By the way -

By the way


Glen Pearson writes of Afghanistan.

The effects of Canada’s pull-out on the ground will likely result in other participating nations taking similar steps. Soon enough all the talk about the kids going to school, the highly effective nature of women’s programs supported by Canada, and our commitment to training new leaders for the future will be things of the past. They will surely be replaced by empty school classrooms, murdered women’s leaders who, having sided with the NATO forces to bring about change, will be inevitably targeted by the Taliban for that endorsement.  The dark days are returning, with the politicians more concerned with how it will effect the vote in Canada rather than the lives in Afghanistan. Somebody in Ottawa better start talking about this quick, before the hope of keeping any kind of development and security presence there diminishes altogether.


By the way

  1. Yes indeed, there is a real cost to pulling out. Not a cost to us, but a cost for the Afghans. And since we've made a commitment to help them I think we have a debt of honour to pay up as best we can.

  2. This is what we've done:

    In 2001 the Taliban came to the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) after they were forced to flee Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, by the U.S.- led forces. From there they began sneaking into the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – which until recently was known as the North-West Frontier Province – and started targeting schools and commercial establishments such as CD and music shops.

    FATA lies between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the neighbouring country of Afghanistan. In Swat alone – an administrative district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – the Taliban destroyed a total of 188 girls' schools and 97 boys between 2007 and March 2009, displacing some 500,000 students. …..

  3. Ask the Russians how tameable Afghanistan was back in the 1980s. I'm not certain that any amount of aid (feet on the ground or monetary) could change Afghanistan into what the Western world regards as a civilized democracy. The very existence of powerful war lords precludes NATO's ability to bring about meaningful, long term or permanent change.

  4. It's a good question. In my view the answer depends on an assessment of whether the Americans are committed. If they are, I think we should stay to the end. If they're not, we need to consider the repercussions on the Afghans seriously but we may have to leave before the job is done since we depend on the Americans to complete it.

  5. The damage was done when we decided to insert ourselves into a civil war and support one side against the other.

    And as much as we want to pretend we're on the side of good because of the fundamentalist brutality of the Taliban, "our" side has little respect for human rights, isn't exactly committed to female emancipation, and is considerably more corrupt than the regime it replaced.

    Our get-the-scumbags policy didn't work out very well, because we couldn't tell who the scumbags were, and in the process we went some distance towards becoming the thing we wanted to prevent.

    Tell us one thing that is working well, and maybe we can consider doing more of it. Otherwise let's cap this inglorious adventure at the Ten Years War mark.

  6. We're not likely to "beat" the Taliban; they can afford to wait us out for way longer than we'd ever be willing to stay. I don't think that it matters how long we stay so long as our mission focus stays as is (defeating the Taliban). So the question becomes: does it make any difference if we pull out today or 5 years from now?

    I think it can make a difference [i]if[/i] we change strategy dramatically. We need to recognize that the Taliban are primarily an ethnic group, not a political organization. We then need to focus on arming and training the other ethnic groups in Afghanistan to be able to stand up against the Taliban. Then we need to divide Afghanistan into two (or more) countries so that the non-Taliban can govern themselves.

    It's tragic how the Taliban treat their women, and everyone else. If I thought there was a realistic way of changing their culture, I'd be all for it. I just don't see it. At least with a better country next door, they might have somewhere to flee to if they wanted to escape their culture.

    Just some thoughts.

  7. There is a realistic way.. you get enough people who live there to believe "This isn't the way" and you marginalize the Taliban to no more than any fringe group we see here in Canada.

    That's part of why this detainee issue is so important. We need to be visible examples of "This isn't the way" and that our way works.

  8. "In my view the answer depends on an assessment of whether the Americans are committed."

    American foreign policy is a mess so good luck figuring out whether they are committed or not. I think Canadian troops should stay until some kind of order/peace is established and I think we should also keep people over there to help build a civil society.

    I don't like most foreign affair efforts but I am always happy to support democracy building initiatives around the world. There would be world peace if we could turn the world into Canada – it would be a dull, earnest world but there would be brotherhood and harmony (or some semblance of it at least).

  9. "I think the detainee issue has had a measurable effect on public support …."

    I think it would be helpful to Afghan mission if Liberals stopped accusing our troops of being war criminals.

  10. If only the Taliban prisoners had an interperter provided to them so they would be familiar with The Geneva Convention, they would certainly reciprocate.
    If only these Taliban prisoners had been given a speedy trial and provided with a competent attorney, then they would understand real justice.
    If only they had been imprisoned in a modern jail similar to the ones our convicted felons seem to return to time after time.
    If only there had been a proper system of parole and pardon set up so these imprisoned Taliban had been able to return to their bomb making activities.
    If only all of these conditions had been met then the innocent men and women civilans could be looking forward to long, peaceful, and prosperous lives.
    Think Thwim Think.

  11. The natural consequence of challenge government Ministers' statements (and evasions) in the House these days — and discussing the effectiveness of the Government policies our troops are asked to implement — is to accuse the questioner of being anti-military.

  12. "The damage was done when we decided to insert ourselves into a civil war and support one side against the other."

    … and choosing to back the loosing side and install a government led by people reviled by the governed.

  13. " …. is to accuse the questioner of being anti-military."

    Or Liberals are accusing Canadian troops of being war criminals without evidence and some of us wonder why Liberals are so keen to do that.

    Ujjal Dosanjh on how Canadian Generals are morally weak and legally flimsy.

    "the fact they may have been committing war crimes, handing over detainees knowing that they were very likely to be tortured, that is a war crime. And the fact that they're covering it up, I think many Canadians do care about those things…" John McCallum

    Warren Kinsella comparing Canadians and what happened at Abu Ghraib.

  14. Here's a hint, just because they have brown skin, doesn't mean they're Taliban.

    It doesn't matter what the Taliban do. It matters what we do, and what those who the Taliban live amongst see, hear, and learn of the way we do things so that they can compare it, legitimately, to what the Taliban does.

    I do think. You should try it.

  15. Exactly so. This was a fool's mission to start with, and there is never a good ending to a fool's mission. It's a lose-lose for everyone. All we get to decide is when we will leave.

  16. We don't get to marginalize anyone there. We are the marginal ones. All we have to offer is guns and bombs, death and destruction. The Afghan people once again end up paying the price for the stupidity of people from elsewhere.

  17. From today's El McQaeda comments forum:

    "North Americans are primarily an ethnic group. Our strategy should be on arming and training the other ethnic groups in Pakistan, Iraq, Saudia Arabia, west Africa and Indonesia to be able to stand up against the Americans."

  18. Try this Thwim:
    Suppose there had been no Afghan detainees. Suppose the NATO troops had a policy where any Afghan troops who were captured were immediately released back into the mountains. Suppose both the Taliban and Afghan civilians were to observe this for 10 years and conclude……, how civilized those Canadians are.
    So what would the result be……for one thing there would be a heck of a lot more than 140 dead Canadians, but do you really think the Afghans with the guns (The Taliban ) would be any less cruel to their own people then they were prior to 2001 ? Please don`t be so naive to suggest they will observe our civilized actions and act in similar fashion.
    Here`s your biggest mistake: The problem isn`t the Afghan civilians and how they view the example set by the Canadian troops. The problem is the Taliban leaders who have no interest in what the civilians think of them; they won`t change no matter if you send Clay Ruby over there to represent them, and they won`t be sending thank-you cards to you and Rae and Dosanjh.

  19. And suppose there were pink unicorns as well. Go spin on a horn.

  20. I just don't believe you can impose change. It has to come from within. The Taliban are feared, and rightly so, and I cannot say I would stand up to them if I lived there. But we can't change Afghan values or give them courage. Ultimately change will only come if they're willing to stand up against the Taliban.

    Thwim, I might find solace in your idea of "This isn't the way" if I didn't believe so strongly in the power of culture.
    I'll reframe your idea: Do you think we can convert them to Catholicism by showing them it's values?

  21. Your lack of knowledge of history shows your naivety

  22. I disagree both on your premise and your conclusion, but even if so, I'd suggest I'd prefer to be naive than a racist moron.

  23. And your inability to rebut without resorting to straw-man arguments shows you're out of your depth.

  24. "These techniques were developed around the principle of using an attacker's energy against him, rather than directly opposing it." Jujutsu, wiki

    I, too, believe in the power of culture. So we somehow need to take Afghan culture as is and use it to develop a civil society. If it's possible, I don't know but I certainly like to think so. Time is also needed. I think you need at least 20-30 years before you can really start to influence a culture/society.

  25. The dark days are returning, with the politicians more concerned with how it will effect the vote in Canada rather than the lives in Afghanistan

    I think the detainee issue has had a measurable effect on public support for Canada's Afghanistan mission. I agree with Pearson that there will be unpleasant consequences for some Afghans as a result of Canada's departure.

  26. Yes…but does that inherently mean that Canada should be in Afghanistan indefinitely? At what point do we cross that threshold between development assistance and interference in the sovereign jurisdiction of another nation?

    (Skip the rotten tomatoes, folks, I'm just posing the question because it needs to be asked for all matters of foreign affairs.)

  27. Unfortunately for Iggy the naivety you display has infiltrated the Liberal Party. I see a major backlash against the Libs.

  28. Vague crap, absolute crap, voice of reason and then just plain silliness. Yes CR the detainee issue has had a measurable effect on both the Conservative's polling and the Conservative's handling of the file has perhaps had an impact on the public's opinion of the military effort. The fact is that the Conservatives have been caught in lies, are clearly being evassive and have now been ruled to have overstepped their authority as government. Trying to vaguely link the fact that the opposition asked legitimate questions with the consequences of pulling out of Afghanistan is just crap. The decision to pull out, long predates the rise of the detainee issue and Harper has been consistent in holding to the pullout date. As Pearson notes, there has been no political debate about maintaining a military presence in large part because the PM has stated it is off the table. The decision to throw a blanket over the detainee issue rather than resolve it has allowed it to fester and created public doubts.

    I also agree that there are good reasons to stay, but if Harper is looking for the opposition to lead him towards that tough choice, he is in the wrong job.

  29. I think the attempt to build a democracy in Afghanistan was a mistake. The civil society necessary for a democracy was simply not there – in contrast with the oft-cited successes in Japan and Germany (both of which were advanced countries with a legacy of democracy).

    Moreover, if we were going to build a democracy, including the Taliban was a necessity. The Taliban are not just an ideological/spiritual movement, they are primarily a Pashtun movement. Jack Layton may have been right about bringing the Taliban in.

    Ultimately the occupation force aimed too high. It tried to establish a democracy AND to eradicate the Taliban – goals that ultimately conflicted with each other. It would have been plausible to back some warlord, and help him fight the Taliban – sacrificing the promise of democracy, but preventing Afghanistan from being a breeding ground for terrorism. Alternately, we could have brought the Taliban into the fold – you can't exclude an ethnicity from the task of governance.

    If the pullout of a few thousand Canadians will result in the collapse of Afghanistan, we shouldn't wait for 2011 – we should pull out now. Ten years and billions of dollars have clearly failed to either pacify the country or create a working democracy. The Taliban is growing more successful, not less (2009 was the bloodiest year of the war, and 2010 continues at roughly the same pace). Additional troops from the US and a new strategy have not succeeded, and only the fact that the anti-war movement does not want to go after its man in Washington has prevented protests.

    Geopolitically, Afghanistan is an irrelevant backwater. At least Iraq had oil. The blood and treasure being lost there is desperately needed to fix the US economy, and to retool in order to meet a threat from a rising China. The US doesn't need more Arabic language specialists and counterinsurgency experts, it needs an invincible navy, next-generation airpower (the bulk of US strategic bombers are B-52's), and defences against Chinese cruise missiles and anti-satellite missiles. The era of optional wars are over.