What’s it been, after all, a week and a half? Time for a new Afghanistan policy


From the Inkless emailbox:

CORNWALLIS, NOVA SCOTIA – The Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay, Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, today released the following statement at the conclusion of the Regional Command South meetings in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia:

“On November 20 and 21, 2008, I had the opportunity to host informal discussions with my colleagues from countries with forces that are part of the International Security Assistance Force’s (ISAF) Regional Command South in Afghanistan.

During our session we discussed several issues pertaining to the military mission in Southern Afghanistan, including the successful training and development of the Afghan National Security Forces, coordinating counter-insurgency efforts, and managing and improving regional dynamics.

Canada and its RC South partners are in Afghanistan at the request of its democratically-elected government, along with 40 other nations, and as part of a UN-sanctioned mission to help build a stable, democratic, and self-sufficient society.

Afghanistan remains NATO’s number one priority. This is not an operation of choice, it is one of necessity. We are in Afghanistan for the long term under a United Nations mandate for as long as we are needed and welcomed by the Afghan people.

After suffering through decades of instability, oppression and insurgency, the Afghan people are working with the international community to help them pave the way forward for a peaceful and more prosperous future. Alongside our Allies in other Regional Commands, and with the guidance of ISAF Headquarters, Canada and Regional Command South contributors are striving to create a secure and stable environment for the democratically elected government of Afghanistan and its people.”


What’s it been, after all, a week and a half? Time for a new Afghanistan policy

  1. So “as long as we are needed” is now equal to 26 months. Either that or MacKay is speaking out of his youknowwhat, as usual.

  2. Haha, what a guy! I like this government, they really know how to keep us on our toes.

  3. “…for as long as we are needed…”


    I am trying so hard give this old-new government a chance and not write some snarky partisan comment, but this is not making it easy.

  4. A shift in policy, or simply MacKay proving he has the attention span of a Labrador retriever?

  5. Anne Gearan, Associated Press:

    “The big 800-pound gorilla in the room will be this subject of troop commitments from the Americans,” Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay said ahead of a strategy session at a converted Canadian military station.

    MacKay said he wants to know more specifics, such as how many troops will be sent to the volatile Kandahar province. That, he said, “will be telling as far as our future success there.”

  6. Ok, ok, let’s all just settle down. The election pledge was that the bulk of the CF’s forces would be withdrawn from Kandahar in 2011. That doesn’t mean that the government will not deploy a far small number of military forces to some other province. Nor does it mean that the CF will not redeploy to Afghanistan in significant numbers after an operational pause of a few years, say in 2014 or 2015. And it certainly didn’t mean that Canada’s development assistance and reconstruction efforts will cease in 2011.

  7. Uh, Phil . . . according to the Globe, the pledge was “to withdraw Canadian troops in 2011 from not just Kandahar, but all of Afghanistan, leaving no room for transfer to a safer region of the country.”

    The same article notes that Dion & Layton “insisted the commitment was motivated only by Mr. Harper’s desire to win the election, and argued that he could not be trusted to stick to it.”

    Do election promises still count when the region you were sucking up to turns you down anyway?

  8. my colleagues, our session, we discussed, etc etc = Maybe just maybe now he was, speaking as a NATO member and not from just the Canadian perpsective. But god forbid if that’s the case then the tin foil hat crowd will need to redo theit antennae!

  9. Ah yes, the “everyone but me” we, that obscure linguistic artifact. MacKay may be the first person to use it for several thousand years who’s not Oijbwe. 1st person – get it? 1st person! LOL!

  10. Uh, Jack….From United Press International:

    A Conservative government would withdraw most Canadian troops from Afghanistan in 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday.

    “I don’t want to say we won’t have a single troop there, because obviously we would aid in some technical capacities,” Harper said.

    “But at that point, the mission, as we’ve known it, we intend to end,” he said.

  11. So, Phil, you’re saying that MacKay’s statement needs some revision:

    “This is not an aircraft maintenance operation of choice, it is an aircraft maintenance operation of necessity. We are there to bake cakes in Afghanistan for the long term under a United Nations mandate for as long as our cooks are needed and welcomed by the Afghan people.”

  12. Phil, don’t go bringing the truth into this…you’re better than that.

  13. Yeah, Phil, don’t you know it’s a proud Tory tradition to let your allies go hang while cheering from the sidelines?

  14. Heh. Good one, Jack.

    Look, all I’m saying is that they left themselves a good amount of wiggle room. Technical capacities can go from providing logistics, such as airlift, to continued training of the Afghan National Army on a smaller scale. It might even mean a Provincial Reconstruction Team or Special Operations Forces.

    Harper was especially coy in saying that the mission “as we’ve known it” will end. That leaves the possibility that the mission ‘as we didn’t know it’ will return.

  15. Phil, I don’t want to underrate the importance of our guys’ work in non-frontline fightin — especially training the Afghan army — but I just don’t see how you can blow the trumpet of NATO solidarity while also pledging to withdraw combat troops. Especially at a moment when NATO is agreeing that we need more combat troops.

    Is the Canadian Army dissatisfied with its current rotation schedule? Does it feel overstretched? Is morale down? If it is, I haven’t read about it. Harper’s volte-ass (#1) wasn’t, as far as I understand, about relieving the army but about appealing to Quebec pacifism and keeping Afghanistan off the election agenda. So I don’t really buy the “we’ve done enough” line — either we shouldn’t be there at all or we should be there showing what our signature on the NATO treaty counts for. I could respect either of those options, but blowing both hot and cold on the purpose of our mission isn’t good for anybody: not for our regiments, not for NATO, not for public accountability, and not for our international credibility.

  16. I see what you’re saying, Jack. But a few of the factors you mentioned were there.

    I have it on good authority that the Canadian Army leadership told the government it wanted out in 2009. The Conservatives didn’t accept that and chose 2011, probably because 2009 had been bandied around by the Opposition.

    The CF land forces are not doing well. Their equipment is suffering, senior Non-Commissioned Officers are leaving in droves, training of new recruits has stalled, etc. The land force is overstretched and tired. It needs an operational pause. The government finally accepted that reality.

    As for NATO solidarity, behind closed doors the Harper government is probably saying something to this effect to the allies: ‘We need a break. If you want us back in a larger role down the line, we need a substantial operational pause after 2011. During that pause, though, we can help out with logistics, special forces and ANA training.’

    All that said, I agree that going from the rhetoric of ‘No Cut and Run’ to ‘Cut for a While then Run Back’ isn’t particularly helpful.

  17. I would suggest keeping the PRT and a fair number of troops to mentor the ANA. But I would focus the mission on the Air Force, using the CH-47Ds we are acquiring and also new build CH-47Fs as and when we ever get them (no contract yet!
    http://toyoufromfailinghands.blogspot.com/2008/04/ch-47-chinook-government-one-step.html ),

    our Heron UAVs, and C-17s and C-130Js to support our force and allies as necessary. Plus Army troops based at KAF to provide force protection and support the mentors in the field, with required armour, and some JTF2 too. Probably a maximum of around 1,000 from the Army (about what the Aussies now have). No idea of Air Force numbers but should be I imagine in the low hundreds actually in country (then there’s Camp Mirage).

    That would still be a significant and useful contribution that the CF should be able to implement, and I think would be welcomed by NATO and President Obama. Casualties should go down considerably. I don’t see why, in principle, the Canadian public could not be convinced to go along.

    Moving from Kandahar would be very expensive and forgo all the local knowledge and familiarity acquired.

    Just one armchair major’s quick thoughts.


  18. Ah, that’s interesting about the state of the army, and does change the picture. And, of course, since as a whole they’ve been deployed for years now it makes sense. Particularly disturbing to hear that the NCO’s are leaving. Of course, my solution would be to add a few more battalions to the existing regiments or activate more reserves — besides boosting the funding for equipment etc. — but I guess that’s not politically viable, at least with current communications strategies. Man, it’s disturbing to learn this.

    Still, it seems to me the best thing would be to express the truth and make that the basis of our stated policy. My problem with this Government is that they’ve got a pathological aversion to clarity, particularly on Afghanistan. They’re simply incapable of real leadership.

  19. I don’t understand the fuss about this. MacKay, as host, was speaking for NATO, not Canada.

    And unlike any former government in Canada, Harper puts the decision to go to war (or to continue a war) to Parliament.

    Mulroney took us to Iraq, Chretien to Yugoslavia and Kabul, and Martin to Kandahar all without binding the decision to a vote of Parliament.

    Harper has had binding votes on all war decisions. If Harper wants to follow Obama’s (and Hillary’s) lead on Afghanistan, he will just put another binding resolution to parliament and it will be the Liberals who will be divided.

    The Bush bogeyman is gone.

    Disclosure: I think the war in Afghanistan/Pakistan is unwinnable and neoimperialist, and my preference is to bring the forces home as soon as possilbe after fulfilling our existing commitments.

  20. Look, Obama means peace in our time. We need to retreat immediately.

  21. I like how people are still shocked when Harper demonstrates that his word is worthless. The man will lie his way into power until people stop believing the lies. I’m guessing the next few years will be tough on the teflon…

  22. Answer:

    The Liberal Party? No. The Bloc? No. The NDP. No. The Green Party? No. Quebec? No. Ontario? No. Nfld? No. The House? No. The Senate? No. The Judiciary? No. The Public Service? No. The Unions? No. Artistes? No. Liberal Appointees? No. The CBC? No. The Star? No. The Globe? No. Macleans? No.CTV? No. The Intelligenha? No.


    Those who will give anything the Conservatives say about anything due and fair consideration and respond fairly and accurately without an agenda .

    It’s all about spin, baby. Heck, I bet you even could do something silly like bring back the Foreign Policy team of the 90’s and portray it as Change, with the proper spin .

    Politicians lie, columnists opine and the best spinner wins. Political lies are column fodder for the mock outrage bunch. Everything else is spin.

    If I’m wrong then maybe someone could point out to me the politician they know that never lies.

  23. Any reason why this meeting was in Cornwallis and not in Ottawa at DND? I mean, Harper was not in town, so MacKay could have had the — oh wait, that couldn’t have been the reason, could it?

  24. Cornwallis is the site of a closed forces training base. As a sop to local interests, a “peace-keeping” centre was opened on the site at the same time as the base assets were distributed among government friends and neighbours. They do some peace-keeper training there as well as some “research”.

    But there’s no real reason for it to exist and it will probably be “disappeared” over time.

    It does have good conference facilities for a “photo-op” event like this but the logistics of getting there can be complicated. But for these guys logistics is somebody else’s problem.

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