Author Topic: Afghanistan: Why we should be there (or not), how to conduct the mission (or not) & when to leave  (Read 596949 times)

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Offline MarkOttawa

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Bringing divers things together and calling out someone perhaps better suited to be a baker:

Fighting the good fight for Afghans–and all of us
http://unambig.com/fighting-the-good-fight-for-afghans-and-all-of-us/

Mark
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Well, that didn't take long....
Quote
.... The latest Canadian Press/Harris Decima survey asked about the Canadian mission in Afghanistan

According to Senior Vice-President Doug Anderson “At this point in time, Canadians are split over whether to leave troops in Afghanistan beyond the end of the combat mission. While few feel that the combat mission should be extended, there is clearly some support for Canadian troops continuing to play some role.”

    * A plurality believes all the troops should be brought back to Canada once the end date for the current combat mission is reached. Nationally, 48% are of this view, while 42% believe the combat mission should end, but troops should be left in Afghanistan to train others. Just 6% believe the combat mission should be extended. The feeling that all the troops should come back to Canada is most pronounced in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, as well as among New Democrats and BQ voters. Additionally, women and those with household incomes below $100k/year are more likely to say all the troops should come back to Canada when the combat mission ends.

    * Those most likely to believe some troops should remain in Afghanistan for training purposes include men (49%), those with incomes exceeding $100k/year (57%), Conservatives (55%) and British Columbians (51%).
 
   * Among those who believe the mission has been a success, 15% believe the combat mission should be extended, 57% believe the combat mission should be replaced by a training one, and 28% believe all the troops should be brought back to Canada. Among those who believe it’s too soon to tell whether the mission has been a success, 6% believe the combat mission should be extended, 49% believe the combat mission should end to be replaced with a training one, and 41% believe all the troops should be brought back to Canada.

    * Those who believe the mission has been a failure are more likely to say all the troops should come back. Among this group, 68% were of this view, while just 3% believe the combat mission should be extended and 28% support a training mission beyond the end date of the combat mission.

      • Six in ten are opposed to the government’s commitment to have troops in Afghanistan. Overall, 60% of respondents are opposed to the commitment to have troops in Afghanistan. This group is split evenly between 30% who oppose and 30% who strongly oppose the commitment to have troops in Afghanistan. Women, those in Quebec, and non-Conservative voters are most likely to be opposed.

    * Just over one in three Canadians are supportive of Canada’s commitment to have troops in Afghanistan. Nationally, 37% support the initiative, with 11% indicating they strongly support it. This represents a slight increase from August, when 34% were supportive, with 5% being strongly supportive. Overall, support for the mission has stayed consistent over time, with between 34% and 40% of Canadians supporting the mission over the various waves conducted since last April.

    * Currently, those in Quebec are most offside with the national average on the question. Less than one in five (18%) support the commitment to have troops in Afghanistan, roughly half the national average. Men, Conservatives and more affluent Canadians are more likely than their counterparts to support the commitment to have troops in Afghanistan.

    * Half believe it is too soon to tell whether or not the mission in Afghanistan has been a success. Nationally, 50% subscribe to this view, with 13% believing that the mission has been a success. One in three (34%) are of the view that the mission has been a failure. Residents of Alberta (22%) are most likely to think the mission has been a success, while those in Quebec (42%) and those intending to vote Green (43%) and BQ (47%) are most likely to call the mission a failure.

Each week, Harris/Decima interviews just over 1000 Canadians through teleVox, the company’s national telephone omnibus survey. The most recent data were gathered between November 11 and November 14, 2010. A sample of the same size has a margin of error of 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.
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Offline MarkOttawa

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F... polls.

Mark
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Offline MarkOttawa

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Brian Platt outside the wire in Kandahar City--an excellent post
http://ubyssey.ca/afghanistan/2010/11/12/kandahar/
with many photos at his Ubyssey blogFrom UBC to Kabul:
http://ubyssey.ca/afghanistan/
Quote
...

...

...

Mark
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Offline MarkOttawa

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Words are indeed without meaning for this country’s politicians--Jack Granatstein, at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute’s 3Ds Blog, cuts through more mindless political spin, this from the Liberals:

The Peacekeeping Mythology Never Dies
http://www.cdfai.org/the3dsblog/?p=43

Quote
It is a great and good thing that the Liberals are supporting the new training mission in Afghanistan. The terms of their support, however, are shamelessly disingenuous. Yesterday on CBC-TV’s “Power and Politics” the Grits’ Dominic LeBlanc talked about how the training role was in the traditional Canadian mode, redolent of our long proud peacekeeping tradition. And that’s why Michael Ignatieff could support it.  Blah, blah, blah. This is straight-out pandering to the soft-headed Canadian belief that all we should ever do is keep the peace, preferably with a blue beret firmly fixed on our soldiers’ heads.

But is training equal to peacekeeping? No, it most certainly is not. In the first place, Afghanistan is a state at war, and there is no peace to keep. Then, Canadian soldiers will be training one side in that war, the ANA and ANP, how best to fight the other side, the Taliban...

Mark
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« Last Edit: November 17, 2010, 16:41:43 by MarkOttawa »
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Online E.R. Campbell

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Norman Spector points to this comment by Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from the Ottawa Citizen:

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/train+troops+from+behind+wire/3828207/story.html
(The important bit, to which Spector refers, is highlighted.)

Quote
You can't train troops from 'behind the wire'
If we are going to stay in Afghanistan past the 2011 exit deadline to continue helping the country's soldiers, we have to stay for real -- and that is going to cost lives

By Colin Kenny, Citizen Special

November 15, 2010

So Stephen Harper has changed his mind about his formerly resolute position that no Canadian troops would remain in Afghanistan after 2011.

The prime minister is finding out just how hard it is to make the "right" decision when it comes to foreign affairs.

Sometimes there are just no right decisions.

Harper was dead right when he was holding firm on the 2011 exit deadline. At the urging of Rick Hillier, former chief of the defence staff, Canada sent troops into the Taliban's home turf of Kandahar because, by his own admission, Hillier thought the Taliban was a spent force.

It wasn't. It is now obvious that one way or another, the Taliban are going to play a big role in Afghanistan's future, whether they defeat the corrupt government of Hamid Karzai and his foreign allies militarily, or whether they make a political deal with Karzai to wedge their way back into power.

The United States has gone into Afghanistan in a big way -- with more than 100,000 Americans on the ground -- because President Barack Obama thought this was the right kind of war to fight, as opposed to George Bush's debacle in Iraq.

Obama, like Harper, is finding out that what seems like the right thing to do on the foreign-affairs front can backfire quickly. This is turning into a very stupid and expensive war.

Obama has no quick-exit strategy because he can't afford to look weak before the American people at this tenuous moment in his presidency.

He would like to get out of Afghanistan quickly, but he can't. So he needs all the help he can get from allies like Canada, and he is not going to be amused if he doesn't get it.

And he wants real help. He wants Canadian soldiers to stay and train Afghan soldiers not just in safe spots behind the wire, but in actual combat situations.

Harper, to this point, has not made it clear whether he is prepared to offer this kind of real help, or just-pretend help. What is the difference, you ask?

When I first went to Afghanistan in 2005 -- when Canadian troops were posted in the relative safety of the capital, Kabul, before our decision to shift our focus to Kandahar -- our troops were training Afghan soldiers.

But what we were doing fell short of real training, and the Afghans knew it. Why? Because we weren't going into combat with the Afghan soldiers. We were showing them how to fight "inside the wire," where conditions were safe.

Our soldiers told me how frustrated they were because the Afghan soldiers weren't prepared to listen to guys who wanted to talk the talk without walking the walk. I remember one of our guys telling me, "They have no respect for us, and they're not listening to us. They're treating us like wimps who aren't prepared to share the risk with them. And they're right."

Here is a paragraph that has been on my website ( colinkenny.ca)for more than three months now:

It is not possible to train these troops "behind the wire" in safe locations. Training cannot succeed unless trainers get into harm's way by accompanying trainees on missions, helping them out when they get into difficulty, and, eventually, ensuring that they are ready to do the job on their own. Training Afghan soldiers -- if it is done right -- is more dangerous than going out on patrol with all-Canadian platoons.

Both the Conservative and Liberal parties have now decided that it would be to Canada's advantage to stay on and train Afghan troops, perhaps until 2014. Neither has been clear whether they would provide such training outside the safe confines of "the wire" -- the type of training that would more than likely add to the list of Canadian dead, which now stands at more than 150.

Is it the right decision for Canada to maintain a training presence in Afghanistan? There are no right decisions here.

When we talk about making tough foreign affairs decisions, we are talking about defending and advancing the interests of all Canadians. Anyone who thinks that having a president in Washington convinced that you have betrayed him when he needed you the most is not coming to grips with Canada's interests.

Would it be the right decision to do what the Americans are asking us to do -- train in combat situations? Do we sacrifice more young lives in a cause that has ceased to make sense to many Canadians? Or do we let down our most important ally at a time when Canada doesn't seem to have as many international friends as we used to think we had?


It has been reported that Stephen Harper gulped at the press conference in South Korea before answering a question as to whether he had changed his position on remaining in Afghanistan after 2011.

I would have gulped too. There is no easy way out of this one. I have argued long and hard that we should get out in 2011. But if we are going to stay, we have to stay for real.

And that is going to cost lives.

Colin Kenny is former chair of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen


Others have already, publicly corrected Kenny's nonsense about training 'behind the wire' being impossible. There is, in fact, a lot we can do 'behind the wire' that will have important, indeed vital impacts on Afghanistan.

But, the key point, the highlighted point is that Prime Minister Harper is, evidently, persuaded that Canada's vital interests require us to support the USA in this – despite the fact that they failed us and Afghanistan and their own interests in 2006/07.
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
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Offline GAP

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Quote
But, the key point, the highlighted point is that Prime Minister Harper is, evidently, persuaded that Canada's vital interests require us to support the USA in this – despite the fact that they failed us and Afghanistan and their own interests in 2006/07.

That doesn't count.....they're bigger than us and more important......just ask them.... ::)
Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I´m not so sure about the universe

Online E.R. Campbell

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That doesn't count.....they're bigger than us and more important......just ask them.... ::)


I quite agree. My problem with the USA is a profound lack of strategic vision. It, that all important strategic vision, has been wholly and completely absent since, at least, 2000. Effectively, there has been little strategy since Eisenhower and none at all since Reagan. America has not come to grips with the facts (and they are facts) that:

1. The USSR imploded:
2. Russia really doesn't matter - but it need not be gratuitously poked in the eye, just for sport;
3. China is on a tear; and
4. The Clash of Civilizations, despite our wish that Islam not be the enemy, explains what we see and we must deal with that.

The Pentagon, especially, is broken. But Ike's military-industrial complex in general, and, indeed, the Congress, are broken, too. They are, all, inept, corrupt and deleterious to America and the West. Americans are engaged in culture wars, that Goldwater et al began over 50 years ago and that has taken and is, still, taking their "eyes off the ball." It is sad and we are going to get sideswiped when, not if, America makes more and more strategically bad choices in this decade.

I do not see any interest in either of the major parties to stop the senseless culture wars and rebuild America; and independents, as Michael Bloomberg just said, cannot win.

</rant>
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline GAP

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Now it's my turn to agree....you just put into words my impressions of the path of the US.
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Offline MarkOttawa

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An excellent piece of research by BruceR. at Flit, worth a careful read:

I hear Mazar in spring is even nicer than Kabul in winter
http://www.snappingturtle.net/flit/archives/2010_11_17.html#006807

Quote
Matthew Fisher continues to perform the sin of actual journalism by trying to pin down people on where Canadian troops in Afghanistan post-2011 will be going and what they'll be doing. This was telling:
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Late+decision+send+trainers+means+rush+Afghan+mission/3837781/story.html

As Canada is insisting that most of its trainers will be in or near the capital, which is already awash with trainers from other countries, there is immense interest in what specific training tasks Canada is to be assigned by NATO and how its trainers will be shoehorned into already-crowded bases in the capital.

If only these answers were on the web somewhere... oh, yes, they are*.
http://www.defense.gov/Blog_files/Blog_assets/NTMAYearinReviewFINAL.pdf
Now, first off, it seems I was off on my previous SWAG [Scientific Wild *** Guess] of the "behind the wire" strength of NTM-A, but not by a huge number: total current planned number according to Fig. 13 is about 1800, with the hope of rising to 2800 over the next year. Assuming most of that increase were Canadian in the end, that would mean we would be increasing the strength of the trainer force single-handedly by about 50%.

But where are the jobs, actually, and what would they be doing? Ah, for that you'll have to click on the link.

The key figure here is figure 14, which breaks down the 442 most critical deficiencies by location and trade. Cross-referencing that with the training locations on pages 30 and 31 gives, as a provincial breakdown...

If that kind of breakdown [by type of trainer] persists, it's going to be difficult to answer the call with an existing unit, like an infantry battalion. Sure, combat arms soldiers can cover Afghan police training easily enough, but 38% of the shortfall are in specialist trades not found in the line units.

Put the two together, and the demand for what could be readily offered becomes rather small. So in the Kabul area, there were only 106 critical jobs in police and army training that could be filled by "regular" soldiers as of the NTM-A annual report, dated three weeks ago... far less than what Canada is now offering.

(What's not defined are the locations and trades of the 450+ "non-critical" positions. One should expect a significant number of those will be in logistics, though, where according to the NTM-A report, exactly 0 (out of an undefined total number) have so far been secured.)

*I'm grateful to ANSF freelance researcher Anand Choudhuri for the pointer.

Mark
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Online E.R. Campbell

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I think BruceR is reading too much into it. My guess is that this week, in Portugal, Minister MacKay will tell NATO/ISAF what to tell us to do. If we decide that we are going to train computer engineering officers and kosher cooks then, Presto!, computer engineering and kosher cooking will, suddenly, be top of ISAF's list of priorities for training.

We have earned, and had bloody well better use, our right to a caveat or two. We will teach the Afghans whatever in hell we want to teach and NATO/ISAF will be suitably grateful for our efforts. Maybe we should start with some leadership, operations/tactics and management training for the very top levels of NATO/ISAF; that may do the most good.

It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline Technoviking

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I would offer that if we are there to train, then we will need to send trainers, not necessarily soldiers from the field force.  We need to send people who know the training system, and to train them to train themselves. 

They will have to understand how training an individual is different from training a collective group.

So, having said that, we're going to frig it up and send over soldiers who are great at combat, but not necessarily good at teaching.  (That's not a slight at them, we just have to make sure we send the right people, that's all)


But part of me says "we won't".  This will become a "less sexy" Goat Rodeo, and the military tourism will perhaps abate, but for those of us who care, well, we damned well get it right.
So, there I was....

Offline Chris Pook

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I quite agree. My problem with the USA is a profound lack of strategic vision. It, that all important strategic vision, has been wholly and completely absent since, at least, 2000. Effectively, there has been little strategy since Eisenhower and none at all since Reagan. ......

4. The Clash of Civilizations, despite our wish that Islam not be the enemy, explains what we see and we must deal with that.

The Pentagon, especially, is broken. But Ike's military-industrial complex in general, and, indeed, the Congress, are broken, too. They are, all, inept, corrupt and deleterious to America and the West. Americans are engaged in culture wars, that Goldwater et al began over 50 years ago and that has taken and is, still, taking their "eyes off the ball." It is sad and we are going to get sideswiped when, not if, America makes more and more strategically bad choices in this decade.

I do not see any interest in either of the major parties to stop the senseless culture wars and rebuild America; and independents, as Michael Bloomberg just said, cannot win.

</rant>


The problem as I see it is that the Clash of Civilizations is happening between Fox-Palin and MSNBC-van den Heuvel. 

You are dead right about the US not being consistent - but surely it has ever been thus.  There system is designed to create instability and the more "polarized" their domestic politics the more unstable and unreliable they become (ie unpredictable).

A Serbian Canadian who was upset about a USAF(Res) Fighter Pilot as President of the US and supported Obama because he wasn't Bush, was horrified to discover that Obama reminded of home once he had been elected.  I told him not to worry.  If the Yanks don't like him they can trim his coat tails in two years and get rid of him in four.  That horrified him even more because he couldn't figure our how you make plans with that kind of uncertainty.

I guess it takes a little learning before folks discover that freedom is messy.
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ignoramus et ignorabimus

Offline MarkOttawa

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Meanwhile in Canada it now seems the rule for politicians, pundits and the public that the Army really doesn't do combat if the dead go over 100,
http://www.damianpenny.com/archived/005283.html
http://www.damianpenny.com/archived/006034.html  (so much for PM Harper)
unless it truly is a situation of clear and supreme national interest (or else a clear and convincing victory is won with rapidity).

We may criticize the Americans all we want but they do not have the peacekeeping-obsessed culture Canada has in spades:
http://www.cdfai.org/the3dsblog/?p=43

Nor do the Brits.  In fact I venture that "peacekeeping" has almost zero resonance in either country (and very little in Australia);  Canadians have been brainwashed, in large measure by our own governments.

Anyone want to bet that any Canadian government will put the Army into combat during the next decade, if not longer, even should a situation arise that might well make it seem the right thing to do?

Mark
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« Last Edit: November 18, 2010, 20:47:42 by MarkOttawa »
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Offline MarkOttawa

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Where Canada and Denmark led…
http://unambig.com/where-canada-and-denmark-led/

Quote
…the US Marines follow:

Marines Sending in the Tanks
...
Canadian badassery:

...

Mark
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Offline Bread Guy

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Don't like the new mission?  Ceasefire.ca has an online petition where you can send an electronic letter to the PM and MPs:
Quote
Don't Extend Canada's Military Mission in Afghanistan

Tell Stephen Harper, other party leaders, and your own MP that you do not support the proposed training mission for the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. Send your letter, right away ....
It says you can personalize the letter - wonder if you can personalize it so much that it says you support the mission?  That would be just awful....  >:D 
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Offline Big Red

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*Sarcasm on* So now that we are committed to a training mission we can expect to be expanding our Pashtu and Dari language schools within the CF?

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*Sarcasm on* So now that we are committed to a training mission we can expect to be expanding our Pashtu and Dari language schools within the CF?
100 % more than the expansion we've seen since the start of the war.....
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Offline MarkOttawa

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NATO Summit: CF in Afstan until 2014/ISAF and the Afghans
http://unambig.com/nato-summit-cf-in-afstan-until-2014isaf-and-the-afghans/

Mark
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Offline MarkOttawa

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Spooky/SOF speculation from Tom Ricks:

Report: Canadian military leasing Russian Mi-17 helos in Afghanistan
http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/11/23/report_canadian_military_leasing_russian_mi_17_helos_in_afghanistan

Quote
I remember how I used to listen to various NATO officials complain about how member nations were not sending enough helicopters to Afghanistan. Now it appears that the chickens have come home to roost: The Canadian media is reporting that the Canadian Ministry of Defence has quietly leased a bunch of Russian helicopters to use in southern Afghanistan.
http://www.globalnews.ca/world/story.html?id=3865054

My first thought was this was to fool the locals. But I don't think it would fool the Taliban, who know their Russian helicopters. Canadian Navy Lt. Kelly Rozenberg-Payne said that Canadian forces in Afghanistan simply needed some additional vertical lift: "The (operational) tempo within the air wing became very great and it was just assessed by commanders on the ground that they needed additional platforms to help move troops around," she said.

My guess is that because both the Afghan and Pakistani militaries use the Mi-17, this makes it more convenient to fly NATO forces across the border and into the FATA as necessary, with lots of plausible deniability, especially if they are flown at night and no one gets around to painting a lot of markings on the aircraft. That would explain why, as the Canadian report puts it, "details were kept off the MERX web-site, which formally lists government procurement competitions, and no news release was issued about the new choppers, which have been in use since the spring."


Seems pretty unlikely to me--far too risky for this gov't.

Mark
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Offline GK .Dundas

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 All too true this would require Mr Harper to have a pair .Come to think of it that pretty well describes both sides of the house .Not since the retirement of Deborah Grey at any rate.
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Online E.R. Campbell

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Training the Afghans: Let's have some realistic expectations, please

I don't k now where this nonsense originates but the papers have been full of it ever since we began changing our national minds about Afghanistan. Modern, sophisticated armies require modern, sophisticated people: call me 100, maybe 500 years, when Afghanistan might have a modern  sophisticated population, and we can send the 'right' trainers. Until then we are going to train third world people to be barely adequate third world 'soldiers' - or we are going to fail, miserably.

Most of the 195± countries in the world that have armies at all have totally inadequate ones. That's why a few countries like Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark and so on are always being begged by the UN for technical and logistical troops and for air support.

Whoever thinks that we can, in any of your lifetimes, make the Afghans into modern, sophisticated soldiers with good logistics, command and control and air support is smoking too much of the stuff they grow over there.


Edit: typo  :-[
« Last Edit: November 25, 2010, 09:02:48 by E.R. Campbell »
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline Old Sweat

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I think the author of the piece that Edward cites should have done some research. Canada has been providing a gunner OMLT for several years and has had more than a little success. If the enemy can mortar and rocket our FOBS let along KAF, the ANA can be trained to be competent gunners. Petard has more and better details than I do, but I am aware of a few of the issues our people have addressed successfully. By the way, the last episode of Combat School showed an ANA D30 battery firing, supposedly in support of M Coy 3 RCR.

Offline Bread Guy

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In case you're interested, here's the Bloc's motion in the House of Commons - debate started yesterday ....
Quote
Mr. Claude Bachand (Saint-Jean, BQ) moved:  That this House condemn the government’s decision to unilaterally extend the Canadian mission in Afghanistan to 2014, whereby it is breaking two promises it made to Canadians, one made on May 10, 2006, in this House and repeated in the 2007 Throne Speech, that any military deployment would be subject to a vote in Parliament, and another made on January 6, 2010, that the mission in Afghanistan would become a strictly civilian commitment after 2011, without any military presence beyond what would be needed to protect the embassy.
and you can read the debate here and here.  Glutton for punishment?  52 pg PDF of just the motion debate downloadable here.
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Offline MarkOttawa

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Afstan: Two must-reads from BruceR.
http://unambig.com/afstan-two-must-reads-from-brucer/

The disgraceful failure of our major media’s Afghan mission/Coalition crazy/Bob Rae Update
http://unambig.com/the-disgraceful-failure-of-our-major-medias-afghan-mission/

Mark
Ottawa
Ça explique, mais ça n'excuse pas.