Skip to content

Canada/Afghanistan: As Predicted, U.S. Asks us to Stay On

March 29, 2010
KUBUL, Afghanistan - Combined Security Transition Command ñ Afghanistan received a new commanding general at a change of command ceremony here July 16. Brig. Gen. Robert W. Cone took the reigns of command from Maj. Gen. Robert E. Durbin, becoming CSTC-Aís second commanding general. The Afghan National Army and Police were included in the ceremony showing the partnership between coalition forces and the Afghans at every level.

he Afghan National Army and Police ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan. CC image courtesy Flickr user 'MATEUS_27:24&25".

After a morning of reports from Moscow about the destruction and loss of life caused by two female suicide bombers, this afternoon brings two new headlines from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: a swipe at Canada’s Arctic Talks summit and a request that Canada reconsider its 2011 troop pull out from Afghanistan.

Madam Clinton’s request post-dates my prediction first made here in January of 2009. (colloquial translation: Told Ya!) The Globe and Mail, in both an editorial and an opinion piece, hastens to clarify the American request and defines Clinton’s “ask” as “low-risk”: the number bandied about is 600 soldiers to help continue to train the hapless Afghan National Army, an army riddled with systemic problems, not least of which is the malnutrition of its members. Perhaps a strong reason for a continued Canadian mission?

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Harper is quoted: “The military mission ends in 2011.” We shall see. The CBC website doesn’t yet have any information on Clinton’s request ( perhaps it was an exclusive?) But it will.

And any prediction that the CBC and the bankrupt but now saved Canwest Publishing corporation will fall into line with the Globe’s analysis will merely state the obvious. Canada’s role in Afghanistan reveals our family compact state of affairs – nine times out of ten, on matters of intervention-as-foreign policy, each of our main national news outlets will agree with the U.S. government position. In addition to predicting that some way, some how, the U.S. would ask us to stay in A-Stan beyond 2011, I have suggested that the U.S. dominated, NATO led effort in Afghanistan, is “Vietnam-like,” and have agreed with those who would see it as the “grave yard of empires.”  But the man behind The Dreyfuss Report, who first gave me insight in the “grave yard theory,” now predicts that “the war in Afghanistan will be pretty much over by July 2011.” (colloquial translation: yikes). Once again I urge Canadians to check out our blog roll as well as the links contained in posted articles.

Robert Dreyfuss bases his  “light at the end of the Afghan tunnel” claim on this: a delegation from the Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Islamic Party (Hezb-i Islami), a key ally of the Taliban, meets this week in Kabul with President Karzai’s government. What you won’t read about in Canada’s mainstream news: Hekmatyar received aid from the Saudi’s and their on-again-off-again partners, the CIA, in the anti-USSR jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Another topic that must be read into any discussion on Canada’s role in that part of the world, but one that is usually left out of the equation. Dreyfuss cites the work of a fine reporter, Carlotta Gall, in claiming that a peace plan is afloat and sets out the terms of the agreement. There will be a jirga later this spring to discuss reconciliation. Dreyfuss also links to the Washington Post on the role of Pakistan, a country which realizes that “the end-game in Afghanistan is coming more quickly than it expected.”

I wonder what the Pakistani paper, Dawn, will make of this? I remain sceptical about any “good resolution coming quickly” but am much more persuaded by such news when it arrives from long standing beat reporters atAmerican liberal news sources such as those cited in Dreyfuss as well as Dexter Filkins (NYT) and Jonathan Landay at McClatchy news – the latter scorned by right-wing bloggers, I might add and feel compelled to mention.

I also receive a daily “AfPak briefing” sponsored by the New American Foundation  and the journal, Foreign Policy, and encourage all bloggers with an interest in foreign policy to do the same. And there is always Robert Fisk, whose columns, when set alongside foreign policy columns found in the Globe and Mail, often recall a dust-jacket blurb read on a book, I no longer remember the source, comparing the British chef Jamie Oliver to the American gad-about-cook, Anthony Bourdain: makes Oliver look like the choir boy he is. What will readers of this blog make of the latest Canada-U.S. -Afghanistan news? Where do you go to get information on Canada’s role in the world?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. reneethewriter permalink
    March 31, 2010 3:49 pm

    Thank you, everyone, for your comments – much appreciated. It would be great to collect even more CDN links about Canada-Afghanistan. Here’s a snippet from the AfPak Channel ( see above article for details) – today’s top story and yes, again it’s sourced from the U.S. Thought it interesting re Kandahar, where we’ve invested so much.

    Summer of violence ahead

    The NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan will reportedly begin major operations in Kandahar, the southern Afghan province that was once the seat of the Taliban’s government, this June, with the aim of completing the “clearing phase” of the offensive by August for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan (BBC, AP, Fox, Reuters, USAT). The Journal looks at the context around the Kandahar offensive, writing that the Afghan government has been “so weak, predatory, and corrupt that more and more Kandaharis have come to view the Taliban as a lesser evil” (WSJ

  2. Juan T. permalink
    March 31, 2010 9:35 am

    Another source you might want to check out is a Canadian “milblog” called The Torch ( I’ll willing to bet that most of the commentators here would be at a variance with its positions, but I’ve always found it to be very well informed about everything to do with Canadian military affairs.

  3. Tim Gallagher permalink
    March 30, 2010 4:36 pm

    Very good article; I recall your prediction and am not surprised by what has happened.


  4. March 30, 2010 9:38 am

    I haven’t had a chance to follow all of the red posts in your blog so my response will be somewhat more parochial than your globally inspired piece. Like you, I’m not surprised that the US is asking us to keep troops in Afghanistan and I think David Bercuson’s piece in the Globe last week made it clear that the ask would be for troops to remain to train the army. When Canada discussed a troop pullout, I never considered it would mean a withdrawal of all of our military capacities. Who would remain to protect our development efforts? (I’ve already been evacuated by German militia in Afghanistan and I can tell you it wasn’t a pretty sight – I would have opted for Canadians any day). I still fear the blood bath once troops leave Afghanistan – a blood bath that will be directed at women and any individuals who worked with western organizations. I still feel like we haven’t got a clear road map for what we are doing in Afghanistan and how our efforts in 2011 are going to serve our original intent in the country. (and I would disagree with your parallel to Vietnam). I know that this is complicated, very complicated, but the black and white “troops out” rhetoric doesn’t work for me either. Somewhere we need an informed dialogue – and your piece helps point us in the direction of some new information…but I wish some of those red words would point us in the direction of a Canadian position.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: