Okay folks, here's the deal. Al Qaeda just crashed jetliners into two office towers and the Pentagon. They killed about three thousand people. The organization and its leaders are holed up in Afghanistan under the protection of the ruling extremists, the Taliban. So, here's what we're going to do.
We're going to drive the Taliban and al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan and into neighbouring Pakistan where they'll hide out in the rugged hill country under the protection of the Pakistani military.
Once they're gone, we're going to create a parliament and fill it mainly with the most corrupt and brutal warlords that we haven't driven out. These warlords will tell their people how to vote, they'll
Any country, even Afghanistan, needs money so we'll let them go back to their traditional folk industries - narcotics. We wouldn't be surprised if they can't turn their country into the world's largest opium producer in no time flat.
We want to restore a lot of old Afghan traditions that had been suppressed under those ruthless Talibs - a government run on bribes, police corruption, a fixed judiciary and, every warlord's favourite, open season on little boys' bums.
Now we're not saying we'll actually defeat al Qaeda or the Taliban. Truth is, we're really not even gonna try. Do you have any idea just how many soldiers that would take? We'll never have even half enough soldiers for that job. So, instead, we'll budget - oh, let's say ten years roughly - during which we'll bomb and shell the hell out of the countryside whenever we think we spot the bad guys. When we do find'em, we'll drive them from Point A to Point B and then declare Point A a total victory - until they drift back in a couple of months. In the meantime we'll send our soldiers out trolling for improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers.
Then, after about ten years, you voters at home will have had enough of high-tech "Whack-a-Mole " and will just want everybody brought home. Then we'll simply hand the keys back to the guys in Kabul and they can get on with their unresolved civil war.
So, what'ya think? Sound like a plan? Good, we'll get back to you in 2011.
You see, if they had laid it all out just like that, then today these supposed leaders could actually claim victory as we pull our forces out of Afghanistan. But, then again, if they had laid it out like that, we would have had their political heads for sending our soldiers into harm's way for nothing.
The fact is, that wasn't why any Western nation sent forces to Afghanistan. Except for the Americans, the rest of us went there for one purpose that fairly quickly morphed into another and then another yet, each bigger than the previous mission.
At first we went in to safeguard Kabul while the government found its footing. Fair enough. Then Bush/Cheney got fixated on Iraq and it all went to hell. Paul Martin authorized Phase Two and it's extremely important to understand what he actually approved.
Bush went to Iraq believing he'd be in and out of that place in a matter of months. He'd take a big hunk of his Afghan force to Iraq. We were to take on a direct combat role to fill in until all those American soldiers came back. We were babysitting Kandahar and they promised to be back right after the show.
How do I know we were only babysitting? That's obvious. It's plain as day from the miniscule force we sent to Kandahar province. 2,500 soldiers out of which we could muster a combat group of about 1,000. A mere thousand fighting troops for Kandahar province which, given its size And population, required a force of somewhere between 15,000 to 25,000 combat troops.
Now safely retired General Rick Hillier assured the Canadian people that our fighting force was going to Kandahar to "kill scumbags" that he told us were just "a few dozen" in numbers. What happened next confirms what I said about babysitting.
After we were stuck in Kandahar the Talib force swelled from Hillier's "few dozen" into several thousand. Now, if Canada was there to defeat those thousands of Talibs don't you think we would have reinforced our battle group accordingly? But beyond adding a few hundred soldiers to the roster and deploying tanks, our force remained fairly static.
But in Martin's plan this didn't matter much. We were there on a limited commitment. When that was up, the Americans were supposed to come back in and take over. We would punch our timecards and go home. But then we got a change in management.
Under Cowboy Steve Harper, Canada sure wasn't going to cut'n run. No siree. We were there for the duration. We were going to bring democracy and human rights and every other kind of good stuff to Afghanistan and we were going to destroy the Taliban, mop the floor with them. To show that we at home meant business, we were going to wear red shirts on Thursdays and slap those magnetic ribbons on the trunk lids of our cars too.
And that's where it all fell apart. Steve, being the ideologically-bound incompetent that he is (not to mention the brightest man in the room), was more concerned with form than substance. He showboated a war in which Canadian soldiers lost life and limb. He went out of his way to extract every ounce of publicity possible.
As the battle turned into quagmire, Steve revealed how, to him, our war in Afghanistan was really a political football by appointing a gaggle of hacks including John Manley, Paul Tellier, Derek Burney, Jake Epp and this obviously warlike lady:
to opine on the future of Canada's role in Afghanistan. What did any of these types know of modern warfare? Nothing at all. Harper might as well have asked the opinions of five cab drivers at any Canadian airport. It was no surprise that this coven of political shills came back endorsing an extension of the Canadian mission but only if the Americans came up with an extra thousand troops.
We'll never know how Steve received his epiphany and came to realize he was chewing on a giant shit sandwich. We know when it happened. It occurred when Steve fell abruptly silent on the war, refusing as much as possible to let the word "Afghanistan" cross his lips. It was when the skulking coward stopped demeaning his critics' patriotism, when there was no more loud talk about "cut'n run."
So the last couple of years has just been biding our time, gradually winding the whole thing up and hoping no one will be looking too closely at just what we've left behind when we're gone from Afghanistan. If anything I'll bet Cowboy Steve is quietly grateful that we're getting out second, following the Dutch. It will distance him from what befalls Afghanistan in the next five or ten years.
Canada's troops have done a fine job in Afghanistan despite a lot of truly wretched failings by their political and military masters. What did they buy with all their lives and limbs sacrificed over there? The only honest answer is whatever you want to imagine they did. There are no great victories, no decisive outcomes. We had no Lundy's Lane or Crysler's Farm, no Paardeburg, no Vimy, no Falaise, no Kapyong, no battlefield edifice of any sort. Perhaps the only good thing in our adventure in Afghanistan is that our casualties were about the lightest we've ever known in warfare, a death toll that would have been a bad night for Canada's Bomber Command in WWII.
The failure doesn't lie at the feet of the troops. What Afghanistan has shown is that it scarcely matters how good your fighting soldiers are if they're not backed up with genuinely skilled, courageous and determined military and political leaders. This failure belongs entirely in Ottawa.