Canada's role in Afghanistan is vague to the point of being blurry - and deliberately so.
Are we there to see this war through or are we there for just a couple of years? Who knows? That's a really fundamental question but the answer is that no one knows. How the hell do you get into a war without a clear understanding on that point?
Are we trying to fight a war on the installment plan? Is this all going to be decided during another sham debate in 2009? Have we got some other nation lined up to take over Kandahar province if we leave in 2009 or are we effectively stuck there without either adequate resources or clear committment? Do we now "own" this damn war?
With Hillier and Harper in command we're drifting along in a rudderless ship. On behalf of his soldiers who are over there risking their lives, Hillier ought to be demanding answers to all of these questions and more. Asking politicians to make fundamental decisions that he needs taken falls well short of the line of crossing over into the political sphere. Generals are supposed to ask their civilian masters for orders and direction and answers when they need them.
Because no decision has been taken to actually leave in 2009 our chances of being over there indefinitely grow as each month passes. Our military is already stretched thin and we're rotating our soldiers through combat assignments in Afghanistan and elsewhere far too often. If we're in Afghanistan indefinitely, we're going to need to expand our army - now. As I understand it, that's not going very well at the moment.
Is Afghanistan going to become our all-consuming obsession? Are we going to turn our back to the world in places where our soldiers could actually do more good? If not, how many more soldiers are we going to need, how are we going to recruit them and how are we going to fund all that?
There's already discussion of a major draw on Canada's military for the 2010 Olympic games in BC. How do we handle that committment and keep the Afghan mission going?
Most importantly, what is our exit strategy for Afghanistan? We've had the likes of Lewis MacKenzie aping George Bush to proclaim that "as they stand up, we'll stand down" but how long are we willing to wait for the Afghans to stand up so we can leave?
We seem to be running this war on cruise control and maybe it's time that changed.
It is worth reading the Senate report on this. (Links to original)
Four pg condensation:
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