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Afghanistan in the news – update for Canadians

February 9, 2009

Afghanistan continues to emerge as the lead foreign policy issue involving Canada and the U.S. and will be the most pressing of international commitments to be discussed in Ottawa with President Obama later this month. Here’s a round-up of noteworthy items from the last few days.

President Obama’s National Security Team dominated the North American news cycle on Sunday with State Department Special Envoy, Richard C Holbrooke, confirming what seems evident  – “Afghanistan will be much tougher than Iraq.” How much tougher: David Kilcullen, a Bush era adviser and counterinsurgency analyst claims the U.S. effort will take “10-15 years and $2 billion per month.” In 2008, Canadian Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, estimated 2002-2011 taxpayer costs in Afghanistan at $18.1 billion – about $1,500 for every Canadian household.

NATO allies not only occupy different areas in Afghanistan (Canadians/Kandahar; British/Helmand; Dutch/Uruzgan; Germans/Panjshir Valley) – they view “the situation” differently: the Germany doesn’t want to increase troops but that’s precisely what British Defense Secretary Hutton thinks is essential.

Last week, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates kicked off a flurry of wire reports when he declined to sign an afternoon order authorizing three brigades or about 17 thousand troops; his spokespeople denied the delay, stating that the “decision-making process is still on-going.” Indeed. A plethora of  reports are in the works from the who’s who in the U.S. when it comes to Afghanistan: from Gates to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Central Command’s Petraeus and President’s Obama civilian envoy, Richard Holbrooke.

President Karzai no longer enjoys “darling status” with the White House. Secretary of State Clinton dimissed his country as a “narco state.” He faces re-election on August 20th of this year. Reports suggest that U.S. troop efforts will be depolyed to secure “at all costs” a peaceful and secure run-up to this event. Canada will still be there. The U.S. will seek help from NATO allies of a non troop nature – special forces, government administration, and training police. Is this what Canadians will be helping with post 2011? What will that aid look like if the U.S “counterinsurgency program” is still facing difficulties? What will it cost Canadians? We need to keep paying attention.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. reneethewriter permalink
    February 12, 2009 2:21 pm

    update on Afghanistan – extensive Afghani national public opinion poll by ABC News/BBC/ARD German TV; see ABC News for extensive summaries about findings. Bottom Line: the U.S., NATO allies and Karzai gov’t “losing ground” in Afghanistan…R

  2. reneethewriter permalink
    February 11, 2009 7:33 pm

    update on Afghanistan from Time’s blog on current affairs:

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 10:32 am
    Today in Afghanistan
    Posted by Joe Klein | Comments (5) | Permalink | Trackbacks (0) | Email This

    It gets worse, as the Taliban pull off a mini-Mumbai at the Ministry of Justice in downtown Kabul, a day before Holbrooke arrives.

    On the other hand, Anne Applebaum makes a point I’ve been meaning to make here: the Afghan Army is surprisingly strong, made up of mixed-ethnic units (unlike the Iraqi Army)

  3. Stan Krasnoff permalink
    February 10, 2009 4:55 pm

    First, is it appropriate for the US to be reconsidering future military strategy in Afghanistan at this time? Here are some facts: Presidential elections are scheduled for Afghanistan in August 2009. Karzai would have a hard time getting 20% of the votes. The people blame the US and NATO for the increase in the power of the warlords. The United National Front (Northern Alliance), which is largely a coalition of the warlords and Islamist leaders based in the parliament, demand a change in the constitution to bring in a parliamentary system of government with political parties and elections by proportional representation. Spokesman for the Front, Sangcharaki, has called for an international meeting to settle the ongoing civil war in Afghanistan through the United Nations; the meeting to include all neighboring states as well as representation from Afghanistan’s political groups, including the armed opposition. The Bush administration, in the past, has opposed this. What is Obama’s position? Second, in view of the foregoing, military operations should be limited to search and destroy tasks to kill or capture bin Laden, el Qaeda, and those who protect el Qaeda. Keep away from ‘Americanizing’ attempts at nation building, failed examples of which are legion.

  4. reneethewriter permalink
    February 10, 2009 12:49 pm

    This just in today from CP via cbc online

    Extending Canada’s mission in Afghanistan beyond 2011 was not discussed at a meeting in Ottawa on Tuesday between top U.S. and Canadian military leaders.

    While Canadians have made a “huge difference” in the war on terror in Afghanistan, Adm. Mike Mullen, chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he and Canadian Gen. Walt Natynczyk, the chief of defence staff, did not discuss Canada’s scheduled withdrawal from the fighting.

    Natynczyk said he has had no indication the federal government has any notion to change the exit plan.

    They spoke to reporters at a joint news conference after their meeting.

    The fact that the two leaders did not talk about extending Canada’s role in Afghanistan appeared to surprise reporters given that President Barack Obama has called on NATO allies for a renewed commitment to fight the resurgent Taliban.

    However, Mullen said the U.S. was counting on Canada’s military support in Afghanistan over the next couple of years.

    Canadians and Americans are “living in very dangerous times” and that’s why the relationship between the two countries is more important than ever, Mullen said.

    Canadian troops have been fighting alongside Americans in Afghanistan for seven years, but they are scheduled to stop combat operations in February 2011.

    Mullen called Canada’s efforts in Afghanistan “extraordinary,” citing more than 100 combat deaths and hundreds of wounded, not without great cost.

    Meanwhile, at a Pentagon news conference Tuesday, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said he expects the government to make a decision in the next few days on how many additional troops to send to Afghanistan.

    Obama has been seen as very likely to approve a request from the top commander in Afghanistan for three more U.S. combat brigades numbering roughly 14,000 troops.
    © The Canadian Press, 2009
    The Canadian Press

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