After attending the funeral for another young Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan, Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley MP Bill Casey is beginning to feel it may be time to end an unwinnable mission.
Casey attended the funeral last Monday of Cpl. Thomas Hamilton in Upper Musquodoboit. The 26-year-old was killed on Dec. 13 when a roadside bomb destroyed his armoured vehicle.
His death represented the fifth fatality from Casey's riding and he's wondering if the price is becoming too high and if there is a clear direction for Canada's mission that's supposed to end in 2011.
"I just do not feel if we're paying the attention that we should to this issue and I'm not sure we're addressing the way we should," Casey said. "I think we should re-evaluate our mission all the time and if we come to the conclusion that it's not a winnable conflict then we should be coming home."
There's nothing worse than a "stay the course" mentality, which fails to constantly re-examine the situation. Whether it's a question of refocusing our main thrust in Afghanistan, moving away from missions which are largely futile, I don't know, but the lack of debate at the moment seems entirely inappropriate. Things are getting quite bad in Afghanistan, whatever your empirical measure, evidence exists to support failure. On that score, this graph details the yearly coalition casualty figures, and the trend line provides alarming support for a pragmatic view, despite the apparent timetable:
Opponents of the war will rightly point out, that all of these trends didn't begin after the recent extension. That is entirely true, but I was of the view that it was the emphasis of the mission that was flawed, not the spirit of the commitment. What I want to know now, are we having any success with re-construction and re-training, or are we still largely pre-occupied with the "whack a mole" routine? As I interpreted the latest extension, it was to bring a move away from the military and more towards helping Afghans take control of their own country. With the recent surge in Canadian deaths, we hear arguments that much of this is due to increased "engagement" with the enemy, a more "aggressive" approach. That reality doesn't seem to jive with a changing mission, in fact it seems like more of the same, that we've now heard for years.
I hope we start hearing more Bill Casey's ask some tough questions, because we largely seem to be on auto-pilot at the moment, the artificial deadline effectively stifling any subsequent debate. The situation is evolving, and if we're unable to move on our stated goals, then the question changes on the 2011 commitment. It all seems a bit too quiet, given the circumstances, that passivity worrisome.