The tail wagging the Afghan

When the NDP established the withdrawal of Canadian troops from the Afghan theatre as official policy and proposed negotiating with Taliban rather then continue fighting a war ever-growing in cost and unpopularity, conservative voices in this country quickly blurted the usual battle cries of the war-committed hawk, Canadians don’t cut and run; Canada does not negotiate with terrorists; Canada will not go back on its word to our allies, or the Afghan people.

Today, even as election day nears, the NDP position has found an ally in US Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R!). The Senator said that the only way to ensure security in the southern region where Canadian troops are active is to “assimilate people who call themselves Taliban into a larger, more representative government.” In many instances these people who call themselves Taliban would not have in 2001. The Taliban has found new allies in tribesman once left to themselves and farmers fearing loss of their most viable source of income. The insurgency in Afghanistan begins to mirror the complexity of that in Iraq more and more each day this military option continues to fail.


It is time to be honest about the Afghan mission. If democracy is the goal, it is time to admit that democracy will never be won at the barrel of a gun. If global security is the goal, it is time to learn from the lessons taught in Iraq. In either case, the Afghan theatre is even more complex then the Iraq disaster in the making. It is more tribal than Iraq. It has a history of being unconquerable. It’s people have a history of rejecting false leaders propped by foreign governments as the stooges they are.

Much has been made of the balance between objectives defence, development, diplomacy. Emphasising the first knowing it is destined to fail seems like the tail wagging the dog. Isn’t it time to take a new approach?

~Manatee

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2 Comments

  1. Gnomes said,

    Wednesday, 4 October 2006 at 12:31 am

    I can’t say it’s a subject on which I feel entirely qualified to venture an opinion, other than to say that I lean more towards the side represented by the impassioned pleas of Afghan Ambassador Omar Samad, put in more blunt and humorous terms by the redoutable Rick Mercer.

  2. Manatee said,

    Wednesday, 4 October 2006 at 12:17 pm

    Let me try to respond to the words of the Ambassador. Obviously the situation is complex.

    “when it comes to addressing complex Afghan political dynamics and presenting new formulas, one should do so with a solid reading of Afghan history and an acute appreciation for the realities on the ground.”

    The reading of Afghan history I subscribe to questions the validity of an historical Afghan nation state. The boundary has been there, but the country is divided among tribal lines extending beyond the Afghan border. The history is that of loyalty, hardship, and ongoing blood feuds. There has been no history of the foundations of democracy, and these foundations are difficult to build. (See any number of sites for discussions on democracy building, and, dare I say, past discussions on this blog regarding the makings of democracy)
    Invaded twice by the Russians, thrice by the British, and once by the USSR, the Afghan territory has never fully been secured by foreign powers. The Soviet installation of Babrak Karmal was a major cause of mass migration into refugee camps across the Pakistani border where, under the influence of the ISI the seeds of the Taliban’s whabist rule were being sewn. I fear that the installation of another pro-foreign agenda government in Afghanistan will have similar results in this decade. I think evidence exists for this based on the changing makeup of the insurgency. Remember, the status quo post soviet rule, pre taliban rule was not democracy. It was anarcic civil war. The Taliban were the most backward government on the planet, but they did provide peace and security, conditions coalition forces and the new government have failed to provide in much of the territory.

    “Pulling out of Afghanistan, or abandoning the peace-building policies that ensure my country won’t return to its pre-9/11 failing-state status, is tantamount to capitulating to terrorist groups.”
    If parts of Afghanistan are ready for democracy, then focus on fostering democracy in these areas. Of course, given the history, I have my doubts that democracy is viable without a major redrawing of the map. Democracy doesn’t seem to be an option in the south.
    It is never too late to reexamine the root causes of international terrorism, is the military mission an encouragement or discouragement to terrorism? Obviously you know my opinion.

    “Simplifying the context by calling for peace talks between an elected government and heavily-armed gangs of militant school-burners, drug-runners and suicide-attackers will not resolve the immediate challenges in southern Afghanistan.”
    The Afghan government should look in the mirror. Warlords, and war criminals are already in the mix. Don’t most wars end with negotiaion?

    “Contrary to ill-founded views that this is the U.S. President’s war, and in spite of the fact that Afghans were resisting the terrorist regime alone before 9/11, the international community is constructively involved in Afghanistan at the request of the Afghan people, and under a United Nations mandate. There was no argument establishing the links between the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in 2001.”
    Is he trying to tell us that Afghanistan was invaded at the request of Afghans, not to remove a government harboring alQaeda in direct response to 911? Mullah Mohammed Omar promised protection for Osama. How is that for a link?

    Rick Mercer is funny.


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