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Interview with a Canadian about our mission in A/Stan

October 4, 2009


First of two parts.

Note: This is not the individual being interviewed. It is a photo taken from Flickr.

Note: This is not the individual being interviewed.


Subject description: Soldier. Age: Mid 30’s.

Rank and name of unit: redacted. Assignment in Afghanistan: redacted

Direct contact? Not allowed. Third Party name: redacted

Number of tours served: redacted. Length of tour: 6 months (ave)

Authorization : Soldiers are given media cards with talking points, adherence to which is expected.


Question: Have you served in other locations with Canadian military? Redacted

Question: How many tours have your served in Afghanistan? Redacted.

Question: What’s going on in Afghanistan, from a soldier’s point of view?

Response: any interaction with locals is limited and ineffective because of a “culture” of aggression in conducting a war mission. This is a war theatre.

Question: What can you tell me?

Response: We all feel differently now. We are in a lot more danger. Rockets come through the wire into our mess hall. The number of Americans, their increase, means a lot more aggression. More IED attacks. We always know when the American are “in town” because, even if we can’t see them at first, we hear them; they drive-drive-shoot, drive-drive- shoot. This is the culture. We are here to “win hearts and minds” but when Afghans come to close to the vehicles they get shot. Lots of machismo. Many personnel are grunts, volunteer soldiers, fighting for money – that is, their work here is about doing a job, like any other employee and some are here for notions of glory. We are not peaceniks. That’s not our job. A simple example of not getting it right: Many Afghans can’t afford good eye-care/glasses, so elders will often not readily get out of way of armoured vehicles. I have to remind [redacted] not to shoot because the Afghans don’t have glasses. Rule: Ground, Grill, Guy.

Question: Can you explain further?

Response: You aim first at the ground, then the grill of a vehicle, then as last resort the person.

Question: How would you assess your unit’s performance?

Response: We are professionals and overall, well trained, well equipped. We don’t have issues re quality of equipment and we are well paid. For many of us, these are good jobs.

It might be accurate to say that some personnel have tried to “game” the system regarding recognition of activities outside the wire.

Question: Can you explain that more?

Response: There was a system in place where personnel could obtain badges if involved in combat and so some would deliberately seek incidents in danger zones.

Question: Can you elaborate?

Response: To get the badges, they instigate incidents. There used to be a system, a programme of giving out bronze, silver, gold badges, but it’s been done away with.

Question: Have you ever been in direct combat, have to had to use your weapon?

Response: No answer.

Question: Any information on SNC Lavalin and role of private contractors with Canadian military?

Response: Unknown.

To Be Continued.


An Afghanistan Sunday Reader.

New York Times: obtained: a 248 page history about a US firefight in eastern A/Stan (July 2008) gone wrong. Nine Americans killed. “Above all, the unit and its commanders had an increasingly tense and untrusting relationship with the Afghan people.”

New York Review of Books: The Afghanistan Impasse, Ahmed Rashid. This is a detailed examination of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan regarding location and prosecution of war against the Taliban.  (see Seeds of Terror, How Heroin is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda)

New Yorker:  (subscription only for full piece) 18 page article on US Special Representative to Afghanistan and “region.” Many references to Vietnam, both supported and debunked. Holbrooke has served every Democrat President since JFK.  Please contact me care of this blog post if you would like the full article.  Worth reading regarding to analogize or not -Vietnam/Afghanistan.

Tom Engelhardt – “A Military That Wants Its Way” – how to trap a President in a losing war – discusses the strength and reach of General David Petraeus and the “Iraq Generals” regarding not only US but NATO policy in A/Stan.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. nmboudin permalink*
    October 31, 2009 10:55 pm

    It is illuminating to hear from the grunts about happens on the ground. I have often heard of unarmed civilians getting shot by soldiers and wondered why they did not stop for checkpoints or get out of the way of military vehicles. The soldier’s explanation about lack of resources for eye care really makes me realize how that the source of my mystification has a lot to do with what I take for granted.

    Congratulations on a great interview. I look forward to part 2.

  2. October 6, 2009 7:15 pm

    If you read just one article on A/Stan today, let it be this file from McClatchy: An October patrol into a village(s) of the Arghandab Valley and yes it’s in province Kandahar, where our Canadian troops are and yes, this American patrol was accompanied by Afghan and Canadian troops.

  3. October 5, 2009 1:51 pm

    Update: Sunday’s Globe and Mail online – Gloria Galloway – reporting from Kandahar – for Monday’s print edition, files a story on the Afghan National Army. Included statement: ” Among Afghans, the ANA is one of the most respected public organizations.” I wonder at her sources? I urge Canadians following this war to read Ann Jones’ assessment of the Afghan National Army –

    “American and NATO officers often complain that Afghan army units are simply not ready to “operate independently,” but no one ever speaks to the simple question: Where are they?

    My educated guess is that such an army simply does not exist”


  1. Diversity and War: Canada, A/Stan and Vietnam « Canada’s World

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