Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Klueless - From Kabul to Kandahar

I think our politicians have figured out that, when it comes to dirty little wars like Afghanistan, it's a losing proposition unless you win over there and at home. As far as Afghanistan and Canada are concerned, the Afghan war will be decided by the Afghan people over there and the Canadian people over here.

While Canadians are still roughly divided over the mission to Afghanistan, the pro-war side will likely go through some spasmodic changes when that war falls apart and they finally must confront what we really bought with our soldiers' lives and our treasure. At that point the pro-war, yellow ribbon car magnet crowd will do what they always do in such circumstances - they'll start pointing fingers and blaming the whole mess on convenient scapegoats.

Afghanistan has been political poison for every Canadian politician who touched it and it's only going to get increasingly toxic. Harper knows that and so, apparently, does Iggy. Both are looking across the room at the fire escape labelled 2011, wondering how they'll ever get through that to safety.

I'm sure that Paul Martin rues the day he was taken in by the Big Cod and backed Canada into an ugly mess in Kandahar.

I'll bet Stephane Dion regrets that he didn't honour his promise to force Harper to pull our soldiers out in 2009 as scheduled, an election issue he might just have won on, if not in 2007 then certainly today.

I'm pretty sure that Stephen Harper wishes he was getting the Kandahar millstone off his neck this year. As it is, he's got only about a year and a half to figure out how he can keep Canadian troops in Afghanistan in something other than a combat role, a task that the best alchemist would find daunting.

And public opinion for this colossal blunder isn't going to get any better anytime soon. Almost every day there is news out of Afghanistan of how our fortunes are dwindling while the insurgency's are steadily rising. Which brings me to today's offerings.

First up is Canada's ambassador to Afghanistan, Ron Hoffman. This guy dropped the bombshell that the international community underestimated how hard it would be to get Afghanistan back on its feet. Hoffman added that there's now 'a sense of urgency' to come up with some tangible signs of progress and that the Afghan people are disappointed with the results of international intervention. Well, duh. Thanks for that Ron.

And then there's Soraya Sobhrang of A'Stan's human rights commission. Speaking by tele-link to the House of Commons special committee on A'Stan, Sobhrang warned, "We are going back to [something] like the Taliban situation in Afghanistan.” That's right, the good guys, our guys, are going back to their old ways which really weren't much different from the Taliban's anyway. From CBC News:

Ms. Sobhrang said the mood of people she has talked to in Kandahar province is growing bleak.

“Really now [there is] no security in Kandahar,” Ms. Sobhrang said.

“They [people] are losing their hope for the future … their future is looking very, very dark,” she said.

“This is very, very dangerous for a population when they lose their hope.”

Ms. Sobhrang noted that the Afghan supreme court is composed entirely of male judges and said her country's justice system doesn't “believe in women's rights.”

For instance, a woman who petitions a court for a divorce on the grounds of physical abuse is told to return to her husband. “They say you are a woman and you must go back [to your husband].”

And, folks, we don't have a clue how to turn this around. I think reality is finally setting in, including the reality that in this sort of war you don't get do-overs. Eight years actually means something in terms of invaluable time lost and opportunities squandered.

It's not just the Afghan people who see their foreign liberators as ineffectual, weak and unreliable. So does the incurably corrupt Afghan government and so does the increasingly bold, ever growing insurgency.

If I were Obama, I'd send every C-17 in my air force to Afghanistan and start shuttling Afghan recruits to a brand new, mega-base somewhere in Texas. I'd run those recruits through an intensive, three month training course at the end of which, I'd arm them, send them back and start processing the next batch.

I'd keep doing that until they had a properly trained, well-equipped army of, say 140,000, with leadership sufficiently competent to hold the Taliban at bay and, if the government didn't purge itself of corruption, stage a coup in Kabul. I'd do whatever it took to get that army trained, equipped and in the field within one year, tops. Then I'd get them all together for a nice farewell dinner, hand them the keys and say "see ya." Really, that's about as close to a good ending as anyone could hope for.

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