Mr. Dion hinted NATO could take action in Pakistan, which has a porous border with Afghanistan, if the Pakistani government doesn't move to track terrorists.
"We are going to have to discuss that very actively if they (the Pakistanis) are not able to deal with it on their own. We could consider that option with the NATO forces in order to help Pakistan help us pacify Afghanistan," said Mr. Dion in Quebec City, commenting after his two-day trip to Afghanistan last weekend. "As long as we don't solve the problem in Pakistan, I don't see how we can solve it in Afghanistan."
The Liberal leader explained that Afghan officials told him they know where the extremist strongholds are in Pakistan. But he said the Afghans don't take action.
"One day, we are going to have to act because our soldiers are cleaning out some areas, but in fact very often they are only clean in principle. The insurgents go take refuge in Pakistan and they are going to come back (to Afghanistan) at the earliest opportunity. This could last very long if we don't tackle the problems that often originate from Pakistan," Mr. Dion said.
I've argued previously that I would be open to Canadian forces moving towards the Pakistan border, in the next phase of our participation. Infiltration from Pakistan is clearly undermining any progress, leading to the "whack a mole" routine we see in the Kandahar region. Dion's latest comments endorse a combat role, or at the very least, acknowledge the need to secure a porous border. It is hard to interpret Dion as anything less than activist on this front, a stance that tends to distance itself from the "non combat role" argued previously.
Is this a reversal in position? Not necessarily, in the sense that it is consistent with the Liberal position that argues Canada needs to revise our role in Afghanistan. A mission that focuses on training the Afghan army, while simultaneously limiting the ability of foreigners to reek havoc in the country achieves the goal of security, without engaging in the present vicious cycle, which leads to nowhere. Dion seems to be focusing on the source here, which has far greater potential for success.
I see these latest Dion comments as an evolution, which recognizes the challenge in a pragmatic way. The trick, selling Canadians on what amounts to a combat component, albeit it entirely different from our current role.