Monday, February 12, 2007

Senate Gets It Right On Afghanistan

It's blunt, not particularly optimistic, but the Senate report on Afghanistan is pretty much accurate. The report embraces the "re-balance" so often vilified by the hawks in our government. If I read the report correctly it concludes we will ultimately fail on our current path, unless we become more assertive and pragmatic. This kind of thinking, sets a good tone:
Senate committee chair Colin Kenny said Canada should expect its allies to step up to the challenge. If that doesn't happen, he says Canada must “take another look” at its mission.

“We cannot stay there forever,” Mr. Kenny said. “The solution has to be in us helping the Afghans solve their problem, and our efforts have to be driven towards that.

Putting NATO on notice, that our commitment isn't open-ended, nor do we follow blindly. If Canada is on the frontlines, then Canada's voice must be heard. This logic applies to the Afghan government as well:
The report also pokes at the Afghan government, led by President Hamid Karzai, for the systemic corruption it says runs rampant through the country's institutions. It says the Karzai government should be pressed to develop a "comprehensive, transparent and effective plan" to reduce corruption as a condition of Canada's long-term commitment.

What I really like about the tone of this report, Canada will not be taken for granted, it will set conditions for our involvement. Too often, we have appeared relatively passive, merely following along, not wanting to step on any toes. This report is somewhat threatening, meet these demands or Canada isn't staying.

I also like the "re-balance" towards infastructure and development:
An 250 extra soldiers and another 50 Canadian police officers – up from 10 currently involved – to instruct the Afghan army and police, and a significant increase the $10-million budget for uniforms, benefits and salaries for Afghan police;

• CIDA to give $20-million from its budget to the Canadian Forces for local development projects run by Afghans until non-government organizations can safely function in Kandahar;

When you think about it, 10 people committed to training is pathetic by any measure. Ultimately, if we ever hope to leave Afghanistan, or at the least diminish our military role, it will coincide with the rise of domestic security. IMHO, we should be POURING money into the Afghan army and police force. This report addresses corruption, which gives some hope that any funding is effective.

This report is blunt, and it asks questions:
the report notes that Taliban fighters have "time and geography on their side.

"Are Canadians willing to commit themselves to decades of involvement in Afghanistan, which could cost hundreds of Canadian lives and billions of dollars ...?" it reads.

Just in case we are idealistic:
“Afghanistan is only remotely connected to the modern world,” it says. “Anyone expecting to see the emergence in Afghanistan within the next several decades of a recognizable modern democracy capable of delivering justice and amenities to its people is dreaming in Technicolor.

No guarantee of anything remotely resembling victory, that is the reality. I think Canadians can accept these sober conclusions, as opposed to the arguments of national pride and romantic language. The fact this report is supported by both Conservative and Liberal Senators should give it more credibility and allow this assessment to be the cornerstone moving forward. I see these declarations as a statement to the other players, don't take Canada for granted.


Monkey Loves to Fight said...

I fully agree with the report. I also think our government should learn just as they have to face the people who elected them, so do other governments and opposition to the war in Afghanistan is even higher in most European countries. In fact ironically enough one poll showed now even a majority of Americans opposed Afghanistan.

Anonymous said...

Who in the PMO blew it and let this report see the light of day? Whose head will be resting on Buckler's desk tomorrow? And don't tell me the PMO has no control over the doings of the Senate. This is no time for excuses. Someone has to pay.

But as to the bigger what if it costs billions and takes generations. What else have we got to do?

Anyway, I hear of a new plan to sentence convicts into the army and send them to fight in Afghanistan.

Thinking is, they'll fit right in there with all the crooks in the Afghan government and be so blitzed on the supply of hash and opium that they won't even notice they're dead. I'd say it was Stockboy's idea but he says he got it from it good and hard.

Steve V said...

This report was supported by Conservative Senators, their numbers irrelevant to approval. Besides, who cares, any comment on the conclusions?

Anonymous said...

Here are some excerpts from the text – with link to condensed and full texts

FROM: Excerpted: Senate Report on Afghanistan

Anyone expecting to see the emergence in Afghanistan within the next several decades of a recognizable modern democracy ... is dreaming in Technicolor.

Chris Alexander (former Ambassador to Afghanistan) said it would take 5 generations of effort to make a difference in Afghanistan.

Canadians need answers to the following five questions:
...... 1 - What precisely is Canada’s role in Afghanistan?
...... 2 - What will define success for Canada in Afghanistan?
...... 3 - What are the realistic chances of achieving that kind of success in Afghanistan?
...... 4 - What costs are Canadians willing to pay to achieve success? ($30M/month - exclusive of salaries.)
...... 5 - Is Canada’s mission to Afghanistan currently being deployed in a way that gives Canada the best chance of achieving success?

Our troops deserve more than patriotic bumper stickers. Our troops deserve thoughtful assessments from honest and impartial observers as to:
...... 1 - why Canada is in Afghanistan,
...... 2 - what we can expect to achieve there,
...... 3 - what we cannot expect to achieve there, and
...... 4 - how best to proceed to try to ensure that the benefits outweigh the costs.

If our only mission is to distract the Taliban while our allies make progress on other fronts ... this hasn’t been properly explained to Canadians.

The Committee was impressed by the optimism of Canadian troops and their leaders ... but ... we found it hard to square that with reality.

Where Canada is trying to have its biggest impact – in Kandahar – life is clearly more perilous because we are there.

CIDA has a number of projects underway, but no one was able to show us. Journalists say they have seen some evidence of useful programs, but these appear to be limited.

Canadian Privy Council: Vast majority of Afghanis struggle for the "bare essentials of survival"
-The bleak forecast of the heavily censored report is at odds with recent claims by other Canadian officials
-It says the vast majority of the population still struggles for the "bare essentials of survival," just as they did in the days of the Taliban