In the few years Canadian forces have been in Afghanistan, they've gone through several vehicle upgrades.
When we were tooling around the streets of Kabul in the early days, Canadian soldiers often travelled in these mini-jeeps known as the Itlis. If it looks like it might have been created by Volkswagen, it was. The unarmoured Itlis was built for the Canadian army by Bombardier. it quickly showed itself unsuitable for combat conditions in Kandahar.
That didn't last long as the G-Wagon was found just too vulnerable to mines although this one did save the lives of its occupants.
Next up was the South African Nyala, a much sturdier vehicle designed specifically to deflect and survive mine blasts.
Enter the Husky mine clearance system, again from South Africa. The Husky travels on balloon tires which, so the theory goes, create a much lower surface pressure that allow the vehicle to pass over mines. The Husky tows trailers behind it whose sole purpose seems to be to detonate the mines. A similar Husky system has a recovery vehicle that collects the destroyed trailers.
As far as these things go, I'm all for them. We owe it to our soldiers in Afghanistan to get them the very best, the very safest vehicles that we can lay our hands on.
What bothers me about these vehicles is that they reveal the dilemma of trying to fight a counterinsurgency campaign with an inadequate number of troops. It leaves our soldiers so vulnerable outside their bases that they have to travel in great, lumbering convoys of enormous, strange-looking vehicles.
What's the message from this? It's that we don't control the territory we operate through and that the insurgents have enough control that they can place ever-larger, ever more lethal explosive devices to attack us. We don't control the territory because we can't occupy it because we don't have nearly enough soldiers.
Remember, the Taliban are waging a political war, a war for the "hearts and minds" of the peasants. We're giving them carrots (at least when we're not bombing them into oblivion) while the Taliban are beating them with sticks. When we can't keep the Taliban out of their villages, it's a simple decision who they'll be siding with.
The very things that protect us undermine the confidence the villagers place in us. They're already afraid and in our own way we're telling them we are too.