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There is progress in Afghanistan, but the danger is increasing

PAUL WELLS on assignment


 

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On Dec. 5, a sunny Friday morning in Kabul, three SUVs pulled up to a bustling street corner near the north bank of the Kabul River. A dozen people tumbled out onto the sidewalk, including Ron Hoffman, Canada’s ambassador to Afghanistan, his scowling and vigilant bodyguards, and a handful of visitors from home, including me.

We stepped briskly away from the main street along a back lane split down the middle by a shallow V-shaped drainage ditch. Merchants’ stalls lined the lane: a man selling hand-hammered axe blades, another popping formidable quantities of popcorn on an open fire. Our destination, a few dozen metres off the thoroughfare, was the Turquoise Mountain redevelopment site, an ambitious attempt to reclaim one of Kabul’s oldest districts as a haven for traditional arts, crafts and architecture.

Only three years ago the whole area was buried in layers of accumulated trash to a depth of several metres, Sayed Majidi, a handsome German-born Afghan architect, told us. That’s when former British diplomat Rory Stewart wrangled funding from the Aga Khan Foundation and Prince Charles to restore the neighbourhood, known as Murad Khane, to its 18th-century glory. The land was cleared, crumbling buildings rebuilt. Elder craftsmen and a new generation of their students set to work carving intricate woodwork doors and window frames. Ceramic wall fixtures were rebuilt with local clays mixed with a plant fibre called gul-e loch. Students started flocking to Turquoise Mountain from across Afghanistan to relearn the ancient techniques.

Last year the Canadian International Development Agency gave a grant of $3 million to continue Turquoise Mountain’s work as an architectural site, school for the arts, and high-end craft export business. These will seem like lofty concerns in Afghanistan, a war zone and one of the world’s poorest countries. But there is something magical about these elegant buildings tucked away from the clamouring streetscape. No society can get by for long on survival and subsistence alone. Every community needs craft and lore, some living link to the higher aspirations of the mind and heart. “Of course this is good for all of Kabul,” Hedayatullah Ahmadzai, Turquoise Mountain’s head of engineering, told me. “Afghan people don’t know their history. They need to see it. This place is the father and mother of all Kabul. Of all Afghanistan.”

While the engineer spoke, Hoffman, a superbly well-connected diplomat with a lopsided grin and a fly-away shock of greying blond hair, stepped away to take a call on his cellphone. The ambassador listened more than he spoke and ended the call with a quiet, “Well, thanks for letting me know.”

That night, after the next of kin had been properly notified back home, we learned that the call had been to inform Hoffman about the roadside bomb west of Kandahar that killed the 98th, 99th and 100th Canadian soldiers to die in Afghanistan.

The work of life and hope continues in Afghanistan. So does the work of unimaginable savagery. Each task has drawn practitioners of uncommon dedication. Even today, seven years into this mess, it is not clear who is winning. If victory has any decent meaning, we are nowhere close to being able to claim it. And a very dangerous year lies just ahead. Afghans will elect a new government in 2009. The Taliban and other insurgents will try to stop the voting. Drug lords will try to corrupt it. And a massive influx of American troops, perhaps 20,000 by 2010, will mark the arrival of a new American president determined to tip the balance of a stalemated war.

Even soldiers who eagerly await the arrival of U.S. reinforcements worry about what will happen when they arrive. Many—though certainly not all—believe the level of violence will skyrocket in the short term and that the heart of the carnage will be the country’s south, including Kandahar, where most of the soldiers in the Canadian deployment are already stationed. It may be salutary violence; perhaps this war needs to get worse before it gets better. But one U.S. general put it this way.

“If you put three brigades in the heart of the Pashtun south, the insurgents are gonna come from Baluchistan [across the porous border in Pakistan], they’re gonna come from far and wide. And you’re going to see a level of violence that we have not seen in a long time. This is not the Taliban that we all know and love. You know, one little IED [improvised explosive device] takes a wheel off a vehicle, everybody gets bumped up but they’re all okay. You’re going to be seeing world-class IEDs. You’re going to be seeing [rocket-propelled grenade] fire that is incredibly accurate. You’re going to be seeing mortar fire that is incredibly accurate. And my belief is, you’re going to see new weapons introduced into the theatre.”

I took this second trip to Afghanistan, a year after my first, as a guest of the Department of National Defence. My travelling companions were academics and a think-tank fellow from Washington. In just over a week in Kabul and Kandahar, we met with more than 40 high-ranking members of the Canadian, allied and Afghan militaries; representatives of the Afghan government and civil society; and civilian aid and development workers from Canada and an array of NGOs. Most of our discussions were off the record to encourage candour.

A year ago, Afghanistan seemed to be at a crossroads. Western forces, increasingly supported by a homegrown Afghan army, were holding their own against insurgents, who were fighting a low-level guerrilla war of harassment against the Westerners and intimidation against local politicians. Development work was spotty and poorly coordinated. A year later it’s as though the volume knob had been turned up on all of that.

Development work has markedly accelerated and there have been tentative steps toward better coordination. Roads are being paved, schools being built. Canada is distributing $1.2 million worth of wheat seed to 5,000 farmers so they might not have to plant opium poppies. Our government is financing the rebuilding of Sarpoza prison, the site of a spectacular and deadly prison break in June, into perhaps the most secure and humane prison in Afghanistan. The professionalism and imagination of the Canadian public servants I met at the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar were a tonic for a journalistic refugee from the inanity of the coalition-government brinksmanship in Ottawa.

Canada’s civilian work in the south is led by Elissa Golberg, a loquacious career civil servant whose title—she is the first official “Representative of Canada in Kandahar”—is sewn in short form onto her body armour, as “THE ROCK.” Soldiers are told to treat the Rock with the deference a general officer would get. She frets over her colleagues’ safety, but she spends more time bumping along the dangerous roads around Kandahar than most other civilians.

Golberg has more discretion over her budgets than do many cabinet ministers in Ottawa. While she must account for her spending decisions, she is well clear of the leaden cloud of so-called “accountability” that most of today’s Ottawa interprets to mean, “Don’t do anything and you won’t get into trouble.” In Kandahar the cost of inaction is far too visible for such nonsense. Golberg will talk your ear off about wheat seed. Her enthusiasm is infectious.

One constant guideline for the Canadian civilians in Kandahar is to resist doing by themselves what they can goad or entice the Afghan government to do. This takes discipline. The Canadians have considerable resources, whereas getting and holding the Afghans’ attention can be like trying to push string uphill. There will not always be Canadians in Kandahar, and before they leave they hope to instill some of the habits of a democratic government in Afghanistan’s administration. Too much still rides on the personal attention of the local governor, who can be dedicated or corrupt. Rules and processes need to evolve so Afghans can depend on their government for basic services even if a third-rater is in charge.

And yet this whole conversation about government services is slightly surreal because the roads are booby-trapped and the country is racked with insurgent violence. Every single NGO we met in Kandahar identified “security”—the local euphemism for war—as its primary challenge. Here too, last year’s standoff between allies and insurgents seems to be holding, but at a higher level of carnage.

Abdul Rahim Wardak is Afghanistan’s defence minister, a towering bear of a man who, 25 years ago, was fighting the Soviet occupiers alongside many of the mujaheddeen who became the insurgents he now combats. “Last year, in 2007, we thought we had experienced the bloodiest year ever,” he said in his Kabul office. “But this year, unfortunately, the level of violence is 30 per cent to 40 per cent higher.”

Wardak spent the first few years after the 2001 coalition invasion complaining that his Afghan National Army, which then stood at barely 10,000 undertrained troops with no modern equipment to speak of, could not ensure the country’s security. As late as 2006 he was pleading for Western help to train a 150,000-strong Afghan army. Today he is nearly getting his wish: the ANA is on track to hit 86,000 soldiers by next year and 134,000 by 2011. Soldiers from NATO countries rarely do anything now without their ANA colleagues. In 60 per cent of combined operations this year, Wardak said, the Afghans took the lead. “We have inflicted very heavy damage on the enemy leadership,” he said.

But that is merely inciting the insurgents to more desperate measures, including the endemic use of roadside bombs that just killed six Canadians in eight days. And no matter how many insurgents the Afghan and Western troops kill or capture, more appear. Many come from Pakistan.

“I’ve got a 1,100-km open flank,” said Maj.-Gen. Mart de Kruif, the newly arrived Dutch commander of Regional Command South, which includes Kandahar and the provinces on either side. The turbulent Pakistani elections a year ago, whose low point was the terrorist assassination of Benazir Bhutto, took the Pakistani authorities’ attention away from the border mountains for months. Almost inevitably, violence in Afghanistan’s eastern and southern regions climbed.

In the last six months, NATO authorities in Afghanistan have tried to re-engage their Pakistani counterparts. When U.S. Gen. David McKiernan arrived in June to assume command of all NATO forces in Afghanistan, one of his first meetings was with Pakistan’s chief of defence staff. Now they meet every month, and the two meet with the head of Afghanistan’s army every two months. Hoffman, the Canadian ambassador, has begun regular meetings with Randolph Mank, Canada’s high commissioner in Islamabad. Len Edwards, the deputy minister of foreign affairs, was in Afghanistan when I was there. One item on his agenda was to begin coordinating a broader regional response to the Afghan conflict.

But open lines of communication can only accomplish so much. The Pakistani army’s heavy-handed tactics make it ill-suited to fight a counterinsurgency. And most of the country’s troops are on the eastern border with India, Pakistan’s eternal nemesis. “It’s not rocket science to know that if we can improve the relationship between India and Pakistan it will improve the situation here,” de Kruif said. Unfortunately, the murderous attack on Mumbai by terrorists trained in Pakistan is driving those countries’ relationship in the other direction.

In the meantime, the open border helps ensure that there will always be more bad guys than NATO and the Afghan army can handle. Someone else has to fill the gap. Ideally, somebody local who can spot suspicious behaviour by outsiders who, being Pashtun, are in most ways indistinguishable from the locals. “Police, police, police,” Denis Thompson, the laconic Canadian brigadier-general who commands Joint Task Force Kandahar, said. “That’s my number one worry. If you don’t have the cops you can’t hold the ground. And if you can’t hold the ground you can’t do anything else.”

Traditionally, Afghan police were just an extension of local warlord clans, ill-equipped, unpaid except by bribes, and fabulously corrupt. On top of it all, since the insurgency began in 2002, Afghan National Police (ANP) officers have been the most vulnerable targets for attacks. More than 1,000 ANP officers have been killed this year alone.

NATO was slow to take an interest in the ANP’s training. Some Western authorities still doubt the good faith of President Hamid Karzai’s government in training the police. “You get all the Afghan leadership together, from Karzai on down,” one senior NATO officer said. “Put ’em in Ghazi stadium [Kabul’s main athletic venue] and ask them, ‘Do you want a competent, professional, dedicated police force?’ And give them some sort of truth serum. My guess is that fewer than 30 per cent of them would say yes. Shaking down a corrupt police force is how these guys make their money. People say, ‘Clean up the police.’ It’s a cop-out. We need to clean up the government.”

Despite that atmosphere of malign neglect, Western authorities have finally begun making strides toward training and professionalizing the police. One is salary reform: police are now paid at the same rate soldiers are, so taking bribes is no longer a necessity for simple survival. And they’re now paid by electronic transfer using personalized smart cards—so the pay gets to the individual cop rather than to his boss or the local warlord.

The other big innovation is effective training. Western authorities wasted too many years training Afghan police one by one, teaching an officer new techniques—often beginning with basic literacy—and then sending him back to a corrupt and corrupting precinct station. Last year the westerners introduced Focused District Development, which trains every man in a police station together, while members of an elite national police squadron hold the fort in their absence. “Bring them in to train alone, they fail,” one trainer said. “Bring the group in, even if you need to trim the group because of hot urinalysis and a couple of other problems, the rest of the group succeeds.” Focused District Development is now key to a lot of other decisions about how to allocate resources in a theatre of war that’s way too big for the NATO resources at hand. Military commanders now prefer not to clear an area of Taliban unless the police in that area have gone through FDD, because they’re likeliest to be able to keep the Taliban out later.

In Kandahar, where many members of the ANP have been trained by members of Canadian police forces, Precinct 9 has doubled its rate of IED discovery this year. In Canada we only hear about IEDs when they kill our soldiers. But most victims of insurgent violence are Afghans. NATO soldiers hope the insurgents’ shift from direct military conflict, which they can’t win, to IEDs, which they can’t target, will cost them local support. “The Taliban have lost ground with the local population,” one soldier insists. “They don’t deliver any services. The only service is, ‘You pissed me off so I’m going to hang you from a lamp post.’ ”

But some Western authorities think even a U.S.-reinforced NATO contingent and a swiftly improving Afghan army and police corps won’t be enough to end the standoff with the insurgents. That has some senior NATO officers mulling a dangerous and controversial option: recruiting and arming local tribal militias to help out. There is no formal plan along these lines, but we heard the option discussed at senior levels of the NATO leadership.

We also heard it contested, especially in the south, where tribal affiliations are infernally complex. Arming or paying one faction could have repercussions nobody could predict or control. “On a scale from smart to dumb,” one officer said, holding his hands apart in front of him, “arming the tribes is over here.” He nodded at the “dumb” end of his scale.

If anything, it was harder after this trip to measure the room for optimism in Afghanistan than it was a year ago. The civilian and military resources Canada and its allies are deploying far exceed anything we have put to the task before. Reinforcements are on the way. But the challenge is growing too.

Meanwhile, soldiers keep dying. One of the many who have had to become authorities on that subject is Warrant Officer Colin Clansey. The compact, thoughtful 33-year-old believes he is the first bagpiper deployed to a combat theatre in that role by the Canadian Forces since the Second World War. Since only two soldiers at Kandahar Air Field know how to play the pipes—the other is a truck driver Clansey used to teach—they have been kept busy playing at the ramp ceremonies when transport aircraft fly soldiers’ remains home. Not only to Canada, but to the U.S., Britain, Australia. Clansey has played at 25 ramp ceremonies in his nine months at Kandahar.

Soldiers from every country come, if their operational duties permit, to attend the ramp ceremonies. When the three who died on Dec. 5 went home, 2,000 of their comrades were on hand. Clansey sometimes plays Amazing Grace or songs associated with specific regiments, but this time he played a new song he wrote in November, Task Force Kandahar. “It’s a funeral march, so it’s very sombre at the start,” he said. “But as it progresses, I tried to give it a more positive tone, so it has elements of hope and joy at the end. As if to express the hope that all this isn’t in vain.”


 
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There is progress in Afghanistan, but the danger is increasing

  1. It’s all in vain. Get out.

    • Are you OK with the slaughter the Taliban would inflict on the Afghan civilians if NATO left?

  2. In contrast to those, like the comment above, that think we should just “cut and run” from Afghanistan, I believe we need to stay until the job is done. I am headed to Afghanistan next year with the CF, and am proud to be doing so. Many people in Canada take safe streets, schools, and a functionning government for granted (very much so, as evinced by the appalling voter turnout this year). We are trying to provide at least the bare minimum of that in Afghanistan. The news stories tend to accentuate the negative, but we have achieved enomrous succeses over there already – schools are built, women can work in many places without risk, and the government and ANA have taken the lead in most aspects. To simply abandon what we have acheived before Afghanistan is ready to stand on its own feet would not only be disrepsectful to those who have given their lives, but would be immoral to those Afghan citizens we have promised to help, and go against every value which we profess to hold dear in Canada.

  3. Thanks you Diver Rob. I have only partial use of one arm & leg, so I can’t myself.

    About ten years ago I took part in one of the world’s hardest 10km races (in China), which had a 2.5km vertical climb on stone in 40C heat. I got 5th place, but at the top I got food poisoning from contaminated water which required hospitalization. A contestant from Afghanistahn, after running up the mountain, carried me down on his shoulders. People like him deserve a good and just society.

  4. Terrific piece, makes you feel like you were there. Well, here’s hoping things start to turn around, as in the Piper’s tune.

    I don’t get the logic of not arming the tribes. If it’s so complex, why not figure it out? Hasn’t the whole Western world got one Pushtu-speaker who can understand complex tribal diplomacy? Like, anthropologists? It’s worked very well in Iraq.

    • From the article:

      “Arming or paying one faction could have repercussions nobody could predict or control. “On a scale from smart to dumb,” one officer said, holding his hands apart in front of him, “arming the tribes is over here.” He nodded at the “dumb” end of his scale.”

      You want to do dumb? The problem with Afghanistan is the tribes have too much power & the central government not enough. Arming tribes only increases that problem.

      The Canadian Forces have plenty of Pashtu speakers to advise on local culture. In fact, an Afghan-Canadian has just been appointed governor of Kandahar

      • Pakistan, with one of the world’s largest armies, can’t control its Pathans, so how soon will the ANA be able to do so? 2408? Meanwhile they’re wildcards. I say, bring them in on our side. They can do tons of things our guys can’t do.

        The question wasn’t “advising on local culture,” it was understanding extremely complex Pashtun tribal politics — where this whole war will be won or lost. We have guys who understand that? They’d have to be expert scholars or people who had grown up in those tribes.

        • Yes, we have such experts and they advise against arming the tribes. The approach that worked in Iraq, the ‘surge” cannot be copied “cookie cutter” style to Afghanistan. The culture is different. The problem is not the cultural complexities of the Pashtun tribes. It’s the long standing tradition of corruption & nepotism, the lack of sufficient troops to clear, hold & build, and the open sanctuary in Pakistan.

          • Nepotism and corruption — you mean in the Pashtun tribes? I thought that was practically the definition of a tribal culture. Why should that prevent their being used as auxiliaries? Forgive me if I don’t find an appeal to authority convincing.

    • Arm locals with questionable loyalties? How do people think we got the Taliban in the first place?

  5. We aren’t likely to succeed in turning Afghanistan into a well-functioning modern state in any case, but we certainly won’t if we don’t address each of the root causes of the conflict. One of those root causes (not the only one) is the spread of Wahabi fundamentalism via Saudi-funded madrassahs in Pakistan. This generates an endless supply of jihadi volunteers. To address it, we need, in essence, to reform the madrassahs, boot out the fundamentalist headmasters, and pay real teachers… expensive, but necessary, and less expensive than cruise missiles in any case. Another root cause is Pashtun xenophobia and general backwardness. What kind of culture condones shooting girls or throwing acid in their faces for the ‘crime’ of going to school? We can’t kill all the twits who hew to these ideas. The madrassahs and the Pashtun granddads ranting over their teacups keep manufacturing more of this sort of twit, with extra help from American bombing campaigns targetting wedding parties (oops! well, golly gosh, don’t git so dern angry, we dint mean no harm, we wuz only tryin’ te help). What we should focus on is killing the bad ideas, by replacing them with better ones. Pashtunistan needs a massive, comprehensive public education campaign. Perhaps we could start by gifting every Pashtun family a TV and radio, and then ceaselessly playing Pashtun-language reruns of Discovery Channel shows on sciences and arts, and BBC specials on comparative religion, among many other secular, modern topics. If that amounts to ‘cultural imperialism’, well, tot it up against a cultural preference for killing girls for going to school, and I’ll sign up for some straightforward Western-enlightenment cultural imperialism, merci bien.

    • To paraphrase Sting, the Taliban love their children too.

      I am shocked by what passes for cultural norms in tribal Afghanistan, but last time I checked, they didn’t ask for my opinion.

      It’s one thing to feel moral outrage at how another society functions, quite another thing to believe you have the means to change it.

      • They didn’t ask for your opinion? I dunno. I rather think they demanded our opinion when they decided to host a gang of fundamentalist Islamist crackpots who went around blowing up embassies and office towers in various Western countries. Having thus captured attention, we’ve noticed that “they”, i.e. the angry males in their culture, are viciously punishing women for trying to learn to read, growing most of the world’s opium crop, etc. Are we supposed to ignore all this shit out of some kind of obsession with cultural sovereignty? At what point is a culture so off the rails that a combination of self-defense, and ‘responsibility to protect’ the vulnerable folks trapped within that culture, require us to take action? I’d say the Pashtuns are way over that particular line. As are, for that matter, the Saudis, who are at the root of much of these problems — but they have oil money and corresponding influence, so we pretend otherwise, at our own peril.

        • Clearly we need to do what’s in our best interests. I am not sure that trying to control a vast desolate and ungovernable place is the right way to do that, either by sending groups of soldiers to various remote locations or by trying to build them a national broadcaster in the image of the CBC.

          Currently we are doing something, which is somehow better than nothing, because it’s something.

          Tough talk sounds good, but spending hundreds of millions of dollars and sending soldiers in to fight the enemy as if it’s a conventional war is having the opposite effect of what we want. You want to target the enemy, that’s all good, but we don’t even know who they are.

          • I agree that soldiers are fundamentally not the answer in Afghanistan. At best they are a necessary prelude, required to establish enough order to get on with some reconstruction and, dare I say it, reformation of Afghan culture and governance. At worst they are a flaming stick in a hornet’s nest, making everything worse. I have no in-field experience in Afghanistan and don’t feel qualified to judge which side of this divide is closer to the truth. However, it does seem very clear to me that we should be taking a massive public education campaign to the Afghans and Pakistanis, and especially the Pashtuns, because if we don’t, all they get to hear is the rantings of mullahs and tribal elders. Garbage in, garbage out. So yes: let’s give them a Pashto-language CBC, a Discovery Channel, radios, TVs, newspapers, whatever it takes, and attempt to spread the same Enlightenment values and updated information that freed our own civilization from our version of mad mullahs. It wasn’t so long ago that the Church was burning heretics, was it? We don’t feel it was wrong to challenge the Church theocracy in medieval Europe on the basis of ‘cultural sovereignty’ arguments. Nor is it wrong to challenge the cultural reign of obscurantist mad mullahs and vicious misogynists who nurture dreams to destroying the infidel West. This is a war of ideas, being fought inappropriately with bullets and bombs.

      • The Taliban have been using children as suicide bombers. Do you really think they love them?

        The Taliban are drawn only from a few tribes of only one of the Afghan ethnic groups. Why do you assume they have the right to dictate to the rest of the country? There are also plenty of Chechens, Arabs & Pakistanis, also known as Al Qaeda, fighting for the Taliban. The Taliban in no way represents Afghanistan’s interests.

  6. Afghanistan is not the problem, Pakistan is.

    It’s time for the global community to focus its attention on the problem and deal with it.

    • Agreed. Though the problem is wider than Pakistan (Saudi Arabia is the source of much of the spreading problem: read The Looming Tower for some background), perennially-failing-state Pakistan is the most dangerous country on Earth. Loose nukes, fanatics, poverty, sexual frustration, paranoia, sectarian hatreds, frequent bombings, tribal rivalries, corruption and incompetence, all rolled up into one cute furry little ball. Gadzooks.

    • And if this nuclear power says “thanks but no thanks”, should we declare yet a third war in the mid-east?

  7. “No society can get by for long on survival and subsistence alone. Every community needs craft and lore, some living link to the higher aspirations of the mind and heart.”

    Or a winning hockey team. Bryan Murray needs to do something right now or Ottawa is going to be nothing but subsistence living.

    But I digress. Those words really resonated. Thanks.

  8. Excellent article Paul.

    I wonder how Canadians felt after Dieppe in 42?

    Things looked much worse then.

    Good thing we will stick at least to our original commitment.

    Clive

  9. Excellent article. The problems do seem to be ginormous but it is heartening to hear that so many good people are dedicating themselves wholeheartedly to the task of getting Afghanistan back on its feet. I hope they can take a moment to pat themselves on the back! However, coordinated efforts, perhaps one region at a time, must be the norm, focusing on eliminating opium production and corruption. The Millenium Development villages come to mind as an example. Treat the whole body, and the patient’s health will be restored.

  10. Is there a possibility of getting an audio clip of “Task Force Kandahar” as a link or podcast?

  11. I’m not sure who’s advising our politicians. Also not sure why the Allies, Nato, the Co-allition does not see a simple fact. It is not possible to bring Democracy to the Middle East. These are tribal people used to behead one another for trivial matters. The minmute, the USA and the coallition withdraws from Iraq, political chaos will prevail, their newly established parliament will be demolished, the puppet politicians will be murdered and another strong man will emerge taking over where Saddam Hussein left off. This is the sad reality of their lives. In short, it’s their way and customs.
    Same theory applies to Afghanistan. The minute we leave, there will be another gang of bandits ready to take over and terrorize the population. Look at what happened and is still happening in Darfur…. Only stable countries in the Middle East are ruled by autocratic, friendly ditactorships who know how to keep their populace under control…cases in point: Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Morrocco, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Lybia, Tunis. Name it what you want or will but just think what would happen in aqny one of these countries if the current regime was overthrown

  12. Careful what you say Paul…progress in Afganistan…now that’s just not cricket…not part of the media narritive that is supposed to get out don’t you know. If your not careful you will be pronounced as being politically incorrect and banished. Canadians are only supposed to hear about Canadian deaths, not schools reopening and new ones being built, or girls being allowed to go to any school for the first time in their lives. Layton wants us to cut and run and leave the civilian population, espcially the female population to the devices of the Taliban. Funny, he’s so worried about not enough female representation in parliment here, but seems perfectly ok to let women over there not be let out of the house or have acid thown on them. Glad we had better leadership than him after the Dieppe raid. I guess he would have just packed up and come home. After all, what the heck were we doing in Europe anyway in the 40’s.

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