Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

AFGHANISTAN: EVERLASTING WAR

Posted by strattof on January 8, 2012

Question: “July 8 [2011]: After nine bloody years, Canada’s troops come home. Where have they been?”

 Answer: “Afghanistan.”

 —Winnipeg Free Press year-end news quiz, December 31, 2011

But is that the real answer?

Some mainstream media reports and government press releases suggest that Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan is over, but the truth is far different.

At ten years and counting, Canada’s longest war goes on until at least 2014, with about 1,000 troops still in harm’s way, supporting a failed war strategy that will cost our country billions of dollars, to say nothing of the cost in human life—Canadian, Allied and Afghan.

Fact: ●In November 2010, the Canadian government extended Canada’s mission in Afghanistan to 2014, claiming we would shift to a non-combat “training” role. Troops would be safe “behind the wire” in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Fact: ●As long ago as 2008, the Manley Commission on Canada’s role in Afghanistan found that “in reality, training and mentoring Afghan forces means sometimes conducting combat operations with them.”

Fact: ●More recently, retired General Rick Hillier said, “If you try to help train and develop the Afghan army…you are going to be in combat” (CBC, November 15, 2010).

Fact: ●In September of 2011, “Canadian military trainers helped defend a NATO compound in Kabul . . . when insurgents launched a dramatic attack against the U.S. Embassy and surrounding neighbourhood that killed 16 Afghans and wounded dozens more” (Windsor Star, September 23, 2011).

Fact: ●On October 29, 2011, a member of the Canadian infantry was one of 17 people—civilians included—killed by a suicide car-bomb attack while “travelling between a training base and headquarters in Kabul at the time of the incident” (Toronto Star, November 22, 2011).

Does it sound to you like the war-fighting is over, and Canadian troops have all safely “come home”?

In truth, Canada’s participation in a “training role” until at least 2014 is one part of a failed US-led military strategy that also includes

  • a surge to push back the Taliban in Afghanistan; and
  • an increased use of drones and special forces in northern Pakistan to target Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters there.

–“Training Can Be Dangerous,” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Both of these tactics have led to increased instability and significant civilian casualties in Afghanistan and the wider region.

Continued Canadian support of the US-led war effort in Afghanistan, even under the guise of “training,” will not make Canadians—or Afghans—any safer.

To say nothing of the cost in human life, the $3 billion Canada will likely spend on its “training” mission in Afghanistan only adds to the extra $92 billion we’ve already dedicated to increased “security” and “defence” costs since the 9/11 attacks that first prompted the Afghanistan War (Globe & Mail, November 12, 2010; “The Cost of 9/11,” Rideau Institute).

Real Question:  After more than ten bloody years, what should Canada’s strategy in Afghanistan be?

Real Answer: Work for Peace!   

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