'We have yet to debate the shape of engagement' - Macleans.ca

‘We have yet to debate the shape of engagement’

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A month after stating that he was “longer talking about Afghanistan,” Conservative candidate Chris Alexander emerges to talk about Afghanistan with this magazine. Here is his explanation of the Canadian mission after 2011 and what differentiates Liberal and Conservative policy on that mission.

Q: The judgment has already been made: our troops are out of there in 2011.

A: Last time I checked, that’s two years away. We have yet to debate the shape of engagement. What I believe, after speaking with Canadians, is that they’re very interested in further analysis. Why haven’t we succeeded yet? What is the relationship between what’s happening in Pakistan and the success of the mission in Afghanistan? What is the Obama administration going to do? There is a great appetite for more information and for completing what we set out to do, to protect the achievements that have been made up to now and support Afghanistan on the shortest and least painful path to peace and stability. But what finishing the job might entail—that debate still has to happen.

Q: It’s been reported that you decided not to run as a Liberal because you disagree with the party’s stance on Afghanistan. What specifically do you disagree with?

A: The Liberal party has not laid out its policy particularly clearly. Ignatieff says different things, Bob Rae says various things. Many in the party think our military should only be used for peacekeeping, not combat. But the reality of Canadian history is that we’ve been willing to do the important things the world demanded of us: fighting in World War II, in Korea, in the Balkans, where we were involved in offensive military operations, and in Afghanistan, where we have made disproportionate contributions.

Q: But both parties have agreed that our military engagement in Afghanistan ends in July 2011. So what’s the difference between their policies?

A: I think it’s the difference between having a clear policy of engagement, and having a lot of uncertainty about and unwillingness to make any military commitment at all on the Liberal side.