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Note to the Renewed Minority Government: “and about Afghanistan?”

October 15, 2008

Canadians continue to show interest and support for the proposition that our country should be involved with and intervening in foreign countries “in trouble” – a longstanding and honourable Canadian tradition. And no countries in this world spell trouble today more than Afghanistan and Pakistan.

What then to make of the deterioration in the civil structures and military situations of both countries? Hopefully, those of us who espouse both “democracy and peace building” and it seems continuing “military intervention” are also reading up on what we can find regarding the expected National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) from the United States, public accountings of which are due this November. The NY Times, The Nation, and McClatchy news services have begun tracking the release of the NIE, probably the most thorough situational analysis of “what’s going on” in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Unfortunately, Canadian news sources have not been as diligent in parsing through American wire reports nor as entrepreneurial in sourcing contacts who will talk about what is always stamped “Top Secret.”

Landay and Walcott for McClatchy are ones to watch if you’ve an interest in assessing the latest “bad news” when it comes to a key location with direct relevance to Canada’s role in nation building and military intervention in Afghanistan: the Federally Administered Tribal Area bordering that country. And the verdict? Things are really bad. The Insurgency appears to be worsening and more disturbing, Pakistan is now described as a country with “no money, no energy and no government” despite the misplaced regard some Canadian commentators gave to the new civilian coalition government of Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani.

Have we yet seen any of Canada’s leading newspapers convincingly link the situation in Pakistan with that of Afghanistan? That they are connected is alarmingly evident in today’s McClatchy release. That The Nation’s Dreyfuss Report (“unconventional wisdom since 1865” and all that) would cite Tony Cordesman – “a principled, hard line conservative” at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, who, in a new report, predicts a Thirty Years War in Afghanistan, is worthy of attention. But that the McClatchy wire services (well, Bill Moyers seems to read them too) would follow up with more of the same should make every informed Canadian sit up, get reading, and start asking its new Tory government some follow-up questions.

U.S. Army General Petraeus, who is “about to take command of all U.S. forces in the region”(McClatchy) has requested the classified NIE report(s) which will be the most comprehensive American assessment in years on Afghanistan. Will Canada’s foreign minister – and woe betide us the carrier of that portfolio in several past iterations – ask to see a copy of the U.S. NIE and will he/she report out to the Canadian public?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. reneethewriter permalink
    October 30, 2008 11:39 pm

    Several readers have asked for some updates on the situation in Afghanistan. I’m not expert…thanks for your interest. Please post in comments as appropriate.

    Tonight, i found this on Andrew Sullivan’s blog at the Atlantic:
    30 Oct 2008 08:46 pm
    Face Of The Day

    Afghanelderjohnmooregetty

    An Afghan elder from the Korengal Valley speaks during a meeting with U.S. and Afghan military officials October 30, 2008 at the Korengal Outpost in eastern Afghanistan. U.S. and Afghan officers tried to convince the elders to accept a new paved road through the Korengal Valley as part of a large American development project. The elders refused the road, however, saying that they would prohibit anyone in their valley from working on the project. The Taliban is very popular in the Korengal Valley and most of the elders have strong family ties to local Taliban fighters, who oppose the American presence in their area. By John Moore/Getty.

  2. Adrian permalink
    October 17, 2008 11:11 am

    Next year, will be the thirtieth anniversary of the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. When you think of all of the war there just in the last 30 years, the prospect of 30 years more is hard to get my head around.

  3. reneethewriter permalink
    October 17, 2008 10:10 am

    A German view on Afghanistan – Ms.Koelbl files for Der Spiegel http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,druck-584616,00.html

    and cites, again, the upcoming NIE; as well, a description of our position, which we know, but interesting, and heartbreaking to hear it from Europe:

    “The Dutch have announced their intention to withdraw…in 2010. The Canadians, who are holding the fort in Kandahar, where they have suffered heavy losses, plan to follow suit a year later. The British in neighboring Helmand Province are incensed because positions and funds are awarded primarily in Karzai loyalists.”

    That’s our people: holding the fort, suffering heavy losses.

  4. reneethewriter permalink
    October 16, 2008 5:50 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Esteve.
    An update: from today’s Slate, http://www.slate.com/id/2202455/ citing another WashPo story:
    “The week’s second telling event, also reported in today’s Post, is that Gen. David Petraeus has launched his long-awaited reassessment of U.S. strategy in the Middle East and South Asia, viewing the war in Afghanistan as one part of a broader, regional approach. (On Oct. 31, Petraeus is scheduled to take over U.S. Central Command, which entails all American troops in those areas.)

    The strategic review, which involves more than 100 advisers working in six task forces, will focus on two issues in particular, the Post reports: reconciliation of moderate Taliban insurgents with the Afghan government (or at least with the fight against al-Qaida) and diplomatic initiatives with neighboring countries toward the ultimate goal of weakening jihadist forces in Pakistan.

    One of the scholars whom Petraeus has consulted at some length in his review is Ahmed Rashid, the brilliant Pakistani journalist and author of Taliban and Descent Into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, which are widely regarded as the best books on the subject.

    In the current issue of Foreign Affairs (not yet online), Rashid and Barnett Rubin, a professor at New York University and another prominent specialist on the region, write that the crises in Afghanistan and Pakistan can be resolved only through a “grand bargain,” which offers political inclusion to as many reconcilable Taliban insurgents as possible—in exchange for their cooperation against al-Qaida—and diplomatic initiatives designed to stabilize Afghanistan and address the legitimate sources of Pakistan’s insecurity. These initiatives, the authors emphasize, must be taken in cooperation with China and Saudi Arabia—heavy investors in Pakistan—and with a contract group to be formed by the U.N. Security Council.”

    Again, what will Canada’s role be in terms of this information?

  5. Esteve permalink
    October 16, 2008 9:27 am

    Interesting and scary read R. Thanks for the websites … valuable sources of info in the world of information overload!

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