Sunday, April 08, 2007

Did Karzai Speak With Canadian Killers?

Provocative title, completely fair question, given the recent admissions. I support a Canadian presence in Afghanistan, I support a limited military component. What I find particularly disturbing about today, Canadian forces out on a "offensive" operation to push back the Taliban, while the Afghan government holds talks with said enemy:
"Afghan Taliban are always welcome, they belong to this country. ... They are the sons of this soil," Karzai said. "As they repent, as they regret, as they want to come back to their own country, they are welcome."

What is the point of our mission, if the government of Afghanistan effectively undermines our intentions of "ridding" the land of Taliban fighters? Offering amnesty, while we simultaneously act in an offensive manner. It would seem the two strategies have no logical consistency. Are we negotiating or eradicating, and if we are negotiating, then why are we putting our troops at risk only to offer a later potential "repent"?

It's not just Karzai, other NATO countries are pushing the negotiation angle:
Senior German officials, including Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, have asked Berlin to host an Afghan peace conference where Taliban moderates could discuss terms with the Kabul authorities.

Kurt Beck, who is leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition partner, first made the proposal during his visit to Afghanistan. Beck told reporters about his proposal after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

Canadian troops are part of the vanguard trying to hold territory in Taliban strongholds. Canadians are dying because of the actions of insurgents, yet the home government is reaching out to those same people. Is it just me, or does this make little sense, and suggest today's toll may ultimately prove senseless?


I guess I'm not the only one asking the question.


janfromthebruce said...

If you look at the end of the 2nd world war, as surrender negotiations were going on, killing and destruction and death was still going on.
It is the stupidity of it all.
Karzai realizes that with wider support among the Afghan people for the Taliban, and knowing that foreign troops are not going to be around for ever, or for that fact, after another couple of years, seeing what is happening in Iraq, seeing what is happening to his nation, and probably what will happen to him if he doesn't deal, well it makes perfect sense.
Of course, it made sense when Jack layton said it, but he was ahead of the curve.

Steve V said...

And, if you're negotiating, and you're the one initiating, it is a concession that you can't win militarily. If the Afghan government has come to that conclusion, the same man that Harper brought to parliament as a courageous hero, then why aren't we having a real debate here? The mere mention of endgame brings cries of anti-patriotic and not supporting the troops, which is intellectually dishonest, given what is happening on the ground.

knb said...

Steve, the cries are only coming from the disingenuous or the ill informed.

Those who have been following will note that how precarious and perhaps futile our mission is.

If Karzai see's fit to promote these talks, we, NATO, had better figure out our role.

The military have said we cannot win militarily...

Steve V said...

Today, from QP:

"NATO has a very important roll in stabilizing Afghanistan, but I believe chasing the Taliban around the rural areas, which is what we are doing a great deal of at the moment, is probably a mistake," Rory Stewart, an expert on Afghanistan, told CTV's Question Period on Sunday from Washington.

"We are creating unnecessary enemies and we are confronting people who are not necessarily a threat to us."

Stewart, a former military officer, diplomat and author, walked across Afghanistan in 2002. He believes Canadian forces have stretched themselves too far and Afghan police and military have neither the capacity nor the will to take back their country.

"I would prefer us to concentrate on the central north of the country where the people are much more well disposed towards us, where there is much more that we can achieve."

At this point, I think "our" policy is basically following the Americans plans. Speaking of NATO, as a collective, is increasingly a bad joke and too often used to disguise Canada's responsibility. Unfortunately, it takes incidents like today to re-generate any debate. Harper just uses Bushisms and romantic rhetoric whenever anyone asks a serious question. Our government needs to reconcile the mixed messages and demonstrate that our participation is actually Canadian in origin, rather than following Washington's lead. All of these offensive operations reek of the neo-conservative mentality, are we just along for the ride?

Alison said...

I don't understand your outrage, Steve.
Karzai is himself ex-Taliban; members of his cabinet and civil service are Taliban; ordinary Afghanis unable to feed their families join the Taliban because they make as much in two weeks from the Taliban as they would in a year with the Afghan police.

The Taliban are integrated; they are not a separate people. Under what possible circumstances could Karzai not be speaking with the Taliban on a daily basis?

I'm taking it as a given here, Steve, that I don't have to defend my support for the Canadian troops or the mission as they understand it, despite my complete disagreement with what I see as a very poor use of them. I'm just at a loss to understand how you or Prairie Wrangler or Buckdog see it. I can only imagine we get our news from quite different sources and perhaps from your point of view I rely too heavily for mine on groups like RAWA and spokespeople like Afghani congresswoman Malalai Joya.

Read your very excellent blog nearly every day on vlwc. This is the first time I've disagreed strongly enough with your point of view to comment.

knb said...

I saw Rory Stewart speak today and have seen him a few times. Red Tory mentions Scott Taylor.

These are people who make sense of the nonsense IMO.

Rory looks at the complexity and Scott just takes it on. Both bring it home and it's time to make a choice, IMO.

I'm not sure where this sits with Dion, but I hope he stands where he has always been, that being a reassessment of our mission as often as is necessary.

To the trolls who are lurking, that is not a flip flop, that is intelligence.

knb said...

Alison: Karzai is himself ex-Taliban;

I'm not sure where you are coming from, so, I'd like some proof of the above comment, keeping in mind the difference between tribe and mission.

Steve V said...


Thanks for the comments.

"Karzai is himself ex-Taliban; members of his cabinet and civil service are Taliban; ordinary Afghanis unable to feed their families join the Taliban because they make as much in two weeks from the Taliban as they would in a year with the Afghan police.

The Taliban are integrated; they are not a separate people."

I read that as proof that we are fighting ghosts, when we say we want to "root out the Taliban", which is exactly the Hillier, O'Connor rhetoric. If the above is true, than who are we fighting here? Your statement demonstrates the blurred picture, and it also contrasts with the simplistic, us vs them, Harper viewpoint.

I'm asking the question, what is the endgame here, what is the purpose. Maybe a better strategy is forgetting about offensive operations, holding the areas we have now, increased focus on reconstruction in those areas, which undercuts the extremist argument. Canadian troops would be better served helping to man the Pakistan border to stem foreign infiltration, rather than trying to fight an enemy that simply vanishes in the face of conventional warfare

Much of the operations now rely on air support (the amount of ordiance dropped is increasing rapidly), as there is an adversion to direct conflict mostly due to casualty worries, which means more "collateral" damage, which translates to further alienation.

I advocate a massive infusion of money and training, by our forces, to make the police and army a viable domestic force. That is the only security solution in my mind, and while we have started to put some emphasis there, it is woefully inadequate, compared to the expenditure on purely military objectives.

I hope you decide to comment again, when we are in more agreement :)

Steve V said...


The trolls can't seem to differentiate between the word flip-flop and pragmatism.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing there to "win" anymore. In early '02, when all this began, capturing ObL and putting him before some kind of world body and so on might have been capable of being converted into a "victory" of some kind, even if pyrrhic, but that chance has been long squandered.

The reason Harper et al re-purposed the mission is to curry favour with Bush and keep their face among the rest of the north american conservative movement crowd. That's it.

They're throwing Canadian lives away for cheap political purposes.

Anonymous said...


"Speaking of NATO, as a collective, is increasingly a bad joke and too often used to disguise Canada's responsibility."

This is the problem, Harper has not been honest in getting the message out. In fact, I will argue that Dion needs to do the same. Dion may risk splitting caucus over Afghanistan. Looking back, his reservations make sense.

The British and the Dutch are also playing a major role in Afghanistan. Canadians need to be informed what is the collective role in this NATO mission. The "you are for us or against us" rhetoric that comes out of Washington is overblown and can be hazardous. Harper should know better to tie himself too close to a lame duck discourse based in Washington that is not convincing anyone. If not, than he must be politically bankrupt.

Scruffydan said...

Can we rid the land of Taliban fighters?

Taliban are not the ‘bad guys‘ fighting against regular Afghans, but rather the Taliban ARE regular Afghans. If this is the case then there is no hope of winning this war by military means and dialogue will be essential to end the violence.

Anonymous said...

This war is unwinnable.. the terrain and the nature of the people makes all impossible .
2500 Canadian troops is not more then a pepper spray Over that particular terrain . and war with arms against the special culture and the way of life is not the solution ..Even Karzais' Government is just a shade of the Islamic Rule.. Canadians never can make real changes ...not with war anyway..
As Iraq is doomed so is Afghanistan..

I know there are more troops from NATO and the USA but where are they?? What are they doing?? I Think they all know what I just said ..
It is a terrible waste ..

As long as you Can’t tell who is Taliban and who is Afgan what are they fighting against?????

marta from Vancouver

Aaron said...

"Taliban are not the ‘bad guys‘ fighting against regular Afghans, but rather the Taliban ARE regular Afghans." Scruffydan

I agree in a way with Scruffydan except that I would add that the Taliban are not exactly the 'good guys' either. If a Taliban were to run for office in Canada, we would all be outraged. They are misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, you name it.

But in order to deal with the situation realistically, we need to get over this blinding sense of moral superiority. Despite the rhetoric it was never possible to defeat the Taliban. They are too integrated into their local culture. It would be like trying to cut out Presbyterians from Canada. Presbetyrians have too many adherants and sympathizers and considerable legitimacy.

The Taliban restored peace temoporarily to Afghanistan, a war torn nation. They are a credible opposition to a corrupt and weak government. It makes more sense to co-opt the Taliban than antagonize them. Canadian and other foreign troops at best will be able to guarantee that process is not derailed by a military coup. That's it.

Establishing a mini-Canada with all our values in that part of the world never was a serious option.