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

Further to this comment,

this appears (with some nudging) in Norman's Spectator, ON MY MIND, July 28:

--What Hughie says about Afstan

Conservative senator pushes air role for Canada (Citizen)

--What one of my readers says about Hughie's plan

Others can finish Afghanistan mission, says top soldier
TheStar.com July 29, 2007 Martin Ouellet Canadian press
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Canadian troops are not the only foreign military that can complete the rebuilding effort in Afghanistan beyond 2009, a top Canadian commander said on Sunday.

"Whether we accomplish it ourselves, or it's accomplished by others, it doesn't matter in the greater scheme of things," Lt.-Gen. Michel Gauthier, commander of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command, told a news conference in Kandahar.

Gauthier said the international community will need to be present in Afghanistan for several more years for the country to become self-sufficient.

The Canadian mission in Afghanistan is slated to end in February 2009.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he'll only extend that mandate with the consensus of Parliament, which seems unlikely. The mounting death toll – 66 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have died in Afghanistan since 2002 – has renewed the political debate back home over the mission's future, with the opposition parties pushing the government to come up with an exit strategy.

Gauthier said the situation has improved in the war-torn country, but it will require years of continued contributions from the international community.

"I don't think anybody believes the job is going to be done by February, 2009, from an international community perspective," Gauthier said.
More on link
Pretty good news out on the Brown Bush meeting (Brown Bush?  I'm getting strangely aroused) today saying that Afgn is the Central fornt on teh WOT.  Maybe we see more help there.
If we (Canada) and some others pull out , possibly even at 2009, theres no way that country can be ready to sustain itself, I dont believe the security has been built up that that country needs to hold its own against taliban. They will move in and kill what we have created. Then I will ask why have our soldiers died for this?

am I correct on this?
But then our Canadian soldiers will be safe as the anti-war protestors want it, regardless if thousands will be killed, and Afghanistan is once again returned to the stone age. As long as we in Canada just mind our own business, no one will ever want to harm us. "All we are saying is give peace a chance"..............oh sorry I really should open the garage door when working on a running motor.
UN head in Afstan wants more NATO troops--whenever you see references to European or German attitudes and perceptions, read "Canadian". I wish the Canadian populace, pundits and politicians could see this--and I wish our government could make the case for the Afghan mission as cogently and powerfully:

'Afghanistan Needs more Western Troops'

German politicians are growing increasingly uncomfortable with the presence of Bundeswehr troops in Afghanistan. UN Special Representative for Afghanistan

[and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan]

Tom Koenigs spoke to SPIEGEL ONLINE about the need for Germany and its troops to persist in Afghanistan and to keep the promise the West made to the war-torn country...

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Displeasure over the deployment of Bundeswehr troops seems to be growing in Germany. The split over this issue can also be observed within your party, the Greens. Left-leaning regional Green Party groups want to put the issue of German troops in Afghanistan back on the agenda at a special party conference planned in September before the federal parliament votes on renewing the mandate.

Koenigs: We can't cave in to the terrorist threat. That would be the worst thing you could do to the Afghans and to the aid workers who want to continue working there. You have to face the challenge and vigorously stay on course. There is no other way to bring the situation under control. And one must not forget: The Afghan people have asked us to support them. After all, they suffer most from the terror of the Taliban...

...We have promised them we would support the reconstruction of their country and the restoration of democracy. Most Afghan people would like to see more, rather than fewer, Western troops in their country in order to improve security. The Americans have just contributed more troops. The British have also provided more troops. And there is strong pressure on other countries.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Should the Germans send additional troops to Afghanistan?

Koenigs: That would be very desirable, especially people who can provide training. At the moment, the key is to strengthen the Afghan security forces. In the long term, they are the ones who must secure peace, justice and the law in the country. The international forces must stay and keep the country stable until the national forces are strong enough to defeat the insurgency. International military forces can't strike down a national insurgency. That's the Afghan army's job.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What does your hope that the Afghan military can achieve that rest on?

Koenigs: The Taliban are unpopular, even in the south of the country. We have to rely much more strongly on the local police and train policemen much better, as well as much faster. The successes so far with building a civilian and democratic police force still leave much to be desired. In that area, we are still far from having achieved the target. The Afghan people want more support from us in that area. If the reverse were to happen, the Taliban and also the international militant Islamist movement would see any reduction in committment as (ISAF) faltering that would then be exploited for their propagandic purposes. Taliban operations are always aimed very directly at European parliaments and at the various political situations in the countries of origin of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops...

SPIEGEL ONLINE: This autumn Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, will once again vote on whether or not to extend the mandate of the German troops deployed in Afghanistan. Is there a possibility we will have to prepare for more targeted operations prior to the decision?

Koenigs: That is probably going too far. But it is striking that the Taliban follow the decisions in the European countries very closely and are familiar with the weak points.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What would be the highest aspiration of the Taliban? Pressuring a country to break out of the alliance?

Koenigs: Not just that, but that the entire international community (in Afghanistan) crumbles and withdraws from Afghanistan for lack of critical mass [emphasis added].

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the Taliban are hoping for a process of political erosion?
[emphasis added]

Koenigs: Yes, both in the military and in the civilian areas. But that the international community would commit itself more strongly now is something the Taliban were certainly not expecting when they began their massive insurgency one year ago. Nor were they expecting that aid for Afghanistan -- both military and civilian -- would now find almost unanimous support in the US Congress.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is the US military strategy in the south providing the Taliban with combatants and sympathizers because of the high number of civilian casualties? Some critics of the United States, such as German Left Party politician Oskar Lafontaine, come close to claiming that the Taliban have a right to revolt.

Koenigs: I have difficulty seeing the right to revolt against a democratically elected government. I don't know what norms that should be derived from. Moreover, the Taliban are an extremely brutal movement that rides roughshod over classic martial law. They don't even distinguish between combatants and civilians.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You don't think the United States should reconsider its military strategy?

Koenigs: The United States does not have a separate military strategy. Nevertheless, there are coordination shortcomings on the strategic level. The harmonization of civilian and military strategy has to be improved. Coordination within the military forces is also suboptimal [emphasis added]. The local international commander and the Afghan commander sometimes don't know what the other side is doing at any given moment. In the worst case scenario, that can lead to civilian casualties...

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Are the Germans simply too impatient when it comes to the mission in Afghanistan?

Koenigs: One cannot expect that, in only five years, all the problems can be solved in a country that has just experienced 30 years of civil war. When I came to Afghanistan a year and a half ago, the warlords seemed to be the main problem. One hardly hears about that now. Progress has also been made in health care and in fighting infant mortality. But we must never forget that Afghanistan is the fifth-poorest country in the world. We need patience and stamina and should not allow ourselves to be discouraged by temporary setbacks. Most importantly, we should keep our promise. Those who want to withdraw now would leave the Afghan people in the lurch and abandon them to a terribly brutal movement.

India's take on Afghanistan.
Afghanistan: A Losing Battle
By Rudroneel Ghosh. Delhi, India, 12:39 AM IST

The kidnapping of 23 South Korean voluntary aid workers by the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province once again proves that the West backed Afghan government at Kabul isn’t anywhere close to controlling the law and order situation in the country let alone trying to stamp out the remnants of the country’s ex rulers.

The Taliban is definitely making a strong comeback and the recent kidnappings, the largest since the US backed war in 2001, is a strong evidence for the same. The NATO forces stationed in the country that are at the forefront in the fight against Taliban insurgents have been facing stiff resistance on a daily basis. Such is the situation that it won’t be a stretch to say that the Karzai government’s actual control doesn’t extend beyond the boundaries of Kabul. Whatever little presence that the government has in the outlying provinces is actually next to negligible.

As the South Korean hostages enter their 13th day of captivity their Taliban captors have already slain two of their numbers. Last Wednesday the group killed their first hostage, pastor Bae Hyung-Kyu, who was leading the aid mission. Whereas the local police in Ghazni discovered the body of a second slain hostage today morning at daybreak.

A Taliban spokesman speaking from an undisclosed location told the authorities that senior Taliban leaders had decided to go ahead with the killing of the second hostage as they felt that the Afghan government wasn’t being sincere to their demand of releasing Taliban prisoners. The group has demanded the release of a certain number of their comrades in exchange for the release of the Korean prisoners.

As the Taliban forces continue to rise why hasn’t the Afghan government or their American backers done anything to stop them? Well, the truth is that they are trying but are sorely losing the battle. The reasons for the same are two fold; firstly it is quite clear that the Afghan people are bitterly disappointed with the Karzai government. The Karzai government had an excellent opportunity to build by the democratic institutions of the country and invigorate their countrymen’s faith in democracy after the fall of the Taliban. But frankly the Karzai government has squandered that opportunity and has actually managed to turn many Afghan’s away from democracy. Now the belief in Afghanistan is that democracy is not all that it is cracked up to be. The sole reason for the Afghans being put off by the present government and its promises of democracy is none other than ‘corruption’. The menace of corruption has percolated to every nook and cranny of the Afghan administrative set up. Everyone from top government officials to low-level clerks need their palms greased to accomplish the smallest of tasks. Such is the menace of corruption that some Afghans are looking back at the Taliban regime as the ‘good old days’, where no doubt there were several moral and social restrictions but at least corruption was kept in check. They say that during the Taliban days they probably had to bribe the top officials to get their work done but now they have to bribe everyone from top to bottom.

Another important factor that is intrinsically linked to the battle for Afghanistan is the issue of opium farming. Afghanistan is the largest producer of illegal opium in the world and in turn accounts for the largest source of heroine, a drug that is processed from opium poppies. After the US led war, the US and the British governments jointly launched a program to crush the opium trade coming out of Afghanistan. At the time they said that as much as 50% of the world’s heroine was Afghan in source and that the Taliban was using the profitable illegal trade to buy arms. Since then both the governments have pumped in millions of dollars every year in an effort to try and eradicate opium farming but have miserably failed to produce even a dent. On the contrary opium farming in Afghanistan has never been so profitable. Farming of opium poppies have reached unprecedented highs in spite of strong measures taken by the Karzai government such as forced eradication and destruction of poppy farms. It is said that in some remote lawless parts of the country opium is even used as a medium of exchange instead of currency.

There is no doubt that the eradication campaign has rubbed thousands of Afghan farmers the wrong way whose dissatisfaction with the government continues to grow. They see the Afghan government as deliberately trying to destroy their livelihood and playing into the hands of the Western powers. On the other hand it is an open secret that opium farming has benefited the Taliban the most. By providing protection to the opium farmers they have virtually taken control of the opium trade coming out of Afghanistan. Since the entire trade is illegal the framers have no choice but to sell their produce to the Taliban who in turn benefit from the illegal but highly profitable heroine trade. Since the trade is profitable the farmers too are happy and they have come to look upon the Taliban as their sole protectors.

The situation as it stands is a bleak one. The Taliban is surely gaining in strength, more due to the follies of the authorities rather than on their own accord. Unless and until the Karzai government and the Western powers change their Afghanistan policy and clean up their own house and re-affirm the Afghan people’s faith in democracy, there is very little chance that they will be able hold their ground. The Taliban regime was a terrible one and the Afghan people have suffered long enough. Let’s hope that the Afghan authorities and their Western allies see the light of day and do the needful to prevent the country from going back to those dark days.

By Rudroneel Ghosh (Staff Writer, © India eNews)
Interesting to see if any of the goverment corruption info ends up making its way into our MSM.
Afghanistan – Looking Beyond February 2009 (PDF)
CDA Commentary 7—2007, July 27, 2007
By General (Ret’d) Paul Manson (former Chief of the Defence Staff, currently President of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute)

Somehow I just don't see any opposition party agreeing to our continuing a substantial role at Kandahar after February 09 (even with much reduced combat); and I don't see any of the reluctant NATO members coming in to help significantly with combat on the ground.  The Afghan National Army may be a pretty decent force by then but I can't see there being no need for combat assistance from international troops.

I suppose the US and UK will have to take up most of the slack, with luck having much reduced Iraq commitments in the US case.

I believe that the evolution of our tactical forces will and must be shaped by strategic pressures - and domestic ones at that. 

The bottom line is that this is a just war, and we will lose it in Toronto and Vancouver vice AStan - if we do not evolve our forces and the conduct of the campaign, the voters will not allow us to stay and get the job done.  In other words, the tactical orbat, mission, roles, and tasks needs to be set within the domestic context.  This may not be pretty - indeed it is clearly bass-ackwards - but it is so.

I see an OMLT that has a significant amount of integral Canadian combat power as the likely way ahead - folding elements of the BG into the OMLT.  This will put some teeth to the idea of an Afghan face, and will also allow us to make some ground in our domestic campaign to stay in the fight.

It will be very interesting to see how this all unfolds in the coming weeks and months.
Staying the Course in Afghanistan

German newspapers make the case in a forceful and clear way, unlike our government:

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
"Afghanistan cannot be allowed to become a beachhead from which militant Islamists and their terrorist spearheads can launch their harmfulness and totalitarian ideology into the world. The goal of winning over the 'hearts' of the Afghans may be pathetically exaggerated, but protecting Germany's security interests is not."

"When it comes to ramifications, whoever speaks of withdrawing from Afghanistan -- as the left does -- aligns themselves with the murderous Islamists in this power struggle ... A withdrawal today would amount to a flight from responsibility."

The leftist Die Tageszeitung writes:

"It would be disastrous if the German government allowed the Taliban to dictate its policies [emphasis added] ...

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"No one who wants to be taken seriously demands the immediate withdrawal of Germans. However, the general discussion about whether or not German troops should remain in Afghanistan is heating up, and the motto "keep going on as before" can no longer suffice. The government would prefer to extend its three current mandates: participation in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), deployment of the six aerial reconnaissance Tornado jets and support of the anti-terror Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). The Greens and strong factions in the Social Democratic Party are demanding a pullout from OEF, which they equate with fighting terror with terror ... A withdrawal of Germany's small special forces contingent from OEF would be little more political posturing. But Germany's already limited influence would be further reduced."

"On the other hand, the time left before autumn to debate the fundamental strategy is far too short. For this reason, the three mandates should be extended for the time being, until a new plan can be developed with the allied forces. ... In addition, we need to get the more moderate forces in Afghanistan, which today are still supporting the Taliban, involved in the process of establishing peace."

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"The fact that the police officers had absolutely nothing to do with the military deployment didn't matter a lick to the people who planted the bomb. Nor did the fact that the kidnapped engineers -- one of whom has been killed -- came to this land to help construct a new, civil society. The Taliban's goal is simply to oust the foreigners and once again establish their own Islamic regime throughout the country."

"For this reason, it really does no good to start debating again about whether the German army should be withdrawn from Afghanistan. Getting this debate started is the terrorists' goal. But even after a retreat, there would still be German soldiers in the country working at the embassy and providing assistance and whose ideas and resources would remain an unbearable provocation to the fundamentalists."

"Germany chose to get involved with the reconstruction and modernizing of Afghanistan. Unless we want to hand the country and its population back over to the fundamentalists, withdrawal is not an option. We must prevent the country from once again serving as a haven for international terrorists. And the bitter truth is that these three policemen will probably not be the last German victims of terror in Afghanistan."

Meanwhile back home:

Stop muddling Afghan file, Ottawa is warned
Military experts say Canadians won't be won over unless government is more open, stresses progress


Duceppe threatens to topple gov't over Afghanistan

Updated Thu. Aug. 23 2007 2:48 PM ET

CTV.ca News Staff

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe says he's ready to take down Stephen Harper's Conservative government if the prime minister doesn't make a firm commitment to withdraw Canadian troops from Afghanistan by February 2009.

He's also calling for an emergency debate on Canada's role in the Afghanistan once parliament resumes on Sept. 17.

Duceppe made the call Thursday, one day after two soldiers from a Quebec regiment were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. The body of fallen soldier Pte. Simon Longtin also returned to Canada on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Liberal Opposition Leader Stephane Dion agreed that Harper needs to commit once and for all to retrieving troops from Afghanistan by the February date as promised. However, he said he wasn't about to make any "threats".

"Everybody knows there's a possibility of a ... confidence vote where the government can be defeated," he told reporters at a news conference Thursday. "I'm not saying today that's what I want."

He did say, however, that Harper needs to make that commitment now, and not during his throne speech expected in the fall.

"It's far too late, why wait?" he said. "We need to give the (government of Afghanistan) time for replacement. It should be said now.

"We would like the prime minister to be clear with our allies, instead of entertaining this ambiguity," he continued.

The Afghan mission has been under intense scrutiny this week -- especially in Quebec where support is typically low -- as the number of Canadian casualties in the military continued to increase.

More than 600 Quebec residents were polled for their views on the Afghan mission just before Longtin was killed and then again right after. The survey showed the approval rating for the war dropped from 35 per cent before Longtin's death to 28 per cent.

In the first survey, 57 per cent said they disagreed with sending the Van Doos to Afghanistan. After the news of Longtin's death, that number jumped to 68 per cent.

Canada currently has more than 2,300 soldiers in Afghanistan with more than 1,100 from Quebec's Royal 22nd regiment.

If we have the same Parliament in 2009, I'll be shocked.  I can't envision a situation where there isn't an election next year.  I really can't.  In fact I'm shocked we still have this one.

I'm going to say something radical here,  so get those mice over that "demote" link.

What if the Tories put forward a motion to extend the mission again,  made it a confidence vote and we had an election on this. (I'm under no illusion they'd loose)  Yes the public opinion polls are dropping in support for the war,  however most people I've spoken to who are against the war turn into ardent supporters after simply explaining why we're there,  what we're doing and how we're doing it.  It would have other benefits as well...

It would force the Liberals to take a united principled stance (something they're very good at avoiding doing).  With their current leader they'd likely be against the extention.  Leaving one party that wants to continue.  This is an issue that an election could legitimately be called with,  and a party could win on.  And before someone says "oh the Tories would loose Quebec support"  80% of the francophone I've spoken to honestly don't know why we went to Afghanistan in the first place, and think we're in Iraq. After 30 minutes of my broken french, I got to see more than 4 "antiwar" francophones put yellow ribbon magnets on their car, vowing to explain to others the mission.
Dion and Duceppe are jackasses.  Politically savvy, maybe, but jackasses.  Here, I'll paraphrase what these jerks are saying:

Zell_Dietrich said:
If we have the same Parliament in 2009, I'll be shocked.  I can't envision a situation where there isn't an election next year.  I really can't.  In fact I'm shocked we still have this one.

I'm going to say something radical here,  so get those mice over that "demote" link.

What if the Tories put forward a motion to extend the mission again,  made it a confidence vote and we had an election on this. (I'm under no illusion they'd loose)  Yes the public opinion polls are dropping in support for the war,  however most people I've spoken to who are against the war turn into ardent supporters after simply explaining why we're there,  what we're doing and how we're doing it.  It would have other benefits as well...

It would force the Liberals to take a united principled stance (something they're very good at avoiding doing).  With their current leader they'd likely be against the extention.  Leaving one party that wants to continue.  This is an issue that an election could legitimately be called with,  and a party could win on.  And before someone says "oh the Tories would loose Quebec support"  80% of the francophone I've spoken to honestly don't know why we went to Afghanistan in the first place, and think we're in Iraq. After 30 minutes of my broken french, I got to see more than 4 "antiwar" francophones put yellow ribbon magnets on their car, vowing to explain to others the mission.

While you've had success in turning people's opinion, i really have to ask, was it lasting?  I've had similar conversations with many people who say they don't believe that Canada should be involved in hostilities in Afghanistan, that we should be doing more peacekeeping and building schools, not killing the Taliban.  After explaining my position and discussing some of the things that Canada is doing, I've been able to turn some peoples opinion.  However the change in opinion is mostly short lived.  Mostly because the people tend to be people who develop their opinions by borrowing from other people.  I'm not saying this to be rude or anything like that, rather, if you're able to change someones opinion during a simple conversation without any them doing independent research than chances are the persons original opinion wasn't firmly set, and conversely neither will their 'new found' opinions.  
To truly formulate an opinion someone has to learn as much about the topic as possible, in order to do that they have to be open to the idea of hearing different view points.  Unfortunately a political campaign is the type of forum that lends it's self that to that type of discussion.  Political campaigns are all about the 15-second sound byte and I can guarantee you that Jack Layton and the NDP's war machine have already started compiling a list of comments that specifically target those who really don't know what's going on in Afghanistan and think that we're acting as puppets of the Americans.  And when it comes to formulating opinions, most people will use the 15-second sound byte over the well thought out and presented treatise.  

As such I don't believe the Conservatives would be able to win an election - let alone a majority government - if an election were called to decide the fate of the Afghanistan mission.  
Just my $0.02
Okay folks, I think we have all in a round-about way explained exactly what's going on with Duceppe's latest comments. He wants an election. Pure and simple. The Afghanistan mission is just a scapegoat that he thinks he can use to get leverage on the conservatives.

If the tables were turned, and the Conservatives were against the mission, with all the other parties for it, Duceppe would be screaming "Extend the mission, or I'll take down the Harper government!".

It's crooked politics, plain and simple.
Unfortunately, the majority of the voting population in Quebec and the rest of Canada are not members of the military - some of whom may have a rather myoptic vision of events in Afghanistan.  It is these ordinary civilians that need to be convinced of the benefits of the Afghan mission.  In a place like Quebec, which historically has shown low support for this mission and Canada's involvement in other conflicts, and which more importantly holds the balance of political power in the next election, this is crucial.  Savvy politicians like Duceppe, Dion, and Layton are merely playing this card.  What is really sad to see is that it is happening so soon on the backs of three Quebec-based soldiers who have paid the ultimate price for their country.
Shameless political opportunism.
Abandoning the deployment that the Liberals began....instigated by Dion. How fitting.

Can't finish what they started. Cowards all.