The Waiting Is Over. A New Vision For Canada's Role In Afghanistan
Terry Glavin injects some much-needed realism into analyzing the new Canadian commitment of 1,000 troops to the training of Afghanistan's security forces. Canada's new policy is an improvement over years of hinting at a near-total abandonment of the mission. But will it be enough? An excerpt from his latest essay:
Canadians should not be impressed to know that two of the four "key areas" of Canada's new mission still fall into the vaguely-defined "humanitarian assistance" and disingenuously-described "promoting regional diplomacy" categories. Anyone can chuck UN gruel bags from the back of a truck. "Regional diplomacy" is usually a euphemism for sinister triangulations between Riyadh, Islamabad and Tehran that threaten to sacrifice Afghan sovereignty on the altar of an Anglo-American exit-strategy. This is not good.
It is right and proper that Canada's first "key area" of post-2011 engagement refers to investments in education and health. But it is worrisome in the extreme that Canada's new 950-trainer contribution has been merely tacked on to what was first articulated as a priority for "advancing the rule of law and human rights." This is the thing that should be galvanizing our attention now. One purpose cannot be put at the expense of the other. It is not clear whether the "training role" will be funded at least partly by robbing Peter to pay Paul.
It is more than just a good thing that Canada's military will continue to put its broad shoulders to the wheel of building up the capacity, competence and professionalism of the Afghan National Security Forces. But we must not allow this to come at the cost of the covenant that has been written in the blood of so many Canadian soldiers already. This is the solemn covenant that binds Canada to the Afghan people. It is the heart of the whole bloody, grisly matter.
Let someone else distribute UN gruel bags. If Canada is to have a role in "regional diplomacy" it should be to ensure that Afghanistan's regional tormentors are kept at bay and that their Islamist-fascist proxies in Afghanistan are not empowered by any exit-strategy reconciliation deal. A post-2011 Canadian "legacy" must neither dishonour the Canadian dead nor betray the living Afghans we have beckoned out into the light after 30 years of barbarism and oppression.
The deal the Canadian government made with the Canadian people and the Afghan people was and remains the cause of peace, order, and good government, the mutual security of Afghans and Canadians, the emancipation of Afghan women and the defence of a sovereign Afghan republic. The sacrifice our soldiers and their families have made since 2005 was specifically intended to defend and to nourish the embryonic institutions of Afghan democracy. We must not take our eyes off that prize now - not for one minute.
That labour has only now begun. We should put our backs into it.