Reference: “Why Canada must review mission,” 26 September 2006, by Jack Layton in The Toronto Star
If only Mr Layton would listen. The war in Afghanistan cannot be won militarily, but it cannot be won without the military.
Mr Layton wants Canadian soldiers to shift from fighting to development, but there is a lot of good development work already being done in Afghanistan, including by Canadians in Kandahar province; it cannot go any farther or faster until the Taliban insurgency is suppressed. The aid workers are good, brave, committed people but we cannot ask them to build schools and dig wells when the likely outcome is that they will be executed – beheaded – for their efforts. That’s what our soldiers are doing, right now: securing the province so that civilian aid workers can go about their business. To put it simply, Reconstruction is inadequate as long as there are those who would destroy our work as quickly as we produce it. The process is likely to take as long as a peacekeeping mission. Several years of a massive international military effort transitioning to many years of limited international military aid and finally to an all Afghan show. International humanitarian efforts follow a similar pattern but may even be required longer.
Mr Layton tells Canadians that we should return to our "traditional role of peacekeeping", yet his use of the term suggests that he is likely ignorant of what this means. Our goals in Afghanistan have the same moral integrity as peacekeeping. We have made a commitment to the Afghan people, and we have a duty to see that commitment through. Mr Layton would have us abandon the citizens of Afghanistan at a time when they most need us to secure their future.
Mr Layton's party constantly presents itself as the party of the underdog and of international multilateralism. Yet why does he continue to ignore UN resolutions authorizing and supporting our military presence in Afghanistan? Why does he ignore the Non-Aligned Movement, traditionally the object of the NDP's support, when it calls for the military defeat of the Taliban? Mr Layton would have Canadians believe that this is "George Bush's war", when it is nothing of the sort.
Mr Layton continually insists that the mission is “unbalanced” but he does not suggest what a balanced mission would look like. Mr Layton continues to fearmonger with tales of “no exit strategy,” but that exit strategy has long been articulated. Part of the rebuilding is capacity building. We are building the capacity of the democratically elected Afghan government to fight its own battles and maintain its own security. Once that capacity is built then Afghanistan will have self-sustaining stability, and we can begin our exit. However, until that capacity is built we need to carry a heavy load in the fight.