Sunday, March 12, 2006

A Dangerous Sign in Afghanistan

Canadian troops returned today to the site of last week's axe attack in Afghanistan. I think it important to look at this one village as a microcosm of why our mission may ultimately fail. Canada had entered this phase with lofty goals, a combination of military objectives against insurgents, coupled with a outreach to Afghan tribes to gain trust and bring stability. The issue of trust is the key element, if Afghans come to view the Canadians as occupiers then the insurgency finds greater relevance and the resistance grows. Despite the Canadian military's best intentions, incidents like last week place a wedge between the forces and the people out of necessity:
Armoured columns of edgy Canadian troops rumbled Sunday into the town where an axe-wielding teenager nearly killed a Canadian soldier.

The soldiers first sealed off the mountain town, cutting off all exit routes and sending scouts high into the mountains to prevent the potential escape of any insurgents.

Along with the Afghan National army, the troops made a house-to-house search that yielded only two shotguns and ended with the brief interrogation of a suspect who was carrying Pakistani cash...

The show of force was a markedly different operation from the meeting a week ago when Capt. Trevor Greene sat down for a friendly gathering of townsmen...

The village elders were gathered together when Croucher told them their town was about to be searched inside-and-out.

"It was a little tense," said Capt. John Croucher, the platoon commander who led troops into the village.

"That's the second time I went to that village. I'll be honest, the
first time I went in there it was a laissez-faire attitude.
When I went back this time Trevor's incident was in the back of my mind. It was there, I was worried about my guys."

Is the military justified in conducting house to house raids, coupled with an intimidating show of force? No doubt it is under the circumstances, but the signal it sends is counter-productive and will only cultivate hostility. The villagers have essentially been violated by the foreign army, while the Canadians are suspicious of the villagers true allegiance. This distrust is inevitable, as shown in every military operation over history that attempts to suppress a homegrown insurgency. The problem is, despite the diplomatic overtures, your mission is too kill Afghans and that has consequences.

With each attack, Canadian troops will inevitably become more paranoid and suspicious of the people they are supposed to engage. With each search, detainment, firefight the people begin to turn on the "foreigners", in effect developing sympathy for the insurgency that didn't exist previously. Today's return to the same village is a minor development in the grand scheme. But, if you look at the changed dynamic in such short order, you are justified in wondering if this isn't a precursor of things to come.

2 comments:

lept said...

Absolutely.

Anonymous said...

It is all great to see the world through rose colour glasses. However, being there that day, I want you to know that our mission that day wasn't to violate anyone’s rights, nor was it to intimidate. Understand that this was not the first time this village was seen as a threat, why do you think we were there in the first place. The Officer that was “axed” was a CIMIC officer, there to assess the help they needed and start on a road of trust and mutual respect. Do you even know where it was? Or the demographic composition of the village? Or best yet, any clue of the intelligence collected over the past two years on that one single village. All I ask is that you take a step back and before you decide to take uneducated positions, understand that you probably don't have all the information you need to make it a knowledgeable one. We do what we do because we are Canadians. We do what we do because someone, who has the entire picture, decided that it was the best option at that time. You seem to be a highly educated person whom I’m sure would expect the same of someone else if the roles were reversed. I Can’t ask you to support out mission 100%, however I would like to ask that you support the men and women who continuously lay down there lives so you can have the opportunity to do what you do.

Happy Canada Day!