Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What were Canadian politicians thinking?

Eugene Lang and Eric Morse, writing in the Globe and Mail, take issue with the new NATO's secretary general who wants Canada to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2011. Messrs Lang and Morse argue that the Canadian politicians and generals did not anticipate an "out-of-control insurgency" or a five-year long commitment in Afghanistan when they committed the Canadian Forces in 2005.

Historically, marching into Afghanistan has not been a problem. Marching out of Afghanistan, however, has been the real challenge. The British learnt this lesson almost a hundred years earlier. The Soviet Union concluded the same in the mid-eighties, and the Pakistan's ISI has reluctantly acknowledged the same since 2001. No wonder then that the incoming head of the British Army, Gen Sir David Richards, warns of a 40-year long British commitment in Afghanistan.

Canadian soldiers were committed to Operation ATHENA in July 2003 with the tall objectives of suppressing insurgency, building capacity, and supporting infrastructure projects in Afghanistan. These objectives remain largely unmet today due to an insurgency that the Canadian leadership could not anticipate! This begs the question: what were the Canadian politicians and generals thinking when they committed soldiers to Afghanistan?

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