Afghanistan in the news – update for Canadians
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.