For many years I have argued that Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were betrayed by dismal political and military leadership in Ottawa and a mass media too inept to recognize the chronic failures at the top. According to the CBC's Brian Stewart, others, outside Canada, held the same opinions.
Increasingly, foreign military and diplomatic assessments of the war are appearing in print, and what is surfacing is not a comforting picture as far as Canada is concerned.
At the very least, one finds little support in these assessments for Ottawa's boast that the Kandahar campaign won Canada much-needed new military prestige throughout NATO, especially with key allies such as Britain and the U.S.
Rather, the impression given is of a Canadian military mission that was deeply out of its depth and politically too hesitant to ask for significant outside help.
In one book just out, Little America: The War within the War for Afghanistan by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a highly respected Washington Post writer, Canada's Kandahar mission is even branded as one of the worst NATO failures of the entire almost 10-year campaign.
The courage and resilience of Canada's soldiers are never questioned (not mentioned much either, but at least not disputed). But the view now is of an overly optimistic Canadian military and civilian leadership eagerly volunteering to manage what was arguably the most critical and dangerous province in the whole war — home to the Taliban and linchpin to the Afghan south — while notably lacking the resources necessary for the task.
...Chandrasekaran writes that when a U.S. reassessment team visited southern Afghanistan in 2009 its members were shocked by the disparity of Western forces on the ground.
Only 2,800 or so Canadian soldiers were tasked with holding on to the sprawling Kandahar province, while 9,000 British personnel were based in the smaller, far less strategically important province of Helmand, next door.
The hopelessness of the Canadian effort was made even more evident as most of our troops were involved in support and headquarters' roles inside the main camp, which left only 600-800 on most occasions to patrol hostile territory "outside the wire."
The U.S. team members were appalled to find the Canadians not even holding Kandahar city, the country's second largest, against growing Taliban infiltration.
...Gen. David Richards, now chief of the U.K. defence staff and the man who commanded all NATO/ISAF forces in southern Afghanistan in 2006-07, was apparently convinced Canada should never have been given the Kandahar mission in the first place.
...The general told [British correspondent Sandy] Gall he complained to his political masters that the British should take on Kandahar because Canadians "as we knew, would never have the resources and the manpower to do that as well as we thought it should be done."
Not a word of this should come as a surprise. Then again you wouldn't have discovered even a glimmer of it from reading the jingoistic crap spewed out by miserable scribes like Blatchford, DiManno and Matt Fisher. Nor would you have heard about it on the floor of the House of Commons where even cowed opposition ranks stood mute for the last five years while this travesty played out in Kandahar province.
We sent about a thousand fighting soldiers (600-800 in Stewart's assessment) to do a job that required somewhere between 15 to 25,000. Our fighting soldiers did all anyone could expect of such a miniscule force. This fiasco is the work of their superiors - a woefully incompetent, disingenuous prime minister and his cabinet and a gaggle of swaggering uniformed bureaucrats who found themselves at the top ranks of our armed forces, far beyond their meagre talents and abilities.