When I opened my web browser the first things I saw were the words "Canadian soldier" and the picture of a fine-looking young man in his beret and camo gear with a Canadian flag in the background. My heart sank because I knew the story could only be an announcement of this fellow's death. It was his funerary photo just like all the others.
Nathan Hornburg at 24-years old has been killed in Afghanistan. It seems he was struck by mortar shrapnel while exposed in trying to fix a thrown tread from a Leopard tank. The tank broke down, the insurgents watched and waited, Hornburg got out to repair the tread, the bad guys fired, he died.
According to the commander, General Guy Laroche, "The terrain was very rough and (tank treads falling off) is something that we see on a regular basis." They sure do because tanks aren't suited to running patrols across rough terrain. They're fighting machines, not patrol vehicles.
What were they doing when this happened? According to Laroche, it was a one-day sweep to improve security in Panjwai province. A sweep. It's what you do when you don't have enough soldiers or equipment to fight an insurgency effectively. You sweep through. The bad guys keep the initiative and their control of the territory. They decide when to fight and when to simply lay low until you're gone. If they see a vulnerability - a tank with a thrown track, for example - they take advantage of it.
Why are we squandering the lives of young men like Hornburg on this farce of a mission? Read Petraeus' counterinsurgency field manual, FM 3-24. You can get the whole thing in PDF format on the web, free. It prescribes a ratio of 20-25 counterinsurgents for every 1,000 of the civilian population. We would need anywhere between 15-25,000 combat troops on the ground to meet that ratio in Kandahar province. Instead we're handing the job to a 1,000-strong battle group.
Supporting the troops isn't setting them up to lose by saddling them with a fight they have neither the numbers nor the equipment to win. If you support "the mission", try supporting the troops. Demand that the government get off its sanctimonious, jingoistic arse; recruit, train and properly equip the small army that's needed for this job and then get on with it - or - support the troops and leave.