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

Paper on force requirements by Frederick Kagan.

Nice breakdown but considering Kagan's presentation is dated for September, his breakdown of forces and conclusions in Kandahar is off the mark with the arrival of Forces there over 2009.

As well, he bases his numbers off of the magic 1:50 ratio, which has no real value.  John J McGrath challenges that number here:

Two reports:

Report Cites Firefight as Lesson on Afghan War


That firefight, a debacle that cost nine American lives in July 2008, has become the new template for how not to win in Afghanistan. The calamity and its roots have been described in bitter, painstaking detail in an unreleased Army history, a devastating narrative that has begun to circulate in an initial form even as the military opened a formal review this week of decisions made up and down the chain of command.

The 248-page draft history, obtained by The New York Times, helps explain why the new commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, is pressing so hard for a full-fledged commitment to a style of counterinsurgency that rests on winning over the people of Afghanistan even more than killing militants. The military has already incorporated lessons from the battle in the new doctrine for war in Afghanistan.

The history offers stark examples of shortcomings in the unit’s preparation, the style of combat it adopted, its access to intelligence, its disdain for the locals — in short, plenty of blame to go around...

Corruption, Shortage of Mentors Hinder Afghan Forces, U.S. Says

As the White House weighs a request from the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan for additional troops for combat and training there, a new report from the Defense Department's inspector general attributes shortcomings in the Afghan army and police force to a shortage of U.S. mentors and trainers, corruption and illiteracy among Afghan soldiers and a lack of strategic planning.

"Expansion of the ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] beyond currently approved levels will face major challenges," the 224-page report concludes, listing a major one as "time necessary to develop ethical, competent leaders."
Not all of the report is negative...

The inspector general describes shortages of U.S. trainers and mentors at almost every level of the Afghan operation: "Mentor and Liaison Teams have historically been and still are under-resourced against required personnel levels, which has delayed the development of the Afghan Army and Police."

Expansion of the teams beyond the currently approved ceilings "will require additional U.S., Coalition, and ISAF personnel resources assigned in support of the train and equip mission," according to the report.

As an example, the report says that of 5,688 U.S. trainers required to develop a competent Afghan military force of 134,000 men, only 2,097 were sent to do the job. Of about 103 liaison teams needed for the mission, 70 were available. In one area, embedded training teams, which normally are made up of 16 personnel, were averaging only four, with additional help borrowed from nearby support or security units.

Police training teams have been "impeded" because they are below the necessary personnel strength. In one area, the target was to have 635 teams fully operational, but there were only 90. More broadly, there were to be 2,375 teams, but just 992 were assigned...

More on police:

The US Army Military Police unit for Kandahar

And on brass hats vs. frock coats:

A General's Public Pressure

The president, the Constitution tells us, is the commander in chief. But is it true?

In a speech in London on Thursday, Gen. Stanley McChrystal publicly intervened in the debate over Afghanistan. Vice President Biden has suggested that we focus on fighting al-Qaeda and refrain from using our troops to prop up the government of President Hamid Karzai. But when this strategic option was raised at his presentation, McChrystal said it was a formula for "Chaos-istan." When asked whether he would support it, he said, "The short answer is: No."

As commanding general in Afghanistan, McChrystal has no business making such public pronouncements. Under law, he doesn't have the right to attend the National Security Council as it decides our strategy. To the contrary, the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 explicitly names the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the National Security Council's exclusive military adviser. If the president wanted McChrystal's advice, he was perfectly free to ask him to accompany Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, when the council held its first meeting on Afghanistan this week.

But Obama did not extend the invitation, even though McChrystal was leaving Kabul and could have gone to Washington easily. Instead, Obama asked the general to report to the council via a brief teleconference.

News of McChrystal's position had been leaked to Bob Woodward and was published in The Post early last week. But it is one thing for some nameless Washington insider to engage in a characteristic power play; quite another for McChrystal to pressure the president in public to adopt his strategy. This is a plain violation of the principle of civilian control.

McChrystal seemed curiously blind to this point. He emphasized that the president had "encouraged" him to be blunt when making his grim report on Afghanistan. But future presidents won't be so encouraging if they know that their commanders might create political problems if they think that their recommendations will be overruled. Instead, they will insist that their commanders tell them only what they want to hear. Confidentiality is a condition for candid communications between commanders and the commander in chief.

McChrystal was almost cavalier in dismissing this point. After praising his superiors for encouraging straight talk, he laughingly suggested that "they may change their minds and crush me some day." This is precisely backward: Generals shouldn't need to be told that it is wrong to lecture their presidents in public. Perhaps McChrystal was misled by the precedent set by Gen. David Petraeus, who strongly supported President Bush's military surge in Iraq in 2007. Though Petraeus publicly endorsed the surge, this happened only after Bush made his decision. Petraeus was backing up his commander in chief, not trying to preempt him.

Nevertheless, precedents have the habit of adding up. Unless McChrystal publicly recognizes that he has crossed the line, future generals will become even more aggressive in their efforts to browbeat presidents...

At The Torch:

Islamist bad guys and Afstan/British brass hats and frock coats

A sign of a job well done: seven million children in Afghanistan are now going to school!! Bravo Zulu!!!

Afghan General Pegs 2013 as Date Country's Army Can Take Over
Globe and Mail, October 5, 2009

Sounds to me like Canada's decision to end the combat mission is firmly set:
“You could make the case” that Canada is ending its combat role in Afghanistan two years too early, said Gen. Tremblay. “It's really up to Canada to decide it. And so far we're out of here.”

Some positive words:
If the people of Afghanistan trust the ANA, it is because Canadian and other international troops helped the army learn how to do its job, Gen. Azimi told The Globe.

“As I speak with you, seven million boys and girls are going to school. When women's rights were violated, you can see that the media immediately broadcast that,” he said.

End of a Torch post (with video of National Security Adviser Jones):

More US troops for Afstan? Retired general rebukes serving one/Canadian general speaks

Meanwhile, in the Globe and Mail,
a Canadian general in Kabul speaks some truth, hope it's not career-challenging:

    “If there's game-changers in Afghanistan – and we're slowly proving that the strategy that Gen. McChrystal is putting forward is making gains and slowly the insurgents are being pushed back and separated from the Afghan national population – that is going to help the Afghan national forces to hold and to participate and to build at the local level,” Gen. Tremblay [Brigadier-General Eric Tremblay, ISAF's chief spokesman in Afghanistan] said.

Ottawa has said Canadian troops may remain in Afghanistan after 2011 to help with development and social programs. But the end of combat operations is scheduled to come two years before the ANA, according to Gen. Azimi's [chief spokesman for the Afghan military] calculations, is able to operate independently.

You could make the case” that Canada is ending its combat role in Afghanistan two years too early, said Gen. Tremblay. “It's really up to Canada to decide it. And so far we're out of here [emphasis added].”..'

I'm amazed the paper put that near the end of the story, and that it missed the opportunity to lead with a screaming headline:

Canadian general claims we're quitting Afghanistan too soon

And, given our scheduled departure, one can imagine quite a few Afghans not being best pleased with these remarks by another Canadian officer:

'Canadian soldiers need more help from Afghans to do the job of bringing peace to the country, says the commanding officer of the latest deployment of soldiers heading to Afghanistan.

"Canadians for several years now have gone to work closely with the Afghans to help them to develop and have a much more secure environment. We can't do it without them," Lt.-Col. Jerome Walsh said Sunday.

"Make no mistake. This is their mission. This is all about the Afghan people. Our role is to support them," Walsh said. "We have committed to this [emphasis added]; we want to support you but we need to do it together."

Walsh made the comments at Edmonton International Airport before boarding a flight for Afghanistan along with 120 soldiers and officers of Task Force 3-09 for a six-month rotation...'

More on US thinking/planning:

Surgical Strikes Shape Afghanistan Debate

A string of successful operations recently killing or capturing high-level figures from Al Qaeda, particularly in the tribal areas of Pakistan, has fueled the argument inside the Obama administration about the necessity of a substantial troop buildup in Afghanistan, officials said.

Administration officials said the United States had eliminated more than half of its top targets over the last year, severely constricted Al Qaeda’s capacity to operate and choked off a lot of its financing. The sense of progress against Al Qaeda and its allies has helped shape the internal debate over the best way to fight in Afghanistan as President Obama explores alternatives to a large escalation.

The White House has begun promoting the missile strikes and raids that have killed Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere. Mr. Obama will visit the National Counterterrorism Center on Tuesday to call attention to the operations. While aides said the public focus was not related to the Afghanistan review, it could give Mr. Obama political room if he rejected or pared back the request for 40,000 more troops from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan.

The focus on so-called surgical strikes against terrorism suspects comes as the Afghanistan review accelerates. Mr. Obama met Monday with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; his national security team met separately. The president will host Congressional leaders on Tuesday to talk about Afghanistan, then meet with top advisers on Wednesday and Friday to consider a new strategy.

The internal debate has spilled out in public at times and created stress within the Obama team. Mr. Gates warned his colleagues in a speech Monday to keep their advice to the president private, a statement taken as a rebuke to General McChrystal, who last week said publicly that he did not think a smaller-scale option would work...

Afghan War Units Begin Two New Efforts

The Pentagon is establishing two new units devoted to the Afghan war, highlighting the military's focus on the conflict even as the White House considers scaling back the overall U.S. mission there.

The units -- a so-called Afghan Hands program run out of the Pentagon and a new intelligence center within Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- are designed to help troops deepen their intelligence about the country's complex political and tribal dynamics.

The Defense Department also is expected to announce that Brig. Gen. John M. Nicholson, one of the military's top experts on counterinsurgency, will assume the helm of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Coordination Cell, a Pentagon office established earlier this year to improve the military's performance in Afghanistan.

The moves underline the military's efforts to remake itself in response to the Afghan war despite the Obama administration's signals that it is far from committed to the current counterinsurgency approach.

President Barack Obama met with Defense Secretary Robert Gates Monday as part of the ongoing White House review of Afghanistan policy, which is being re-evaluated in light of the country's flawed presidential elections and the Taliban's recent gains.

A senior military official acknowledged that the Afghan Hands initiative, the most important of the new efforts, could be modified or scaled back if the White House decides on a new strategy. "None of this is inflexible or set in stone," the official said...

Afghanistan and Leadership
Gen. McChrystal needs more troops now precisely so Afghans can take over the war effort later.


'We're at a point in Afghanistan right now in our overall campaign," the U.S. general says, "where increasingly security can best be delivered by the extension of good governance, justice, economic reconstruction." Afghan security forces "fight side by side with us" more and more frequently, he adds, and American troops are working hard to develop the Afghan security forces. Coalition forces are focusing on securing the population, because "the key terrain is the human terrain."

This all sounds like Gen. Stanley McChrystal's proposed strategy for victory. But those words were spoken in May 2006 by Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, then the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan.

Should we be concerned that the McChrystal strategy advocates the same counterinsurgency approach that has failed to achieve success in years past? Not necessarily. The easy part of any counterinsurgency is formulating the strategy and tactics. The hard part is implementing them.

Achieving results requires, first and foremost, skilled and motivated tactical leaders in suf ficient numbers—the absence of which caused the 2006 strategy to fail. With the insurgent environment different in every Afghan valley, command must be decentralized. So finding and implementing the right tactics is primarily the job of battalion commanders and district police chiefs, not presidents or four-star generals.

The quality of counterinsurgency leaders determines whether the patrols and ambushes required to protect government personnel and the population are conducted. Leadership determines whether policemen serve as impartial administrators or engage in timeless abuses like stealing livestock and demanding bribes at roadside checkpoints—abuses that alienate the population more than air strikes or national electoral irregularities...

American troops in Afghanistan will never be so numerous that they can defeat the insurgents on their own, so Afghan forces must be given the good leadership they currently lack. The Afghan government will not have sufficient numbers of good officers for their expanding army and police any time soon. Gen. McChrystal intends to compensate by strengthening the partnership between American and Afghan forces.

The great challenge here is to determine how American leadership can improve the performance of Afghan forces. Although the U.S. government appears to have ruled out formal placement of Afghan troops under U.S. command, American commanders and advisers may well end up assuming de facto command of weak indigenous units, whether directly or through quiet guidance to Afghan officers. This arrangement usually produced success when employed in Iraq and Vietnam.

The Pentagon must also be shaken from its bureaucratic lethargy and compelled to dispatch more suitable officers as advisers to the Afghan forces. Too often we have sent officers who lacked the personality or experience to influence their Afghan counterparts for the better...

Mr. Moyar is a professor at the Marine Corps University in Quantico, Va., and the author of three books on counterinsurgency, including "A Question of Command: Counterinsurgency from the Civil War to Iraq," published this month by Yale University Press.

Conclusion of Washington Post editorial:

If We Lose Afghanistan
Yes, al-Qaeda would return. But that's just the beginning.


Defeating the Taliban and fostering an Afghan government and army that can stabilize the country are daunting tasks that will require years of patience. It could be that even a concerted effort, along the lines proposed by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, would fail. There should be no mistaking, however, what the stakes of this conflict are. Whether or not al-Qaeda regains its pre-9/11 haven, a Taliban victory would be a catastrophe for the United States and its allies.

Start of a Torch post:

Brit Afstan round-up

New troops, more troops (?), and more controversty between a brass hat (retired) and frock coats...

....this group of MPs got to talking last week, and decided the following (highlights mine):
1. That meetings of the Special Committee on Canada's mission to Afghanistan now take place on Wednesday afternoons from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., in order to accommodate the changes made to the rotational committee schedule covering the period from September 2009 to December 2009.

2. That the Special Committee review Canada's development effort in Afghanistan with a focus on the six priorities, political reconciliation and the status of women; and that members of the Committee submit to the Clerk, as soon as possible, their lists of suggested witnesses for the study.

3. That all members of the Special Committee travel in 2009 to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and possibly to Europe; and that the Clerk, in consultation with the Chair, prepare a travel budget for approval by the Committee and the Board of Internal Economy prior to seeking permission to travel from the House of Commons.

4. That the Hon. Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, be invited to appear before the Special Committee on Wednesday, October 7, 2009, for the full two-hour meeting, in order to discuss the fifth quarterly report on Canada’s Engagement in Afghanistan that was presented in the House of Commons on Tuesday, September 15, 2009.

And here's who sits on the Special Committee:

Rick Casson

Bryon Wilfert

Jim Abbott
Claude Bachand
Paul Dewar
Ujjal Dosanjh
Laurie Daniel Hawn
Greg Kerr
Francine Lalonde
Dave MacKenzie
Deepak Obhrai
Bob Rae

A bit more here.
Jeffrey Simpson, the Globe and Mail’s national (Canadian) political guru is not a stupid man, but he persists in grossly misunderstanding and misrepresenting what Canada is doing and trying to do in Afghanistan. He continues to display his abysmal ignorance in this column, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail:

Despite our setbacks, all quiet on the Afghan front
More of the same is a losing strategy. So where's the debate over Canada's next move?

Jeffrey Simpson

Wednesday, Oct. 07, 2009

The United Nations reported this week that Afghanistan ranks second worst in the world for human development. It also ranks as the fifth-most-corrupt country, according to Transparency International, the Berlin-based organization that tracks such things.

This, then, is the country we are trying to save from itself, although really for ourselves. The United States and various other North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries (plus more recently Australia and New Zealand) have been in this postmedieval country for eight years, without having figured out how to stop the violence and corruption, perhaps because Afghanistan was violent and corrupt for a long, long time before we arrived.

Every U.S. and NATO account suggests that the fighting against the Taliban and elements of al-Qaeda has not produced progress. All that rah-rah stuff about heading off to Afghanistan to kill Taliban “scumbags” is as dust in the mouth today. We did not know properly what we were getting into. We had very little sense of history. And we have very little sense of how to make progress, in part because now, as then, we do not know how to define it.

Combatting the poppy trade has been largely a failure. The recent election that apparently kept President Hamid Karzai in office was marked by fraud, the return of prominent warlords and the prospect of an Afghan president in whom almost all non-Afghans, and plenty of Afghans, have lost confidence. Since one of the first rules of a counterinsurgency war is to have a local government the people trust and prefer to the insurgents, the election was a serious setback, both in terms of how it was conducted and who won.

Under these discouraging circumstances, you might expect a debate in Canada about what to do in Afghanistan – a debate of the kind that is now roiling official Washington.

But, no, the parliamentary decision before the last election to withdraw Canadian combat forces in 2011 seems to have removed the issue from the public's mind, or at least from political debate.

The Afghan mission is Canada's biggest military commitment since the Second World War, with 132 soldiers dead and many others wounded. It has cost far, far more money than the government projected or admitted.

Afghanistan is the biggest recipient of Canada's foreign aid, a situation no one would have imagined eight years ago. And yet there is no debate in this country about a war that is going poorly, about a fraudulent election and, more fundamentally, about whether what we and NATO are doing there makes sense any more.

If Canada has any ideas in response to any of these challenges, they must be secrets held inside the government, because they are not being discussed publicly. Germany, by contrast, has a 10-point set of suggestions for improving the mission, and the U.S. administration is clearly wrestling with Afghan options, all of which are bad.

The pullout school, which is gaining strength among many Western populaces, is based on a simple cost-benefit reaction: The costs are too high, the benefits too low. For the pullout school, the Karzai election was the proverbial last straw.

Pulling out, however, would probably lead to a civil war in Afghanistan of the kind that raged when the Taliban took over. There is a better-than-even-money chance that the Taliban would return to power, aided by their allies in Pakistan.

A Taliban return would be the best tool imaginable for worldwide jihadist recruiting. It would certainly produce recruits for nearby countries in Central Asia and in Pakistan.

Tens of thousands of additional troops, an option being proposed by the U.S. military, summons spectres of the Vietnam War. The troops would have to be in Afghanistan for a very long time, with no guarantee of military success. They would be propping up, as in Vietnam, a corrupt regime. The unstated objective (hopes?) would be to weaken the Taliban so negotiations could begin to bring some of them into the Afghan political system.

What about reducing troops, but refocusing attention on killing al-Qaeda leaders, especially through unmanned drone attacks against targets in Pakistan? Apart from the risks of collateral damage to civilians, disentangling al-Qaeda from the Taliban is easier said than done.

Doing more of the same, however, is a losing strategy. The question being debated in Washington and elsewhere, but not in Canada is therefore: Okay, what next?

First, Simpson is right, albeit a master of the obvious, in saying that:

• Afghanistan was violent and corrupt for a long, long time before we arrived; and

• Combatting the poppy trade has been largely a failure;

• The recent election that apparently kept President Hamid Karzai in office was marked by fraud; and

• Since one of the first rules of a counterinsurgency war is to have a local government the people trust and prefer to the insurgents, the election was a serious setback, both in terms of how it was conducted and who won.


1. Afghanistan is not, by any stretch of the imagination “Canada's biggest military commitment since the Second World War”. We have made a major national commitment to help this poor, war torn and yes corrupt and violent country; but some people want us to “cut and run” just because it is tougher than a few effete Torontonians imagined;and

2. While ”the U.S. administration is clearly wrestling with Afghan options” but they are not all bad – some, those offered by Gen McChrystal, for example, are damned good, unless one is a strategically ignorant effete Torontonian who is waaaay out of his lanes.

Simpson is right again in saying: ” There is a better-than-even-money chance that the Taliban would return to power, aided by their allies in Pakistan ... [and a] Taliban return would be the best tool imaginable for worldwide jihadist recruiting. It would certainly produce recruits for nearby countries in Central Asia and in Pakistan,” but Simpson’s suggestion ”reducing troops, but refocusing attention on killing al-Qaeda leaders, especially through unmanned drone attacks against targets in Pakistan” is just plain stupid. It is akin, as someone told me recently, to try to destroy a wasps’ nest by killing one wasp at a time.

Canadian politicians have, I have heard, on the rumour net, decided to avoid any and all discussions of Afghanistan. The agreed resolution says that we depart Kandahar, not Afghanistan, by end 2011.

Because the enemy is aware of the fact that NATO/ISAF is concentrating its efforts in the South, new attacks have begun in the North, where the Euro military tourists hide behind their wire and caveats. How about moving the Canadians, battle group, PRT, Tim Hortons and all, up to Konduz where the Germans have, recently, been attacked? We, being allowed to go out and fight, could clean up the area pretty damned quickly.
One thing which never seems to get the attention that it deserves is the large numbers of children attending school. If we hang in there until 2015, then 10 years will have passed since the initial 5 million or so Afghan children started going to school, and a large cadre of educated people will enter Afghan society.

They, far more than any number of ISAF, Canadian or ANA troops will be the real drivers of change.

The sterling work of the KPRT, especially in economic development (micro-loans etc.) is another leg of the mission which never seems to be discussed either...
It would seem that most reporters that go there, go with the "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality....and they can't seem to get past that. I see it in the US reporting also.
Here's an interesting and well thought out article with some suggestions for an international strategy in Afghanistan written by a Pakistani Infantry Officer currently attending the Command and General Staff College here in the United States. 

His argument is a variation on the ink-spot method with a decidedly Pashtun flavour - perhaps in recognition of the demographic and historical realities of Afghanistan, perhaps for more subtle reasons given the Pakistani-Pashtun connection. He implies that we need to reexamine our efforts at establishing a strong central government in Afghanistan.  I found it very worthwhile as an assessment of what we probably cannot achieve in Afghanistan, at least with our current and likely levels of popular and political support. Timely given the current US national debate on Afghanistan strategy.

Don't Try to Arrest the Sea: An Alternative Approach for Afghanistan by Major Mehar Omar Khan
[Title] by [Author(s)] is reprinted from Small Wars Journal per the Creative Commons license granted upon its http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2009/10/an-alternative-approach-for-af/

I do find Simpson's point that while a major and very public debate is ongoing here in the United State's over future Afghanistan strategy, the same debate does not appear to be happening in Canada.  Even if we do pull out in 2011 that's still 18 months away.

Conclusion of a Torch post:

Obama's got McChrystal's Afghan numbers/Update: McChrystal plan the right way to go?

Update: Is the McChrystal plan the right way to go? I've heard from someone with very good insight into the situation that it most certainly is. But will it be properly implemented--troop increases completely aside--by NATO ISAF and, indeed, the US? In particular:

-ISAF must get away from focusing on force protection, risk aversion, and an over-emphasis on operational security;

--ISAF must share more information, and planning details, with the ANA, and co-locate operational units with ANA units (embedded mentors with the ANA are not enough in themselves).

From an earlier post:

McChrystal has said that training could be hastened by improving the partnerships between Afghan units and international combat forces.

American and NATO combat units do not always operate in the same areas as Afghan units. Military commanders said they want to position the units in closer proximity so they can regularly work together [emphasis added]..."

And from Paul at Celestial Junk:

The First Signs of Vietnamistan

The first signs of a failed strategy by a modern army from a liberal democratic state is that the troops begin to lose hope ... now that the first small signs are manifesting themselves in Afghanistan, it is indeed time for Obama to become a winner, to go in big as McChrystal calls for, or go home:

“The many soldiers who come to see us have a sense of futility and anger about being here. They are really in a state of depression and despair and just want to get back to their families,” said Captain Jeff Masengale, of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2-87 Infantry Battalion..."

It is entirely possible that the Times-online piece is simply a typical hit piece, where a tiny minority view is taken and grown out of all proportion ... but I've been picking up similar echoes from some of our own soldiers...

Now this, reproduced under the fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from the CBC News web site, is news:

Troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2011: MacKay

Thursday, October 8, 2009

CBC News

Canada's troops will stay in Afghanistan even after the combat mission ends in 2011, Defence Minister Peter MacKay told the House of Commons defence committee Thursday in Ottawa.

It is the second time in as many weeks that MacKay has raised the issue, which appears to contradict repeated statements by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that Canada will pull its troops out of Afghanistan by 2011.

The role of the troops will change from fighting a war to development and training, MacKay said. He side-stepped the question of how Canada will carry out such a mission with the resurgency of the Taliban in many parts of southern Afghanistan.

The Conservative government will respect a motion passed in March 2008 to withdraw troops until a new motion is tabled in the Commons, he added.

Earlier in the week, Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai, the parliamentary secretary to the foreign affairs minister, also said a future mission will be brought before Parliament.

In late September, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, called for an additional 40,000 combat troops in Afghanistan.

NATO contributes roughly two-thirds of the more than 100,000 international troops now involved in Afghanistan operations, including more than 3,000 Canadians. A total of 131 Canadian troops have died since the mission began in 2002.

Meanwhile, President Barak Obama is rethinking the U.S. strategy on Afghanistan. His two main options are to bolster the 68,000 troops already there or to try routing out the Taliban in Pakistan with unmanned drones.

I do not believe that a new parliamentary resolution is, strictly, required, unless the Government of Canada wants to stay in Kandahar. The existing parliamentary "opinion" says, ”that Canada should continue a military presence in Kandahar beyond February 2009, to July 2011 ... [and] the redeployment of Canadian Forces troops out of Kandahar and their replacement by Afghan forces start as soon as possible, so that it will have been completed by December 2011.”

Canada can, therefore, remain in Afghanistan, anywhere except Kandahar, after 2011. Maybe up North in Konduz to do a bit of fighting – which the German’s whose province Konduz is, are not allowed to do?
To me, this bit
The Conservative government will respect a motion passed in March 2008 to withdraw troops until a new motion is tabled in the Commons
suggests some level of desire to perhaps stay in K'Har (as you say E.R., if they're contemplating going someplace else in AFG, the motion can stay as is), if nothing else, because it might be easier than pulling pole and moving someplace else.

It'll be interesting to see how this bit:
The role of the troops will change from fighting a war to development and training
will be meshed with previous statements & messaging (including some made in the House of Commons) to the effect that the combat mission will end - unless they plan to run some kind of recruit-depot-esque facility to groom troops before they get sent to OMLT teams from other countries.

Only just started digging through Hansard for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Foreign Affairs Mininster's material on Parliament's role in the determining the future mission, but I spotted Mr. O saying this to an NDP colleague about the situation in AFG:
Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC) .... This is not a war. We are providing a secure environment in a country in which there was a complete loss of security. Let us get it very clear so the NDP can understand what a secure environment is and what a war is.

    A war is between two nations; a war is between two parties. There are not two parties there. This is a different kind of war. We are facing a terrorist organization that does not respect any rules of engagement. As a matter of fact, it has the most hideous way of running a government on record. It will provide no rights to its own citizens. That is why the citizens of Afghanistan want us to bring peace and security. Peace and security can only be provided by NATO forces.

- edited to add initial 5 Oct 09 Hansard material -
...during the "impromptu debate" on Afghanistan by Deepak Obhrai, the parliamentary secretary to the foreign affairs minister, from Hansard:
Mr. Speaker, I can tell the hon. member that when the mission is debated after 2011 by Parliament, he …. will have an opportunity to fully participate in that debate. The (Special) committee (on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan) will participate. Canadians will participate to indicate how the mission after 2011 should go, while taking into account the strong values and past contributions.  I can tell the hon. member that we are looking forward to that debate.

The full back-and-forth on Afghanistan (32 pages) is also available in PDF here - worth at least skimming through to get a feel for how different parties see the issue (I was impressed with Bob Rae's comments, lack of Liberal Party solid policy notwithstanding), including the declaration that this isn't a war, it's "providing a secure environment in a country in which there was a complete loss of security".
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail web site, is another, longer report:

Parliament to debate post-2011 role in Afghanistan
Mission will change but Canada will not be leaving, Defence Minister says as top soldier hosts Afghan counterpart

Murray Brewster

The Canadian Press

Thursday, Oct. 08, 2009

Two cabinet ministers have signalled that Parliament will debate Canada's future role in Afghanistan when the Conservative government settles on a precise configuration for the new mission.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay told the House of Commons defence committee today Canada will not be leaving Afghanistan even after the combat mission expires in 2011.

The role will change from fighting a war to a development and training.

The federal cabinet has the authority to define the mission on its own, but Mr. MacKay says the Tory government is committed to the motion passed by Parliament in March, 2008, to withdraw the country's battle group from Kandahar, starting in July of 2011.

“Until such time as there is a new motion before Parliament or a new decision taken, we will respect the guidelines and the direction from the existing motion,” the Defence Minister said after his committee appearance.

His remarks echo Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai, the parliamentary secretary to the foreign affairs minister, who told the Commons in an impromptu debate on Afghanistan earlier in the week that the future mission will be brought before MPs.

“I can tell the honourable member that when the mission is debated after 2011 by Parliament, he, as the Liberal foreign affairs critic, will have an opportunity to full participate in that debate,” Mr. Obhrai said in response to a question from Liberal MP Bob Rae.

“The [Commons Afghanistan] committee will participate. Canadians will participate to indicate how the mission will go after 2011 should go, while taking into account the strong values and past contributions. I can tell the honourable member we are looking forward to that debate.”

Both comments are the clearest statements the Conservatives have made about how the future of the costly and deadly involvement in Afghanistan will unfold.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay counters an opposition attack during Question Period in the House of Commons on Oct. 7, 2009.

The fighting has killed 131 soldiers and a diplomat. Cost estimates for both the military and aid portions of the operation range from $11 billion to $13 billion.

Mr. MacKay side-stepped the question of how Canada will carry out a development mission with the Taliban insurgency continuing to rage throughout many parts of southern Afghanistan.

It is generally accepted that diplomats, development and aid workers will need protection, but the minister refused to say whether a small contingent of Canadian troops will provide that security – or if the dangerous role will be left to the Americans and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies.

There are many “moving parts” in making the decision about what the mission will look like, not the least of which is what direction the U.S. administration intends to take, Mr. MacKay said.

U.S. President Barack Obama is deciding whether to adopt a new beefed-up counter-insurgency strategy, which could include up to 40,000 more American troops.

Last week, Mr. MacKay cracked open the door to a continued involvement of Canadian troops – albeit in a defensive role – when he said one of the options the government is studying is whether to keep control of the Kandahar provincial reconstruction base.

The base, which Canada has operated since 2005, has been the showcase for Ottawa's diplomatic and development efforts, running programs to improve Afghan governance, delivering aid and training local police.

The discussion about where the Canadian mission goes is happening as Afghanistan's top military commander pays a visit to both Ottawa and Washington for talks over the direction of the war.

General Bismullah Mohammadi is meeting with Canadian Chief of Defence Staff General Walter Natynczyk and other senior officials, but will also travel to the army's central training base and garrison, Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ont.


Canada's Chief of the Defence Staff, General Walter Natynczyk, and his Afghan counterpart, General Bismillah Mohammadi, inspect an honour guard at National Defence headquarters in Ottawa on Oct. 8, 2009.

There, Gen. Mohammadi is expected to meet directly with Canadians who've trained Afghan soldiers.

He'll also lay a wreath at the National War Memorial to honour Canadian dead.

Most Canadians will not be happy if we stay in Kandahar. Many, probably, most Canadians are persuaded - partially by our own propaganda - that "we" have done enough and others have done too little.
E.R. Campbell said:
Most Canadians will not be happy if we stay in Kandahar. Many, probably, most Canadians are persuaded - partially by our own propaganda - that "we" have done enough and others have done too little.
And they won't get any happier when the fallen in the allegedly non-combat mission of training come home, no matter what province it happened in - I look forward to far more explaining of what happens next.
This from Hansard for Question Period on 8 Oct 09 (highlights mine):
Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.):  Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.  There is some confusion on the government's position with respect to the military mission in Afghanistan post-2011. For the second time in as many weeks the Minister of National Defence has talked about this. I would like to get the minister again on record. I tried to get him last week on this question.  Could the minister confirm that the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan will be over in 2011, yes or no?

Hon. Lawrence Cannon (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, it seems the only person who is confused is the hon. member on the other side of the House.  Let me be perfectly clear. Canada will end its military mission in 2011. Do I have to repeat it to him in French?

Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.):  Mr. Speaker, I am not the one he needs to repeat it to. He needs to repeat it to his colleague, the Minister of National Defence. The problem is that when he speaks in committee or elsewhere, he says the exact opposite, and that is important.  I will ask the minister the question again. How will the government ensure that the House of Commons is consulted before any changes are made to the military mission in Afghanistan?

Hon. Lawrence Cannon (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, let me quote the hon. member who said, this week, in the House:

    I do not believe that Canada's commitment to Afghanistan can, in any way, shape or form, end in 2011. I do not believe our commitment to the region can end in 2011.

    Then he went on to talk about development.

    Our position is clear. The military combat mission will end in 2011.

What a difference one word ("combat") makes....