Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Manley Report

Well as I'm sure everyone knows the Manley report was delivered today. Was it what everyone expected? I don't know but I think few believed that the panel would deliver a message that Canada should pull out now or even in 2009.

When the panel was appointed it was obvious to me that it was comprised of hawks so I certainly didn't expect a withdrawal date but let's take a look at what the report says.

Full disclosure, I haven't had a chance to read the entire thing and have only skimmed it. I also watched the press conference given by the panel. I may come back to the subject once I've read it fully.

Essentially, the report says we should not leave in February of 2009 but it puts some caveats on that statement. That's rather interesting considering we are displeased with other NATO country caveats, but let's go on.

The caveats are that NATO must supply 1000 troops to assist us in Kandahar and the government must ensure our troop safety with medium lift helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance before 2009. So, it's stay the course, but if these two items are not addressed by 2009, we leave.

Sorry, but that has me shaking my head. One of the questions always put to Dion re' his plan in Afghanistan, is what if NATO doesn't come up with a replacement, would we just leave? Well, exactly the same thing could be said here with the same result obviously. An unprotected Kandahar province. There is a bit of a difference though, Manley is suggesting that our troops and commitment could be used as a bargaining chip. That makes me sick to my stomach.

Will this work? There is no way to know unless of course Manley got some assurances that we are not aware of. It seems to me, or the last I heard, that we weren't getting helicopters until 2011 and as for troops at this point I'm not convinced that the members we pressed thus far will suddenly shift their position. I know the Netherlands extended to 2010 but they said that was their final extension so there is already (presumably) an effort being made to fill that gap. Had Canada, Harper, said the same thing when we last extended, perhaps we'd already have relief for our troops in the waiting.

Overall, Manley said the mission at this point is failing and without assistance Canada cannot win in Kandahar. Finally a statement I can partially agree with and one that many of us have been saying for some time. Security has been deteriorating in Afghanistan, not improving. Without more of it, we will lose and the mission, our mission. Canada in Afghanistan is in serious jeopardy at this moment.

That's at odds with what the Con's keep telling us of course. They say, everything is fine, we're winning, blah, blah, blah. In fact the report is highly critical of how we are handling every aspect of the mission. From political leadership to humanitarian co-ordination, every file has been bungled.

So as we move forward, it will be interesting to see what the government agrees with in this report. It will be more interesting to see if they can stick to their objective of appointing the panel to take the partisanship out of the debate. If I were a betting person I would put money on Harper's inability to maintain that stance.

It will be argued by some that the Liberals got us in to Kandahar and of course that is true. Manley made a point of saying many times that Canada chose this mission. That is also true, but that is not the whole truth as I've read it. In their book, Unexpected War Canada in Kandahar, Janice Gross-Stein and Eugene Lang speak to how Martin was lobbied by Hillier.

The authors say that Canadian officials never foresaw the kind of toll the mission would take on Canadian soldiers when they approved it, nor did they know that our role would end up being a counterinsurgency rather than a rebuilding of the country.

In interviews with Lang and Gross Stein, Martin reveals he was unenthusiastic about Hillier's proposal to deploy forces to Kandahar to repair Canada's relationship with the U.S. and had other priorities for Canada's resources.

"Afghanistan was not a priority for me the way Darfur, Haiti and the Middle East were," Martin told the authors. "Afghanistan had become our biggest aid commitment, and it shouldn't have been."

In fact, Martin was one of the few members of the government to openly challenge Hillier's proposal and doubted it would bring the political and military benefits Hillier had promised.

"The prime minister responded that he was concerned Afghanistan would consume resources, both military and financial, even though it was not central to the kind of foreign policy Canadians wanted their government to pursue," the authors write.

"I made four demands of Hillier before I agreed to the mission,' recalled Martin. 'I want in, but I want out. We do peacemaking and reconstruction and win hearts and minds. I am going to make a big demand on Darfur soon and you have to tell me I have have all the troops I need. And you must have the capacity for Haiti if that blows up again. I told him none of this could be constrained by Afghanistan or I wouldn't agree to the mission."

After Hillier gave Martin the assurances he was seeking, cabinet finally approved a mission in which the combat infantry task force would withdraw from Kandahar early in 2007.

This is supported by Scott Taylor's article today.

Canadian officers, familiar with the way in which the fiasco in Kandahar evolved, have called Gate’s comments the "height of hypocrisy." Even American Special Forces soldiers who participated in the battles that cleared the Taliban from Kandahar in early 2002 admit that the U.S. strategy was flawed from the outset.

When I visited Kabul last January, I was introduced to a U.S. Navy SEAL who had been assigned as an adviser to the Afghan Northern Alliance. When he learned that I was a Canadian, he had insisted on paying for my drinks. "We sold you guys a bucket of crap down in Kandahar, and for that I apologize," he said.

The SEAL explained that after the Taliban were chased out of the region, the U.S. left just one battalion stationed at the Kandahar airfield and fewer than 500 soldiers in all of Helmand province. The Pentagon had been completely focused on the invasion of Iraq and, as a result, from 2002 to 2005, the once scattered Taliban were able to regroup and rearm.

Supplies and recruits came in from the Pakistani side of Pashtunistan, but the small U.S. garrison in Kandahar was only concerned with self-protection at the airfield itself. Thus, when Canada accepted the change of location from Kabul to Kandahar, the Americans knew that the Canadians were walking into a veritable hornet’s nest of insurgents.

This was a mess from the start and Hillier seems to have known it. He appears to be the common denominator, with knowledge. I know Canadians love him, but his motives and actions have been glossed over in my view. I don't think he's a bad man but I think he was looking out for his one true love. That would be Canada's military and it's impact in the world and I'm sad to say his legacy.

This is an extremely complex issue and one that we are not being given all the facts on. Manley etal, brings out some serious flaws but in the end I think their recommendation is faulty.

The panel said that they could find no operational logic for choosing Feb. 2009 as the end date for Canada's military operation in Kandahar.

Pretty clever language no? Except it's not. That date was chosen as a rotation date and had nothing to do with operational logic nor a date by which anyone thought the mission would be completed. The panel has chosen language that obfuscates the reality of our decision/vote. This plays to Harper and is perhaps one of the biggest failings of the report.

I'm not yet clear on where the Lib's will come out on this. They have stated that they want to see how much of the report the Con's take seriously. If I was Dion I wouldn't shift, but I'm not him and I've been accused of being left of his stance more than once.

History is valuable in these matters and history has told us that no one has ever been successful in keeping unwanted forces out of this area. If there is time to build up the army and police in Afghanistan, I suppose they have a shot, but NATO members don't at this point seem to share that sentiment.

For all the nonsense that was spewed about Dion last week vis a vis Pakistan, that is a key issue and not one that will be solved quickly given that country's problems. Additionally, the report failed to look at real issues such as the poppy trade. Trial projects at this stage are not enough.

None of what they proposed is an excuse for Canada to use it's troops as a bargaining chip. It's time for a rotation and if in a couple of years it looks like success is near, I wouldn't be adverse to rotating back into the fray...BUT, it would have to be evident that the end was nigh.

Sadly, I do not think we'll see that happen.

I apologise for the disjointed post. There is much to take in and it's difficult to keep emotion out.

Update - This blogger has an interesting take. Michael Byers seems to concur.


Anonymous said...

Want an eye-opener? I suggest you read "What Do I Know Grit" - makes one think.

Have we been "had"?

knb said...

Thanks anon. I saw that earlier.

I've updated the post to link to the original poster. Michael Byers had a similar view in the Globe this morning.

I think we were had at the get-go.

Dame said...

Another excellent take on a very Complex and troubling subject.

I am so much against the whole Afghanistan 'adventure" I question the legality of It...
yes I know we are part of the NATO act..but does that Mean we can't Think independently and Rethink why Canada is waging war half a world away and doesn't really know what is the goal or put it another way we all know the "idea" we have about it is not achievable.. At this point it is a reckless immoral adventure .
We are Occupying a country.. and try To make it over in our mold... and it will never happen.
We Didn't started the war we were dragged hoodwinked into it and the original goal was changed when Macho man Harper thought Canada has a Great opportunity TO SHOW ITS GREATNESS. ..On the battlefield …Some Man just want To wage wars from Time To times They see it as Opportunity … They want the action…

Regarding Manley .. I see his role as he could not resist to rub The Liberal Noses about why He was Not called into the leadership race he the ONE BIG GUY...with warrior tendencies...

As Scott Ross post says Manley just Reprinted an earlier essay he wrote ...and sold it For a big BAG OF MONEY for Harper... Harper got exactly what he wanted .he knew what Manley wrote and used his vanity in His own game plan.. ..

Dirty politic indeed.

knb said...

Thanks marta. I find it really annoying that the Manley report keeps getting such good press.

I find it even more annoying that the Canadian public just don't seem to be paying attention to what is going on.

I guess we'll need an election for that.