Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh makes a valid point:
"Many Afghans today don't think of us as liberators. Something has gone wrong and that's why we need to reassess the focus of that mission. If we were winning the hearts and minds of more of the Afghani people, certainly there would be less casualties. There's no question in my mind," he said...
"This has become almost totally a combat mission. And that was not the intention," Mr. Dosanjh said. "We need to sit down with our NATO allies and refocus the mission."
That is the fundamental question, are we viewed as liberators or occupiers? The more "militarized" the mission, the greater the danger that we alienate the Afghan population. Does our current mission have the correct balance of re-construction goals and military aims? If the last few weeks are any indication, Canadian soldiers are primarily involved in conducting operations, rather than building diplomatic bridges. You don't win "hearts and minds" with gun turrets, a lesson on full display in Iraq.
Many people argue that the mission hasn't changed, this is exactly what the Liberal government signed on too. However, this assertion discounts how rapidly events have changed in the intermediatory. Military reports from all coalition countries have re-accessed the Taliban's strength- there is no question that the Taliban we face today has little resemblence to the resistance faced when the government agreed to participate. This deterioration demands a re-accessment, because the mission now tilts towards a simple military exercise, rather than a robust re-construction effort. What is the end-game in Afghanistan, or are we now in some quagmire that has no end? If we aren't making any progress, and this fact is now debatable, then an open-ended commitment seems like simple stubborness, that lacks the necessary pragmatism.
The Defence Department argues that we have the Taliban on the run, Hillier even uses words analogous to "last throes". The reality suggests otherwise, as we are now five years on and, if anything, conditions worsen. Again, the situation in Iraq provides further evidence that you can't defeat an insurgency, no matter how many offensives and operations. The only outcome seems to be further alienation of the people you are supposedly there to help, which is the nightmare scenario. I wonder if all the money spent on military operations isn't better allocated to true re-construction efforts? Unfortunately, all we are doing now is treading water.