Tuesday, March 07, 2006


I believe in the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.

With the deaths of several Canadian soldiers, there's been a lot of questions raised about our mission; some new, some old. I'll address four of them:

  • What is Canada doing in Afghanistan?
  • Should Canadian troops be there?
  • Should they be engaging in the more combat-oriented missions?
  • Isn't our presence there just freeing up US troops for Iraq?

Before I weighed in I wanted to have some idea what I was talking about, so I went looking and found the Canada in Afghanistan website. I suggest you visit it, too. Reading the information there made me realize that we are doing what we have done since the second world war: building peace. The role is difficult. Afghanistan has been a war zone since the Soviet invasion in 1979. After them came the Taliban, terrorism, and finally, civil war supported by Canadian, US and other troops. The country is a mess.

Canada and the international community are now working to clean up the debris of war and make certain it doesn't happen again. We are cleaning up landmines. We are supplying food to the needy. We are helping to build infrastructure and local business. We are working with local police and courts to create a judicial system that works and is enforceable. We are working to disarm the militias and help the members return to society, and we are making progress.

So, my answers to the questions above:

What is Canada doing in Afghanistan?
From the website: "The Government of Canada's main objective is to help Afghanistan to become a stable, democratic and self-sustaining state that never again serves as a terrorist haven. To this end, Canada is working with other countries, the UN, NATO and various international organizations to provide the security and stability necessary for the implementation of multilateral and bilateral development programs in Afghanistan, to ensure a systematic reconstruction of the country and to rebuild its economic, political and judicial institutions."

Should Canadian troops be there?
In my opinion, yes. We helped start the war that overthrew the Taliban, we helped to create the system that brought the new government into power. To leave now would be to abandon our responsibilities, damage our international reputation, and undermine the very important work that is being done in Afghanistan.

Should they be engaging in the more combat-oriented missions?
Unfortunately, yes. Part of peacekeeping is preventing those who would disrupt the peace from doing so, and in this case, that means searching out the remaining Taliban and Al-Qaida fighter in Afghanistan.

Isn't our presence there just freeing up US troops for Iraq?
No. When George Bush invaded Iraq, he did pull troops from Afghanistan to do so. He would have done this whether or not Canadians were there, and in doing so, made a very serious mistake. The war in Iraq is one of the biggest obstacles to peace in the middle east right now. The US is being seen as an ineffective bully who does not have the will or strength to hold the country or to leave it peace (as opposed to in pieces, which seems to be happening). Afghanistan, by contrast, was a chance for the US to show that it could help the people of the region; that it would not abandon its allies like it did in the 1980's following the collapse of the Soviet Union. George Bush could not see this. He could not understand that, by building peace in Afghanistan, he could salvage the US reputation in the middle east, and gain respect both from allies and enemies.

We are needed in Afghanistan, and we need to stay there until the job is done. And yes, it may take ten years. If we commit to Afghanistan, if we help rebuild the nation, we will do far more to bring about peace and end terrorism than the so-called "War on Terror."

So that's my opinion on the matter. While you think about yours, why not take some time and write a message to our men and women in uniform? They'd love to know you are thinking about them.

Back to work.

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