What is MacKay saying—precisely—on exiting Afghanistan? - Macleans.ca

What is MacKay saying—precisely—on exiting Afghanistan?

There’s a lot of flexibility in “the letter of the motion”


Interesting little story from the Owen Sound Sun Times on Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s latest comments on the future of Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

The key question is, as it has been for many months now, whether there is any chance of the Canadian army staying on in Afghanistan in some capacity after next year’s planned withdrawal. The Liberals propose ending the Kandahar combat mission as scheduled, but leaving some of our troops to train Afghan forces elsewhere in the country.

MacKay allows that the Liberal idea is “all very interesting.” However, he stresses that the government remains bound by the March 13, 2008, House of Commons motion that set that 2011 exit date in the first place. “We’ll respect the letter of the motion,” MacKay says.

But the letter of the motion, it seems to me, is often lost in this discussion. Prime Minister Stephen Harper suggests the House demanded a complete end to the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan. Harper reiterated that by now familiar interpretation as recently as June 4.

That’s not what the motion says. Its key clause dictates that the government must “notify NATO that Canada will end its presence in Kandahar as of July 2011, and, as of that date, 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.” (My emphasis.)

As far as I can see, there’s nothing in the motion that says Canadian troops must clear out of Afghanistan altogether, just Kandahar. If the government plans to “respect the letter of the motion,” then, that would seem to me to allow a fair bit of flexibility.

Of course, whether staying on anywhere in Afghanistan would be wise, no matter what the House motion allows, another matter entirely.


What is MacKay saying—precisely—on exiting Afghanistan?

  1. I heard hes crossing the floor to the liberals.

  2. Yeah, the country will really appreciate Cons and Libs playing Philadelphia lawyer on this . NOT.


    • Total agreement.

      • I could not agree more. the Afghan adventure is a supreme example of the "bellicose frivolity of senile empires (i.e. Nato).

        • maybe take a look at the cover of Time this month, read the article inside about the woman who's nose was cut off by the taliban and then decide if we should abandon those women to those barbarians

          • I love that cover because it is like "THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS IF WE LEAVE AFGHANISTAN"

            What piffle. It should have said, "THIS HAPPENED DESPITE OUR TEN YEAR PRESENCE IN AFGHANISTAN"

            and it will likely continue to happen, whether we pull out next year or 10 years from now.

  4. Defensive Minister? Freudian slip or purposeful sarcasm/wit.

    • Defensive? Offensive, I'd say.

  5. Of course Mackay would know about this:

    Just as he knew we were about to take part in a joint military exercise with the US and the Russians when he started screaming his Cold War hysteria.

  6. MacKay got his head squeezed rather badly when playing in a rugby scrum some years ago. Hence the long shape to his head – and his inability to string two facts together and make any intelligent extrapolation.
    Maybe he should check with his old buddy Defense Secretary Robert Gates – who is in serious downsizing mode (or whatever this year's B-School term for layoffs is called)

  7. This is the kind of silliness that abounds when so many people insist on playing politics with this issue rather than addressing it honestly.

    I've told Peter MacKay in person that his government needs to be far more clear about our intentions as it pertains to Afghanistan. I've also told him that we need to maintain our own forces in Afghanistan to, at the very least, provide security for Canadian aid workers.

    • And what did he say? Thank you for your input? We will respect your ideas and follow them immediately? Did he nod and say, "we always take the advice of a voting member of the public over our generals; thank you, sir."

      • No, he pretty much said this.

        It's kind of amusing now, because it's the kind of thing that you just don't forget.

        He said:

        "Have you ever been on the Macleans website? There's this guy who hangs out there. His screen name is Patchouli? Yeah, that guy's a real idiot. Nothing to contribute, but he sounds real self-important. If you ever run into him? Do me a favour and tell him what a schmuck he is."

        I guess it's pretty much the response one should reserve for ANYONE who thinks the idea that Canadian soldiers should be present to protect Canadian aid workers while in a war zone.

        It all makes so much more sense now.

    • Oooooh, in person! Wow. As I once mentioned to Queen Rania of Jordan, namedropping is one of my favorite pastimes. "How odd," she said. "I just heard the same thing from William F. Buckley."

      • I'm sure you could try to tell him something yourself, but I understand they don't let deranged people within 50 feet of the Deputy Prime Minister.

        • I understand they don't let deranged people within 50 feet of the Deputy Prime Minister

          So, is the Deputy PM not allowed to attend Cabinet meetings then?

          • Ha! There is no deputy pm's (except maybe in Moore's imagination)…there are only good little followers of Steve Harper of Toronto, er, Calgary, er, Fox news USA.

  8. Looks like someone pulled that QMI story from the Sun Times site.

    I wonder if the PMO actually has to call Kory for changes like that or do they have direct access to all the Sun/Canoe sites?

      • Nope. That's a different story. The one I read and NNW linked to this afternoon has been "disappeared". Wasn't smart enough to keep a copy.

  9. MacKay's not saying anything "precisely" on exiting Afghanistan at all.

    I'm not sure any Minister of the Crown has made a precise statement about anything in years and years.

  10. The Harper Government doesn't need Parliament's approval in what happens after the 'combat' mission.
    And I doubt he will ask for Bob Rae's approval on personel in a 'training' capacity in Afghanistan.

    PM Harper wanted, but didn't require, Parliament's approval for the 2 mission extensions.
    That is a government decision, but PMSH had called for a vote when Chretien sent troops into combat.
    Didn't get one then, but offered Parliament a vote when he became PM.

    • OTTAWA – Thanks to some high-profile Liberal support, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's political gamble to win approval for a two-year extension of Canada's military mission to Afghanistan paid off by the slimmest of margins Wednesday night as Parliament voted 149-145 to extend the mission to 2009.

      Despite the vote, a defiant Harper vowed earlier during Wednesday's debate to extend Canada's military mission to Afghanistan by one year even if he failed to win the approval of the House of Commons.

      • OTTAWA (CP) – After narrowly winning the vote to prolong the risky Afghanistan mission, a triumphant Stephen Harper crossed the floor of the Commons and threaded his way to the back of the Liberal benches to shake hands with Michael Ignatieff.
        May 2006

        OTTAWA–Parliament has voted to extend Canada's military mission in Afghanistan until 2011.
        The extension passed in a 198-77 vote late this afternoon, thanks to the Conservatives and Liberals who joined forces to support a compromise motion for the longer mission.
        March 2008

    • Perhaps he's heard of this thing called a minority government, although it becomes increasingly apparent that you haven't

      • Someone will need to hold me. I'm agreeing with Wilson. There was nothing forcing the government at the time to hold a vote on the matter. They, to their credit, did.

  11. That's a very interesting point.

    I think at this point, though, that it's been so bruited about that we're leaving Afghanistan in 2011 that any attempt by the CPC to do otherwise without significant political cover from the Opposition would be met with public outrage that a Parliementary decision is being flouted. Appeals to the fine print in the motion will not generate much sympathy, even if they're technically correct, unless there is broad consensus that we should stay.

    • Yeah, prorogue, G20, census, prison outrage would look like the 'good ol days' if Harper tried to stay in combat in Afghanistan.

      • PM Harper has never given the slightest hint he will change his mind on the combat mission end date, 2011.

        • In fact, he's been much more firm on a 2011 withdrawal than the Liberals have been. It's a HUGE "if" that Emily put forward, and the only POSSIBLE scenario in which I see it happening is a scenario in which the PM is dragged there by Ignatieff – in fact, not only dragged there by the Liberals, but is SEEN TO BE dragged there by the Liberals.

        • The Mr Potato Head puppet just said so.

    • I agree, and more's the pity. Harper's played too close to the letter and avoided the spirit too many times to get away with it again.. or at least I hope so… goodness knows the Canadian public has let me down before.

      However, I certainly would not hold it against him if he put forward a new motion in parliament to eliminate the stupidity of a fixed date (and I'd even hope such a thing would pass, though I expect it would have to be the Liberals who supported it). Whether a person believes we should be in Afghanistan or not, a fixed date to remove troops from a combat zone that remains undecided is idiocy nearing the highest level.

      Hell, I'll go further and say that it's idiocy even beyond that of Tony Clement.

    • The part about flauting a parliamentary decisions was sarcasm, right?

    • I don't disagree with your analysis at all, but one point I think it's still important to make quite explicit is that the part of the motion quoted by Geddes above is hardly the "fine print" of the motion – it's the very heart of the motion. This isn't some footnote, it's the key section of the motion that was passed by Parliament. A motion which says nothing about getting out of Afghanistan, and only mentions getting out of Kandahar.

      People who claim that we have to get out of Afghanistan by 2011 (or even end combat operations in Afghanistan by then) because of the motion passed by Parliament have clearly never read the motion passed by Parliament. It may be what the people of Canada want of course. It may even be what Parliament wishes it had passed. However, it's definitely not what the motion passed by Parliament says, and that's not just a matter of a footnote, or "the fine print" it's right there in the very middle of the motion that Parliament passed.

  12. Blacktop proclaimed:

    Emily responded:
    "Total Agreement"

    To which I respond,

    Emily………..spoken like a true woman who has never had to live with the Taliban. How very brave you must be.

    • It certainly would be nice if the oppression of women all around the world could disappear overnight. However, it isn't. Given that we have limited resources, the best thing to be done is to use what we have as wisely as possible. Maintaining a military occupation of a country with no democratic civil society, and not much history as a country is an inordinately expensive way to promote women's rights. How many women could be sent to school for the 322 billion spent on Afghanistan? How many maternal health initiatives? The fact that after a ten year occupation our leaving would still result in backsliding only reinforces the fact that this is a rather inefficient way to promote human rights.

  13. So much for the "sisterhood" eh?

  14. We need to give the Afghans the means to fight for their own freedom while offering guidance. This needs to be reinforced.
    Maybe by leaving the combat up to them they'll realize how bad the Talibans are and will appreciate what we are trying to do.
    Or maybe they wont and will be glad to have the Taliban back in power. At which we'll have to accept that they are to be left to their own devices: change comes from within.

  15. Just leave we are in a war that you will never win. They will be fighting one another for the next 100 years. Second option nuke'm and put in a parking lot

  16. We do have a few choices here but first we must remember that we are dealing with modern Barbarians, The Taliban being like all "Spread the Word" Fundamentalists, Christian, Muslim, etc., are told by God what to do and won't stop until absolutely forced. Therefore our choices are:
    1 – Go in with enough force to control the country, put an honest Government and schools in place (the British in Imperial days taught University Courses in how to do that and the US did a good job in Japan). This could take 30 years and most of our politicians as well as our public can't think in those time lines.
    2 – Get out entirely and then every 20 years as they start to get back to the point of spreading their word, by bombs and hate, go back and bomb them back to the caves (this looks like current plan of the world).
    3 – Call in the "Inquisistion" (the church of Rome I understand, still has that office), to convert them, that worked in Spain, but it was a little bloodier than just using the army.
    No they won't fight each other for the next 100 years they will be back exporting their brand of hate. They have nothing else.

  17. Unfortunately for the Canadian taxpayer, when the ship with 490 Tamils docked they were met by 500 immigration layers.