You know, the one that all four party leaders agreed could be released before the election? It’s been nearly three weeks, and we haven’t heard anything more about it. But after departing British commander Brigadier General Mark Carleton-Smith told The Times that victory over the Taliban “is neither supportable nor feasible,” the Afghanistan mission is looming on the political horizon, and may well become a late-breaking election issue:
Campaigning in Newfoundland, the NDP leader said was “heartened” by Brig.-Gen. Mark Carleton-Smith’s comments to a London newspaper.
Later Sunday, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the Conservatives would be “supportive of discussions” provided the talks were headed by the democratically elected Afghan government, and as long as the “terrorists” renounced violence.
What isn’t clear, however, is whether MacKay’s comments were made before or after the Conservatives dismissed Carleton-Smith’s somewhat dismal prognosis as simply his “personal opinion, not his government’s or NATO’s” — that is, according to Dan Dugas, currently toiling in the Tory war room on leave from his day job directing communications for — Defence Minister Peter MacKay. At least he has considerable experience explaining to reporters what his minister really meant to say, as MacKay has a habit of wandering off message when caught without a script.
Anyway, while the Conservatives work out who will be speaking on behalf of the government — the government, mind you, not the party — when it comes to the Afghanistan mission and Carleton-Smith’s assessment thereof, this would seem to be as good a time as any to give Canadians a full accounting of the cost of the war — ideally, a few days before heading to the polls. There is something so — clarifying, really — about a balance sheet, particularly one prepared under the aegis of an independent officer.
*Note: To stave off the cranky corrections, I should note that the Parliamentary Budget Officer is not, in fact, an Officer of Parliament, but an independent officer of the Library of Parliament.