08 June 2006

another lost cause: Canada in Afghanistan

The Canadian government has just decided to keep throwing good money (and people) into the growing sink-hole that is Afghanistan. It’s all well and good to want to help other countries (as Canada prides itself in doing with peace-keeping), but there is no point in expending precious resources when the effort has no realistic prospect of success.

It’s been 4 years since the over-throw of the Taliban, but Afghanistan has little to show for it. The national armed forces are still useless, the government is rife with corruption, and reliant on war-lords. All the while opium production, and the narco-economy, has become ever more firmly entrenched. Oh, and let’s not forget that the Taliban is actually posing a bigger threat today than it did when they were originally deposed in 2002.

The die is already cast: the central Afghan regime is growing increasingly weaker, as war-lords and the Taliban seize tighter control of the regions. The Afghan military and policy are degenerating even further (hence the reliance on regional thugs). Reconstruction efforts are continuing to shrink as the security situation deteriorates.

So remind me, please, just what Canada hopes to accomplish by continuing to have its soldier’s killed in Afghanistan with car bombings and sniper attacks? Is it to build Canadian prestige abroad, by demonstrating the nation’s ability to project force? Maybe this is just a way to get the US off Canada’s back for its refusal to get involved in Iraq (another futile foreign imbroglio).

Unfortunately, Canada has a long history of involving itself in foreign conflicts for all the wrong reasons. Canadadian politicians viewed the Boer, and both world wars, as great opportunities to burner world prestige, and gain greater independence from the motherland (i.e. the United Kingdom). I am sure that made all those mothers who lost their sons at the Somme just thrilled that they were able to contribute to Canadian independence.

At the very least, Canadian policy makers should be asking themselves the very realistic question as to what criteria they are looking for to convince them that a withdrawal from Afghanistan is necessary. Would Canada withdraw after 8 years of peace-keeping if the country isn't any better off? What about increasingly higher Canadian casualty rates over a couple years?

Whatever the reasons for Canada being in Afghanistan, it will all be for not when the Canadian forces eventually withdraw, their tails between their legs, letting Afghanistan tear itself even further apart. But I won’t blame the lowly Canadian military, they are just dealing with an impossible task foisted on them by timid leaders who don’t know how to say “no”. Clearly there must be some point at which Canada's leaders would decide to cut their losses and bring the troops home. Let's just hope it is sooner rather than later.

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