Sunday, February 10, 2008

Afghanistan Misunderstood

I'm not an expert on Afghanistan by any means, but I do try to explore the issues and form opinions about what I've learned.

I accept that there are varying views on our mission and the mission in general and that is fair. Where I become annoyed is when people who are informed attempt to mislead the general public to serve their own needs and worse those who are not informed also attempt to do this and somehow feel qualified to make ridiculous statements that they have 'heard' and without investigation accept them to be true. To be frank, I do not know how you can live a life that way, let alone make decisions for a country. But that's just me.

Today, Afghanistan's Ambassador to Canada, Omar Samad warned that Canada must stay the course (hmmm, where have we heard that expression before?), in his country or we could face dire consequences. I understand why he wants continued international support and I am not adverse to assisting that country with respect to helping it get back, or perhaps I should say, get it to a time where they have a stable government and infrastructure. However, Samad seems to be making a plea not to leave completely, full stop. Well, unless he believes that Jack Layton is going to be the next PM, that is disingenuous.

Furthermore, to imply that the Taliban would simply take over again, then Al Qaeda will once again have safe haven and plot to hurt the West is ludicrous. Just where does he think they, Al Qaeda, are at the moment? Sitting back waiting for an invitation back after all these years and doing nothing until then? Obviously not. They are happily go about their evil work attacking the West where ever they feel able to so.

Afghanistan will not be abandoned by the West, so the Taliban (which is a pretty generic term by the way and does not apply to one homogeneous group), is not about to re-form government and their motives have nothing to do with the West. In that respect they are not aligned with Al Qaeda. Given how harbouring Al Qaeda turned out the last time around, it's hardly likely they'd repeat that error don't you think?

No, the Taliban are comprised of Pashtun tribes, half of the Afghanistan population and they the Pashtuns were largely excluded from what was called the fully democratic election in that country. It was not fully democratic, by that exclusion alone. It was a step in that direction, but Karzai, who is Pashtun btw but not extremist, was installed then protected, by the US. Without that support their government would fall like a house of cards cobbled by a 5 year old.

The Pashtun, (not the Taliban who were created incidentally by Pakistan's intelligence services), were the traditional ruling party. To suddenly be excluded from power, obviously would give rise to rebellion which is what are seeing happen. The Taliban as most are wont to label them now, were against the poppy trade. Now they support it, though it goes against their values, it provides cash.

Ohhhh, frustration showing on my part. I guess what I'm trying to say is, this is very complicated and we have it all wrong on this side of the world. What we are seeing is civil war, pre a real civil war if we were not there. It will not stop. I do not care if you put 100,00 troops versus 1000. Tribes, voices of a country that want to be heard but are being excluded from the process, will make their point by whatever means possible.

Think people. Think about Ireland, think about Palestine and Israel, think about Lebanon and think about Quebec and the FLQ. Exclusion of voice as the Americans would have us do, never, ever, solves the problem.

I've never heard one expert in this field suggest that this will be won by the military. It's necessary at the moment but unless we redefine this stuff and Canadians really get what is going on, this will go on forever.

I guess this post is about doing some homework. I still don't have it right, but I'm digging for info. I hope you do do too.


Ryan said...

Hmmm. From my understanding the NDP's Afghanistan, is not, as you suggest, completely withdrawing from Afghanistan, but withdrawing from combat and shifting to development.

Regardless of what you think of Layton's reasons, or his opinion of NATO, the Liberal position sounds eerily similar to that of the NDP as of late. You are especially good at spotting Conservative lies and mythology about the Liberals that the press seems to eat up, but unfortunately in this case it is the NDP that has been and continues to be misrepresented in the media.

"It’s time for Canada to change its approach, withdraw from the combat mission and lead a process for peace and stability."

And from an earlier speech, which was similar, of course.

"Today the NDP has presented a motion to the House calling for the immediate, safe and secure withdrawal of our troops from the counter-insurgency mission in Afghanistan and to refocus our efforts to assist the people of Afghanistan on development and reconstruction and on creating a pathway to peace."

Anonymous said...

Yes, the NDP and Liberal positions are similar in some ways, but the Liberal position is continue the combat mission until the end of the current commitment to NATO/Afghanistan (Feb 2009) whereas the NDP one is to stop it immediately.

Given that our government has committed us to Feb 2009, I am not sure how it could be managed to stop combat immediately AND move into another role in Afghanistan with our troops. I think the other countries would see this as a premature withdrawal and a lack of confidence in the entire mission and I am not sure how our troops and the other troops would interact in the aftermath.

Now such a lack of confidence may be warranted, but, a military mission cannot really afford to have major units withdraw prematurely without consequences or the whole mission would fall into chaos. I haven't heard of any NDP proposal for how they would deal with NATO and the other countries, in defending this position of early withdrawal.

At the moment, our combat duty does end in Feb 2009, and I think it is quite a different situation to then consider whether one continues, withdraws completely, or stays but in a different role.

The difference between these two parties was clearly seen during the last vote when the NDP voted against ending the combat mission in February 2009 because it thought we should end it immediately.

Ryan said...

True, but that's not the point knb was making. The point knb was making was that the NDP were going to pull the troops out completely, and I wished to clarify that this was not the case.

Omar said...

78 killed and who knows how many seriously injured and disabled over 6 years. That tells Canadians all they need to know about why it is someone else's turn to perform the front-line combat role in Afghanistan. Fuck Continental Europe and their laissez-faire. --
'No extension without rotation'. Period.

wilson said...

If Liberals want to run on taking our troops out of harms way, the facts may get in there way:

'Number of Canadian troops killed in combat in Afghanistan last year: 0.

This would be the combat component of the mission that Liberal leader Stéphane Dion wants ended by next February and upon which he seems prepared to trigger a national election that Canadians don't want.

Number of Canadian troops killed by improvised explosive devises in Afghanistan in 2007: 12.

Number of Canadian troops killed by roadside bombs and land mines in 2007: 11.

The last Canadian casualty in conventional combat – died fighting – came during the latter stages of Operation Medusa, four servicemen perishing during a ground offensive on Sept. 3, 2006.

Since that time, there have been deaths in rollovers, helicopter crashes, suicide bombings and accidents but none from aggressively engaging the enemy.

If Liberals are trying to spare Canadian lives – by venturing passively, ducking into calmer territory and promoting reconstruction in the absence of a secure environment – an anti-combat insistence is utterly without merit...'

Karen said...

Ryan, I apologise if I misrepresented the NDP approach, that was not my intent.

I can see how you believe it's similar to the Lib's, but here is where it seems to differ. The NDP seem to be saying that no counter-insurgency should be taking place, by any country, and Canada should lead the way to that end. Get NATO out completely.

While I understand where he is coming from and what his goals are, I do not believe they are acheivable without combat. Indeed, even after we are gone, the combat will continue and presumably that is why we are training the Afghans.

Thanks for the links. It's never my intent to put out inaccurate info about anyone or any party.

I will agree that both party's want more focus on the 2 D's that are receiving less money and effort than defense.

Karen said...

wilson, I saw that article this morning and found it disgusting. DiManno mileads and is pretty bloody cavalier with her accusations.

Not that I'm surprised, it's typical of her afterall, but the title of the article alone is disgusting, (I know she didn't write it).

If Liberals are trying to spare Canadian lives – by venturing passively, ducking into calmer territory and promoting reconstruction in the absence of a secure environment – an anti-combat insistence is utterly without merit.

Absolute BS. No one is saying we should operate in the absence of security, only journalists like DiManno who want to create their own narrative.

Going back to the previous post, remember when I said that the Lib's weren't opting for a 'cushy' role...that in fact any work to be done would still be dangerous?

If we stay in combat, presumably we would also stay doing the tasks that she notes are killing our troops, no? So is Dion increasing the risk? No.

I hope I live long enough to see integrity return to journalism, but somehow I doubt it.

Karen said...

BTW, even the Afghan's see a need for a change in direction. More concentration on development, etc.

Naseem and other Kandaharis share passionate opinions about Canada's military mission here, and its future. In a meeting this week with Canwest News Service, local businessmen said a lack of progress and redevelopment in Afghanistan's second largest city is causing huge resentment among its 750,000 residents.

Canadians share some of the blame, the businessmen said. Too much money and too many resources are being spent chasing the Taliban through grape and marijuana fields, out in the countryside.

MississaugaJoan said...


I too would hide who wrote this. I actually canceled my Toronto Star subscription because of her. And every time I get one of those irritating phone solicitors wishing me to renew, I said I would if she was sacked.


"As of February 8, 2008, there have been 699 coalition deaths in Afghanistan as part of ongoing coalition operations (Operation Enduring Freedom and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)): 414 American, 87 British, 78 Canadian, 29 German, 23 Spanish, 14 Dutch, 12 French, 11 Italian, 9 Danish, 5 Romanian, 4 Australian, 3 Norwegian, 2 Estonian, 2 Portuguese, 2 Swedish, 1 Czech, 1 Finnish, 1 Polish, 1 South Korean."

Canada's sacrifice in Afghanistan, per capita, is more soldiers than anyone else. Canada vs USA is 2.36 deaths/M vs 1.36 deaths/M.

Oh yeah, the idiot trying to make it seem that we would have had the same number of deaths if we were in Kabul (vs Kandahar) is Rosie DiManno.

Omar said...

Nice mathematical spin there, Wilson. A much more detailed accounting of our dead and disabled. Nice. I hope to hear Harper offering something just along those lines in an election campaign. LOL.

wilson said...

'Canada's sacrifice in Afghanistan, per capita, is more soldiers than anyone else. Canada vs USA is 2.36 deaths/M vs 1.36 deaths/M.'

True. But WHY?
Combat yielded the LEAST amount of deaths.

wilson said...

''Oh yeah, the idiot trying to make it seem that we would have had the same number of deaths if we were in Kabul (vs Kandahar) is Rosie DiManno.''

No, her point was if we stay in Kandahar province and don't fight, our troops will be easy targets for the Taliban.

Dion has to quit this political dance with the left and right of his party.

Stay in Kandahar and not fight may be a compromise in the Liberal party, but it is unrealistic for our soldiers.

Anonymous said...

NATO released an update of troop numbers/country last week.

Presently, Germany and Italy have more troops in Afghanistan than Canada. They number 3,210 and 2,880 respectively (vs. Canada's 2,500).

However, the mandate issued by the Italian Parliament, does not allow Italian forces to take part in the battle against the Taliban insurgency in the south and east of Afghanistan, other than in exceptional circumstances.

However, the mandate issued by the German Parliament, does not allow the Bundeswehr to take part in combat operations against the Taliban insurgency in the south and east of Afghanistan, other than in exceptional circumstances.

IT IS TIME, FOR THE HOUSE OF COMMONS TO ALSO MAKE IT SO OUR CANADIAN FORCES ARE NOT ALLOWED to take part in combat operations against the Taliban insurgency in the south and east of Afghanistan, other than in exceptional circumstances.

wilson said...

Well whoopteedo, Joan.
Now dig around for the stats for Cdn soldiers in the dangerous areas of southern Afghanistan.
The old, compare apples to apples.

Are Canadian troops, when compared to other NATO countries doing similar duties in the same area, experiencing a disporportionate casualty rate?
If the answer to that question is , yes, then either our soldiers are incompetent (not) or they are being targeted by the Taliban.

Are Canadian soldiers experiencing a disproportionate amount of casualties performing combat missions compared to reconstruction missions?
The answer is no.

ottlib said...

With four or five countries doing the heavy work in the most dangerous parts of the country the Afghan mission cannot be sustained long enough to make a difference.

There is a window of about two or three years before one or more of the countries in the South has to leave because of domestic public opinion.

When that happens NATO will have to find replacements or the mission will collapse. Judging by the real lack of commitment on the part of the majority of our NATO partners the most likely outcome is a complete collapse.

Anonymous said...

Here is data on casualties:

Italy - 10 casualties = 1 per 238.5 soldiers
France - 11 casualties = 1 per 117.5 soldiers
Germany - 28 casualties = 1 per 112.7 soldiers
Netherlands - 14 casualties = 1 per 108.2 soldiers
United Kingdom - 84 casualties = 1 per 92.3 soldiers
Denmark - 9 casualties = 1 per 69.8 soldiers
Estonia - 2 casualties = 1 per 62.5 soldiers
United States - 412 casualties = 1 per 36.5 soldiers
Spain - 23 casualties = 1 per 33.2 soldiers
Canada - 77 casualties = 1 per 22.5 soldiers

Spain lost 17 soldiers in one helicopter crash, and the troop numbers for Spain and Denmark are relatively small so the statistics are not as useful. The UK and USA are also involved in heavy combat in the South, but they have many more troops and only a fraction of them are in this role, so the difference in casualties between them and Canada can be attributed to this fact.

Holland is an interesting comparison as they are also in a Taliban infested area of the South and are involved in combat to some extent, although a couple years ago I read that they were not doing search and destroy missions.

Overall, this data supports the picture that the more aggressive combat role one plays in the South, the higher casualties you suffer.

Ryan said...

You're right Wilson. All of us fools have no idea what we're talking about. You might as well give up on all of us. This blog is beneath you.

Karen said...

wilson, the point is not where Canadians are being killed, it's why?

We are being targeted in my view, with IED's because the insurgents know they can't win in combat. We're being targeted because of the counter-insurgency work that we do and if they can't beat us there, they'll get to us wherever, however, they can.

If we get out of that, will they stop? Obviously I can't answer that, but it's time that we backed off provocative measures that could logically explain the targetting of Canadians and while it is not my wish that any other country suffer more, we have to look at what we have in front of us and protect our troops.

Karen said...

Thanks clh. You just supported my point.