It came from the mouth of the man himself. We're not done, no way near done. That's how Stephen Harper described "the mission" to a gaggle of garrison troops in Kandahar. He made it plain that, if he has anything to say about it, Canadian troops can expect to be in Afghanistan for years to come.
Harper told the troops their work isn't done. I doubt he'd get many arguments on that point, in Afghanistan or Canada. What he didn't let us in on, however, is just exactly what their "work" is and how much of that work remains undone. That's the beauty of Bush's Global War Without End on Terror, it's endless. You can claim victory simply by refusing to admit failure but, then again, that cuts both ways.
Just what is "victory" in Afghanistan supposed to look like? I don't know, do you? Is it a matter of bringing an end to the current insurgency (and I'm only talking here about the one involving the Taliban)? Is it the establishment of a Western-style, secular democracy? Is it Pashtun, Baloch, Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara living peacefully, arm in arm? Is it the establishment of genuine civil liberties for women and children? Is it the creation of a viable economy to end Afghanistan's narco-economy? Is it all of these things? What is "victory" in Afghanistan?
Once we get a handle on the main question we can begin to devise metrics. How much of the job have we accomplished over the past six years? Are we 20% of the way there? How much progress are we making at the moment? What is an appropriate amount of time to achieve victory in Afghanistan?
Once we've defined the task and a target timeframe we need to assess whether we have deployed the forces we need to meet it. Is 2,500 enough? C'mon, get real. Do we need 10,000 or 15,000 or perhaps more? Without a large enough force, is everything else just optics, window dressing?
Are we in Afghanistan for a decade or two or three? Can we turn our back on the rest of the world where we're needed for that long? How do we justify that?
What will the insurgency in Afghanistan look like if the Americans leave Iraq? Will Canadian troops find themselves in the crosshairs of a fresh batch of Islamists hatched out of the Iraq fiasco?
Notice how few of these questions ever get asked, much less answered? To ask them is to reveal that we have no answers.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell - Harper Style.