Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Problem With The Current Afghanistan Mission

The original(?) invasion of Afghanistan in 2002 was ostensibly a search and destroy mission. The public were told that it was to ferret out al Quaeda facilities in the country, and in particular hunt down Osama Bin Laden in the wake of the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

I didn't have a great deal of difficulty with that mission, as it was presented with a scope that was fairly comprehensible. When the decision was made to overthrow the government of the country, I became more concerned, as that put our forces in the position of playing "king maker" in a country that we do not understand terribly well at the best of times, and one that had recently been through Soviet occupation and the civil war that erupted after the Soviets withdrew.

I wasn't particularly in favour of committing Canada's troops to Afghanistan in 2005, because at that point I could see the emerging signs of civil war once again manifesting. My concern at the time was, much as it is today, that the adversary that we would be expecting our troops to fight is in fact the local population.

Which goes a long ways to explaining just how badly things went sideways when a mass escape from a Kandahar prison took place. Since then, I don't believe that we have found many of the escapees - they seem to have vanished into the woodwork (big surprise there)

Here is where I start to have enormous problems with the Afghanistan Mission in its current incarnation. First of all, we are intervening in the civil war that inevitably happens when a government is effectively vaporized. That means that the foreign troops are a unifying focal point for all of the factions that seek power in Afghanistan. I don't care how much we spend on "rebuilding" (and part of me wonders at the whole notion of "rebuilding" dollars being used to create a prison to hold members of the Taliban that happen to get captured by the troops.

Predictably, if our troops pull out, there will be an outright civil war. Of that there is no question. However, I suspect that will happen whether our troops leave tomorrow, or after 2011. It doesn't really matter unless Canada (and allies) are willing to occupy that country long enough to actually understand it, and long enough to meaningfully establish not just the semblance of governance, but the stable society that is necessary for civil society. (Likely a multi-generational commitment) Spending millions on buildings buys us very little, because ultimately our troops are the "outsiders", and that makes it very easy to keep secrets from them - even among the supposedly loyal local officials.

Now, will our supposedly "fiscally responsible" Con$ervative government actually look at the taxpayer dollars they are quite literally burning in Afghanistan and reallocate those funds somewhere that will actually benefit Canadians? I doubt it somehow.

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