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Do Not Abandon Afghanistan

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a political problem. It appears that his Conservative Party is mired in minority government territory, at best. The Canadian mission to Afghanistan is part of the problem. Canadians, broadly, but overwhelmingly in Québec, either oppose or are sceptical about why we are there and what our prospects for success might be. He has, also, tossed aside the cabinet’s traditional prerogative to deploy Canadian troops into operations overseas without the consent of parliament. Consequently he has put the fate of the Afghanistan mission, NATO itself, and Canada’s position in the world in the hands of partisan politicians who are focused, almost exclusively, on their own domestic partisan political interests. It is likely, according to the polls in summer 2007, that he cannot secure parliamentary approval to remain in Afghanistan past 2009.

Now, according to a recent article in Britain’s Guardian the top of the British military heap is expressing grave concerns about the strategic implications of a failure in Afghanistan – the sort of failure which Ruxted has predicted may be triggered by a Canadian withdrawal. The article cites Lord Inge{1} as saying: “'We need to face up to that issue, the consequence of strategic failure in Afghanistan and what that would mean for NATO... We need to recognise that the situation - in my view, and I have recently been in Afghanistan - is much, much more serious than people want to recognise.” Other observers, commenting on Inge’s statement said that “We are getting to the point where it will be irretrievable. That's where we are now. We are in danger of a second strategic failure [after Iraq], which we cannot afford.”
This bleak assessment, that NATO – the epicentre of Canada’s long held ‘collective security’ strategy – will fail, rests in part on Canada’s reluctance to carry on in Kandahar. Canada’s reluctance to carry on appears to be motivated by:

1. The perception that not enough NATO allies are sharing the combat burden; and

2. Canadians’ level of belief in the utility and possibility of success of the Afghanistan mission is declining under a constant barrage of media scepticism and anti-military commentary from a corps of anti-capitalists and their fellow travellers in academe and sundry ‘think tanks’ and ‘institutes.’

If Canada withdraws from active combat operations in early 2009 the UK and US will, likely, try to fill the gap. But, faced with the loss of one of NATO’s few combat effective forces and with ongoing UK and US troop requirements for Iraq and accepting that the big European NATO members (France, Germany, Italy and Spain) are highly unlikely to take up their fair share of the combat burden, it is probable that NATO will be unable to secure Kandahar and when Kandahar, Afghanistan’s largest province, falls to the Taliban the rest of the country is likely doomed.

We must be especially worried by the British generals’ concerns about a ‘domino’ effect which might lead Pakistan - and its nuclear weapons and missiles – to fall into the radical Islamist camp. That would pose a real threat to Canada’s vital interests in Asia and to those of its many friends in the region.

Canada began shirking its NATO obligations over 35 years ago. It did not pick up a fair share until 1995 when it began to participate in NATO’s operations in the Balkans. It is a bit much for Canada to start complaining so soon about nations now following our own long standing and poor example.

There is no good case for abandoning Afghanistan. It does not serve Canada’s best interests; it does not serve the world’s interests.

Gilles Duceppe, Stéphane Dion and Jack Layton want to help the Taliban return Afghanistan to the 11th century. They should be ashamed. They are telling the world that Canadians are too timid, too poor, too self absorbed to exercise the Responsibility to Protect which Canada advocated so vociferously for so long. That so many Canadians appear to agree with them is distressing to the men and women who are sacrificing so much in Afghanistan. Toronto Star reporter Rosie DiManno told us all that “But every time a Canadian soldier is killed, the doubts of a conflicted nation spasm and the same chorus of opportunists kick up their indignation, whipping that pale rider on a horse. Yet these are, to a large extent, the same people who don't really give a toss about soldiers or their families and view dimly the whole military ethos, as if service in uniform were an anachronism … Canadian soldiers hate them … At Kandahar airfield, when Layton's face appears on the TV screen, soldiers jeer. When anti-war rallies are broadcast, or reported in newspapers that arrive weeks late, they grow quiet and downcast, feel their willingness to sacrifice all is being undermined and exploited.” Messers. Duceppe, Dion and Layton and those who agree with them need to take that reaction into account. As does Prime Minister Harper his supporters – Harper might join the other three is earning the jeers of the troops. Ms. DiManno’s report may not change many minds but it ought to give some Canadians some pause for sober second thought.

Abandoning Afghanistan threatens to cause a NATO failure – one which may lead to NATO’s demise and, with that, a significant reduction in Canada’s position in the world.

Abandoning Afghanistan will endanger Canada because it will embolden the Taliban and al Qaeda and the other Islamist terrorist movements that have declared war on the West.

Abandoning Afghanistan might threaten Pakistan and all of West, Central and South Asia – further endangering Canada and its friends.

Abandoning Afghanistan will lessen the regard with which the United Nations and its members hold Canada – our reputation as a responsible member of the world community will suffer. Our prestige and our ‘voice’ in important international political and economic groups will be weakened.

Abandoning Afghanistan will condemn the people to a return to females as chattel, the public execution of homosexuals and ignorance and intolerance as the mainstays of education – for the few children for whom ‘education’ will be allowed; that’s not consistent with Canadians’ values.

There is no good reason, not one, to abandon Afghanistan. Too many Canadian politicians are focused, almost exclusively, on the next election rather than the good of the nation. They and many in academe and the commentariat are advocating real, serious harm to Canada’s political, economic and security interests. Some of them have, unwittingly, allied themselves with Canada’s enemies.

If Canadians understand the strategic implications of the course of action most parliamentarians advocate they are unlikely to consent to withdrawing our combat troops from that poor, war ravaged country. The Government of Canada owes it to Canadians to explain those likely strategic implications and to present a new view of Canada and its responsibilities in the world.

{1.} Field Marshal Peter Anthony Inge, later Baron Inge, Chief of the General Staff, 1992 and 1994. On 15 March 1994 he was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal and made Chief of the Defence Staff, a position he held until he retired in 1997.


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Scott Ross on :

You merely state opinion. You do not even state a basis for your opinion, you merely repeat how bad it would be if we withdrew. You do not offer any ways to better the situation other then staying.

Afghanistan is not a country like ours. Afghanistan currently has 14 million Pashtuns out of a total population of 30 million. Pashtuns are a tribal group that shares similar values and codes with the Taliban, and the Taliban are Pashtuns. Not all Pashtuns are Taliban, but all are sympathetic to Taliban fighters, and supply them with funds and fighters. Pashtuns extend into Pakistan and total 28 Million in that country.

There is no way of resolving the conflicts in Afghanistan other then military unilateral or bilateral action in Pakistan to stop the Pashtun groups there as well. For a further deeper analysis, that has opinion backed with evidence, visit

E.R. Campbell on :

You are correct: Ruxted stated its opinions. I went to your blog, Mr. Ross and found, surprise, surprise, even more unsubstantiated opinion.

There is no way for outsiders to resolve the conflicts in Afghanistan - not even military action in Pakistan will help. The Afghans and the Pakistanis must do that for themselves.

We can, and should, provide sufficient security to allow the Afghans to make their own decisions in their own ways - including the decisions re: how to deal with Pakistan. 'Cutting and running' will not make that happen.

The Ruxted Group's assertion that there is no good case for abandoning Afghanistan is not challenged by anything you have said.

scott ross on :

You say:"I went to your blog, Mr. Ross and found, surprise, surprise, even more unsubstantiated opinion." I don't know what blog you went to but on every page that I stated Afghanistan should withdraw I cited sources, quotes news and journal articles, not to mention government officials.

"We can, and should, provide sufficient security to allow the Afghans to make their own decisions in their own ways" - The problem is Canada is not allowing all Afghans to decide, we are only letting a portion of the country decide. There is a large number of Afghani's that don't recognize government authority and not only do they not participate but forcefully resist.

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