Friday, October 13, 2006

Kennedy Sets Possible Withdrawal Date

During last week's debate, Kennedy made a comment on Afghanistan that has gone largely unnoticed:
“We need the commitment of the whole international community. If not, we should leave in an orderly fashion after February 2007 with our heads held high as a country that's provided the only other possibility -- short term security need -- on a par with any other in the world.

Kennedy has repeatedly said, if the mission isn't altered, then Canada should withdrawal, but it was always stated in an ambigious fashion. I contacted the campaign to clarify this mention of an actual date. The response pointed out that February 2007 was chosen because American four-star general, Army Gen. Dan K. McNeil will take charge of both U.S. and NATO forces. This date would allow a smooth transition, if Canada chose to change it's commitment.

Kennedy's comments are essentially leverage, in that Canada should use its prominent role to force its own agenda of what is needed to succeed. Afghanistan is a NATO mission, but our disportionionate contribution allows for some Canadian dictation. I think Kennedy's stance operates from a position of strength, demonstrates leadership and a commitment that the mission accurately reflect what Canadians want. I don't care what some NATO nations think, especially those that sit in cozy bases in the north, while our troops die on the frontlines. This is a Canada first proposition, which I fully endorse.

There is a threat within the rhetoric, but pressure is the only way to alter a failing path. Canada isn't along from some joint ride and our contribution isn't open-ended or without demands. Some will argue that Kennedy is simply offering a "cut and run" option, but I think that view fails to listen closely. The military community now agrees that progress is elusive and efforts to quell the Taliban have largely failed, in fact resistence is stronger now that at any time since the overthrow. Kennedy simply embracing this verdict, and demands change or Canada won't attach itself to the guaranteed quagmire. If you admit it's broken, but continue on, how is that supporting the troops or intellectually honest. I see Kennedy's view as an effort to find something that works, and one that isn't afraid to assert Canadian opinion through arm-twisting and threatening language. We are leading on the battlefield, why not lead on what the goals should be?


Olaf said...


That's an interesting way to frame the comments, as "leverage". However, I guess that my thoughts would be that if this leverage didn't produce the intended effect, Kennedy would be forced to pull troops out, in, as you said, a "Canada first proposition".

That's exactly what it would be. But is 'Canada first' a sufficient reason to renege on any commitment to Afghani's? What if everyone in the international community took a "their country first" perspective on international efforts? Is this a dangerous path to go down?

Steve V said...


Not if you accept the premise that were are engaged in a quagmire. Even hawks like Republican Senator Frist are now acknowledging the failures in Afghanistan. This isn't a new mission, it's five years on, with troubling trend lines. If you access that we are merely spinning our wheels under the present planning, then it is morally dishonest to continue while people die. There has to be some justification, simply calling people "heros" isn't enough. Are we making progress? Are we winning the confidence of the population? Will we be able to supress the Taliban? If the answer is no to those questions, how can leadership rationalize continuing on a path of failure. What if we did pull our troops back and instead invested all the expenditure (and maybe more) into the Afghan security forces and the people themselves. The Taliban might still exist, but they do now anyways, and just maybe the people would be less receptive to their cause.

Olaf said...

Even hawks like Republican Senator Frist are now acknowledging the failures in Afghanistan.

Everyone recognizes what Frist recognizes. But that doesn't mean that we aren't doing some good. I mean, like I've been saying all along (we seem to go in circles on this) if, at the very least, we are keeping the Taliban occupied in the south, this is great for the majority of Afghani's. Sure, put way more into reconstruction and development in those areas not currently marred by the insurection.

Start everywhere but the south, but keep the troops in the south, so that governments and NGOs and the Afghan government can build up the infrastructure and civil society that could then be spread south.

I don't see that as "spinning our wheels", I see it as holding off the Taliban from taking over the entire country again, thus allowing for progress in those areas where the Taliban can't be, because of NATO troops.

But, as I said, we always come back to the same points - and for some reason, I never grow tired. Go figure. Anyways, I love it here, you always say something completely reasonable, but controversial enough for comments.

Steve V said...


If everyone always agreed it would be pretty boring :) I appreciate your insights.