the job," Reid recalls.

Before endorsing Hillier's battle-group plan, Martin wanted Hillier's assurance that if Canada was called upon to participate in a mission in Darfur, Haiti or — say several who were in the room — even the Middle East, that there would be sufficient Canadian troops available to respond.

Martin made it plain, says one, that he didn't want to be "patronized ... he didn't want any `Yes, Minister' business. He looked Hillier squarely in the eye and demanded his commitment."

He got it.

In return, days later, three different options for the battle group formation were brought back for consideration: small, medium and large.

"One was a kind of `saving-face' deployment that would at least allow us to say we did it," recalls one participant. "One was really big — and defence hoped they'd get that one."

What they got instead was a mid-size plan, the current deployment, but the defence department was much pleased.

"You cannot underestimate the desire of soldiers to prove themselves in combat," says Paul Heinbecker, a former foreign senior policy adviser under the Chrétien and Mulroney governments; nor of commanders to finally show their skill in managing real battlefields, he says.

That said, Heinbecker is wary of the Afghanistan mission.

"Why are we doing this?" he asks in a recent interview. "Do we have any prospects of success? Will we know when it's time to get out — other than the death toll going up?

"And even more important is the fact that this is identifying us with American foreign policy. And in this world, that's a dangerous proposition."

While pleasing the Bush White House might not have been the determining factor in the decision to send combat troops to Kandahar, "pleasing the Americans and earning our spurs" was definitely part of the equation, says Heinbecker, now director of the Laurier Centre for Global Relations in Waterloo.

Was that wise?

"The United States, for a whole series of reasons, from exceptionalism to neo-conism to hubris to ignorance about the world, is conducting itself in a way that is creating a lot of enemies. And I just don't see how our association with that helps," he says.

In fact, he stresses, "it's endangering Canada."

Former Liberal cabinet minister Lloyd Axworthy shares some of those concerns.

"War has its own momentum," he warns, worrying about just where combat in southern Afghanistan will take us. "The deeper you get into it, the more you tend to lose sight of your objectives."

Despite Canada's commitment to focus its efforts on reconstruction in southern Afghanistan, recent turbulence on the ground hasn't allowed much.

"There's virtually very little news about the wider political and diplomatic issues surrounding Afghanistan," Axworthy says. "It's all focused on the military."

Meanwhile, he doubts there's very much resemblance between what Hillier proposed in Room 323-S on March 21, 2005, and what's happening on the ground in Kandahar today.

"There's serious concern that the mandate has gone through mission creep, and that what was defined by Gen. Hillier to the Liberal government has substantially altered.

"I don't think it has ever been defined in clear terms that we have shifted the nature of the mission. We're still using the language that we're still there to build the peace, but the PRTs (the Provincial Reconstruction Teams) that were originally set up are virtually now combat teams.

"Is that what we signed on to do?"

Axworthy points to recent polls showing Canadians turning against the mission.

"There's an innate sense among the public," he says, "that this is not right."
In time, the decision would cost the lives of Canadian soldiers, billions of taxpayers' dollars and, possibly, our well-earned reputation for peacekeeping built during the last 50 years.

What about our 4 Canadian Mechanised Brigade Group?  What about Operation PANDA?  What about the Standing Fleet in the North Atlantic?  What about 1st Canadian Air Division?  These formations (and more) were all about our NATO comittment to defending the Federal Republic of Germany, a nation raised from the ashes of a former enemy.  Heck, in 1989, 5th Brigade joined 4 Brigade in the 1st Canadian Division!  None of these were about "peace keeping", a fuzzy term at best, and certainly a tool that was all about keeping the Cold War just that: cold!

It's time to undo revisionist theories out there.
Edward Campbell said:
Here is what I sent at about 1845 on 7 Sep 06 to pm@pm.gc.ca


Dear Prime Minister;

I wish to add to the advice you are receiving re: the Afghanistan mission.


My views are expressed fully and completely by the most recent Army.ca editorial at: http://forums.army.ca/forums/threads/49909.0.html

I will be grateful and you will be well served if one of your staff actually reads it.

Edward Campbell

MCG said:
Let us know what you get back.

Here is what I got back at 09:52 yesterday, 8 Sep 06:

Dear Mr. Campbell:

On behalf of the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, I would like to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence regarding Canada's role in Afghanistan.  Please be assured that your comments have been carefully noted.

It is in Canada's national interest to see Afghanistan become a free, democratic and peaceful country. An unstable Afghanistan represents a serious threat to Canada and the world. Canada has assumed an international leadership role by serving in the United Nations mandated, but Canadian led, Afghan security mission.

Canada has a tradition of stepping up to the plate and providing leadership on global issues. The Prime Minister is proud of the Canadian Forces personnel who have put themselves on the line to defend our national interests and to help Afghans rebuild their country. They are standing up for core Canadian values and achieving important victories for the people of Afghanistan.

As you may know, the House of Commons recently voted to extend the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan until February 2009. A copy of the Prime Minister's speech delivered prior to this vote is available online at http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?id=1165.

Once again, thank you for writing to the Prime Minister.

L.A. Lavell
Executive Correspondence Officer
for the Prime Minister's Office
Agent de correspondance
de la haute direction
pour le Cabinet du Premier minister

I’m not sure a real person ever laid eyes on my E-mail, much less read the editorial, but one can only try, try and try again.

A few years ago parliament or, maybe, the PMO was experimenting with a computer aided correspondence management system which included an automated reply function which would ‘read’ incoming E-mails and generate reasonable and timely responses – just like the one above.

One can only hope now that you have sent them the link to this thread, that they will continue to monitor the views and opinions of members on the site, not only through this discussion, but others as well.

(yes, I know, wake up, I'm dreaming...but hey, stranger things have happened :D)
I just finished watching CNN Presents: "In the Footsteps of Bin Laden" (see link for program details and schedule.)


Despite the bias an American news agency will have covering this topic, it does present a real chilling picture of what the West is up against just from the actual interviews from bin Laden, biographers, and journalists.

Following the program, flipping the channel to CTV newsnet to see coverage of the NDP convention in Quebec where they voted 90 percent to abandon the Afghanistan mission, I was ready to throw the remote through the TV.  Despite having the NDP's former defence critic and wife of a soldier involved in the mission supporting Canada to remain in Afghanistan, the delegates stood and cheered when the final vote results to pull out were in.  I just felt kinda sick inside.  What am I missing?  Are the NDP so enlightened that this decision makes sense?  It does not add up to my understanding of what is happening in the world around us.

Maybe its a good thing that this whole discussion of whether Canada should be involved in the Afghanistan mission is falling on the 5th Anniversary of 9/11 as maybe the coverage can rekindle the feelings and thoughts following that attack.