Monday, February 11, 2008

On "Rotation"

The new Afghanistan buzzword, but what does it mean and does it show any relationship to reality? One thing that Afghanistan has taught Canada, NATO is simply not an equal share military organization. You can knock on doors for eternity, certain countries will not make commitments consistent with other nations. Forget the Germans, forget the Italians, just forget the idea that all parties see Afghanistan in the same way. This is the starting point for a honest discussion of rotation.

The idea that Canada is part of some rotation makes sense when you prescribe to the idea of mutual self-interest, a band of countries together for a common cause. Canada has done its part on the frontlines, now different member states can takeover, while we operate in the background implementing other necessary work. That position sounds entirely reasonable, and it does to speak to the idea of fairness. However, when the ideal meets the reality, the notion of rotation sounds like pure fantasy.

There are only a few countries that are committed to Afghanistan, or better said, willing to put soldiers in areas that are hostile. When you couple this sobering reality with the widely held view that there needs to be more forces in volatile areas, it seems reasonable to wonder where in the hell the "rotation" comes from- how do you not only secure more troops, but in addition, find even more to take on our current role? Given past history, given the tremendous arm twisting needed to find a few hundred soldiers, the idea that you will find enough troops to do the job, with Canada out, is just counter-intuitive.

If you believe that Canada must stay committed to Afghanistan, and a military component is necessary (whatever the countries), you then have to go beyond the buzzword and tell everyone how you make up the difference, how you stay in Kandahar doing re-construction and training? If there is no equal rotation, then the security situation only deteriorates further, leaving our forces on the backlines prime for attack.

Here's my take, there is no rotation coming. There are only a few countries committed to the mission in the south, that is the pool from which to tap, and in many ways, it's tapped out. You can augment(France), which is required, but there is no replacement on the horizon. The question then becomes, is Canada staying or not, because our continued involvement demands a role on the frontlines. We can talk about focus, where the emphasis should lie, but I see all elements working in concert, more a matter of degree, than exclusivity. Until I see different, rotation sounds like a noble ideal, that has little chance of real application.


Oxford County Liberals said...

Well then, as I said at my site, if the NATO countries don't want to step up to the plate, then that's on their
head's and NATO's, not ours.

Otherwise, they'll be perfectly content to keep the countries in the south doing perpetual fighting while they either do nothing or stay in the relative safety of the north. It's time we put our foot down on this.

MarkCh said...

Bang on, Steve V. The Germans and Italians have never really helped in a Canadian war before, and they aren't about to start now. So what? NATO has always been about the English-speaking countries stepping up to defend the continentals. The most we ever hoped for was that the continentals would defend themselves if attacked.

Now at least some of the continentals, eg Dutch, Poles, Danes, etc., are actually helping out. Some others probably never will.

Anyway, rotation isn't part of the Liberal plan, as far as I can tell: we are staying in Kandahar.

Steve V said...


It can be "on NATO's head", but that is really irrelevant to what happens in Afghanistan, isn't it? We tell NATO we're done, well then what? Then all of sudden troops appear, or does that mean will leave the South, create a vacuum?

I agree about NATO, as a matter of fact it is now being exposed as a complete farce. The problem, you can put your foot down, but when nobody responds, then what do you do, leave and say "not our fault"?

Why don't we just admit, once and for all, that if we are staying in the South, then there will be combat? We can demand a focus on certain things, directions we've all argued for months, but just acknowledge the elephant in the room, and quit massaging this to death, to the point of incoherence. Staying in the South= some combat. Rotation= a pipe dream.

Steve V said...

"Anyway, rotation isn't part of the Liberal plan, as far as I can tell: we are staying in Kandahar."

We are rotating, according to what Rae said this morning, as well as staying in Kandahar to do re-construction and training.

Oxford County Liberals said...

By acknowledging we're leaving, you're forcing NATO to get rotation. Otherwise, we're being almost perpetually blackmailed by NATO saying "Sorry.. we can't find other countries willing to help out - you need to stay there, and maybe we'll find you someone down the line".

It's as shameful as Bush and CO. extending tour of duties and cancelling leave for their soldiers because they're short-handed in Iraq. It's time we said, "Sorry, our tour of duty was this - we've extended it once for 3 years.. it's time for the rest of NATO to put their money where their mouth is".

Gayle said...

"If you believe that Canada must stay committed to Afghanistan, and a military component is necessary (whatever the countries), you then have to go beyond the buzzword and tell everyone how you make up the difference, how you stay in Kandahar doing re-construction and training? If there is no equal rotation, then the security situation only deteriorates further, leaving our forces on the backlines prime for attack."

I believe NATO needs to commit to Afghanistan. We are not there as part of a Canadian mission, but rather as part of a NATO mission.

If there is no equal rotation we leave, because we cannot do the job alone, and it is not up to Canada to save Afghanistan for the rest of the world. If we do not take a stand on this we will never get out, or we will get out but only after years of deteriorating effect and morale. Either way, Afghanistan will be lost.

What we have to be realistic about is whether Canada has the ability and resources to carry the combat mission alone, and we do not. As I said in a previous post we are already rotating our troops in and out at a faster pace than larger militaries, and I do not see a line of willing young men and women at our local recruitment office.

As for our international reputation, we are not the ones cutting and running - it is NATO who will be doing that. We should not have to expend our resources, and our soldiers to fight a war no one else wants to fight with us but everyone else wants us to win.

Anonymous said...

The Kosovo experience has shown the role NATO played in stopping genocide there. Who was doing the bombing there?

Scott, I would not take what Siddiqui write seriously. Gordon Brown, as a partner in the special relationship with the US, will be in Helmand province until the cows come home. The Brits stayed in Afghanistan for a hundred years in the past, they will do so again.

Again, Rae's comments do not good when the Grits are perceived to be a three headed monster thinking they are all wizards in foreign policy. Add to it a whole bunch of Monday morning strategists in Liblogs.

So are you confident that Stephane Dion can go on the campaign trail and define the concept of "troop rotation"? How about you on the canvass trail?

MarkCh said...

Steve V: We're going to stay where we are in Kandahar _and_ rotate? Sounds painful. :-)

Before we say "NATO isn't helping", we need to be specific. The US is contributing lots of troops. So are the British. I think the Danes and Dutch are doing pretty well, based on the size of those countries. Same for some of the new guys: Poles, Estonians. The Aussies are helping and they aren't even in NATO. So we could say "US, Canada, Britain, Australia, the Netherlands can't do it without the help of the Germans, French and Italians, so we had better bail if they don't help." But that would be ludicrous. The question here is, which group do we see ourselves in?

As for our international reputation, "no more cowardly than Italy" is not something I personally want us to aspire to.

Anonymous said...

NATO released an update of troop numbers/country last week.

Presently, Germany and Italy have more troops in Afghanistan than Canada. They number 3,210 and 2,880 respectively (vs. Canada's 2,500).

However, the mandate issued by the Italian Parliament, does not allow Italian forces to take part in the battle against the Taliban insurgency in the south and east of Afghanistan, other than in exceptional circumstances.

However, the mandate issued by the German Parliament, does not allow the Bundeswehr to take part in combat operations against the Taliban insurgency in the south and east of Afghanistan, other than in exceptional circumstances.

IT IS TIME, FOR THE HOUSE OF COMMONS TO ALSO MAKE IT SO OUR CANADIAN FORCES ARE NOT ALLOWED to take part in combat operations against the Taliban insurgency in the south and east of Afghanistan, other than in exceptional circumstances.

NOTE: in 2007, Canada had 23 casualties and Germany had 7 casualties and Italy had 2 casualties.

Oxford County Liberals said...


Between Haroon's explanation, and what Warren Kinsella said Dion can say (which I highlighted on here in an earlier comment in another posting, I am perfectly confident Dion can get the message out there what our poistion is and we can win with it, as long as the Liberal hawks don't undermine Dion.

Gayle: excellent analysis.. and Missisaugajoan's idea is intriguing as well.

Steve V said...

"By acknowledging we're leaving, you're forcing NATO to get rotation."

Scott, NATO isn't coming to the rescue, that seems painfully clear. There is no rotation, we leave, there is a vacuum, that will be filled by the Brits, the Americans, the Danes, no new players.

There are countries committed to the South, so in effect you let them down by demanding blood from a stone with NATO. I will just hate the spectacle of the Poles giving us helicopters, the French giving us paratroopers, and then Canada saying "thanks, but we are heading to the back to build schools". Think about that? And besides, if you stay in the south, you stay in harm's way, you will fight.

What keeps getting lost here, the Conservatives have moved towards our position, that being the mission was decidedly out of balance, the 10-1 allocation for operations, as opposed to re-construction and training. The Tory motion is vague, our amendments should try and get firm commitment on where the money will go, goals for training and re-construction, but some acknowledgement of reality, if we stay in the south, there will be some combat. Not the "whack a mole" fixation, but an element, that falls into a greater strategy of getting Afghans to control their own destiny. The Cons have moved, we should be highlighting this acknowledgement, instead of trying to show everyone how Dion sticks to his guns.

Anonymous said...


I have said it in an earlier blogpost here. You also have confidence in Dion being able to undermine the Liberal hawks. From the amendments proposed, the answer is pretty obvious. We are staying until 2011, and no more after that. Three more years. Unless these amendments are abandoned in the caucus meeting overnight, then the Grits and the Cons are running on similar programs.

"The Cons have moved, we should be highlighting this acknowledgement, instead of trying to show everyone how Dion sticks to his guns."

Even there is no agreement between the two major parties, one needs to consider that Dion has moved as well. We are not leaving Afghanistan in February 2009 and moving out of Kandahar is no longer being considered.

The word Dion is emphasizing now is "never ending mission". This does not necessarily mean 2009, more 2011.

Sean Cummings said...

Rotation isn't a buzzword - it's common in the military. UN troops involved in peacekeeping operate on a rotational basis - it's all about providing relief. In the North, East and West parts of Afghanistan, rotation occurs. It stands to reason that it would occur in the south regardless of whether we are shooting the Taliban or building new and amazing aquaducts, bridges, roads or curing cancer.

Anonymous said...

"UN troops involved in peacekeeping operate on a rotational basis - it's all about providing relief."

Then are we emphasizing the wrong institution? Should the Grits be honest and say that NATO has failed and that the UN needs to take over? Reverting the mission to one of peacekeeping, instead of training. If NATO countries will not do the fighting, does it mean we will have to look elsewhere ie. South Korea, Finland, Nepal, Philippines etc.?

Jeff said...

Steve, you say the Conservatives have moved towards our position. Where? How? They really haven't moved at all. They've made a vague commitment about more training. The fact is, in Afghanistan training and combat are indistinguishable. We train Afghan soldiers by having them fight alongside us, in combat, after some minimal behind the lines basics. There's not training in the sense of how we trained our Army, there's no war games like we'd have in Petawawa or wherever. They want to continue the combat mission two more years, that's all that's in the meat of their motion. Nothing on reconstruction.

As for rotation, if we're going to make the threat to leave without rotation, then we need to be ready to back it up. We can agree to move to a non-combat role, but if NATO is either unable or unwilling to replace us in Kandahar then that is NATO's problem, and would speak to greater problems with the alliance and the mission as a whole that should be addressed. That's why the Liberals tried to give NATO more notice, a motion the NDP and Cons voted down last year.

We can't be blackmailed into staying. We believe in the mission, yes. But we have fulfilled our commitment, and we don't have the resources to sustain an indefinite deployment. We need to be ready, and willing, to walk away.

Steve V said...

"Rotation isn't a buzzword - it's common in the military."

Obviously, but if you favor rotation, it would be nice if you could tell us where the rotaree might come from. Saying, let NATO figure it out, is basically like saying all is lost at this point.

I think Mushroom makes a good point. Today, Iggy asked if 2011 was the end, or just another step for an "endless mission". The Libs are accepting 2011 in some capacity, why not just acknowledge the fact that the south=combat, it just does, according to everyone in the military, who basically laugh at the semantics here. I say, let's get our position right now, because to be honest, if I were a Con strategist, I'm licking my chops right now at the prospects of the Liberals play on words. I'll add a NDP strategist here as well.

Steve V said...

"The fact is, in Afghanistan training and combat are indistinguishable."

Jeff, if that is true, than you have just make a mockery of the Liberal position.

The Cons have moved, we have seen it for the last few months. What the Libs need to do is get firm commitments, as opposed to the vague language you cite. Call them on the infastructure, re-construction, training emphasis, make the motion firm in this regard. That is where the Libs can get this thing on track, make Harper stand by the words to appease, there is an opening there.

Sean Cummings said...

Liberals need to get their heads out of their collective ass and carve out a clear and concise policy on this - right now it's muddled. Are we staying in Kandahar or not? If we do, what are we doing there? If not, who will replace us? How long in total are we staying in Afghanistan? We need an election to stimulate the debate that was denied to Canadians when this was forced through the house last year by Harper. Our troops have a right to know that this was taken to the voter - it was that $#%%ing important.

Steve V said...


We agree. You can't have it both ways.

Anonymous said...

"I'm licking my chops right now at the prospects of the Liberals play on words."

The irony is that if you have a glimpse of Michael Ignatieff's writings, he is by far a semantist more than an academic. Him going on the campaign trail is going to be fun.

Steve V said...


Actually, if we just acknowledge the combat part, Ignatieff will be an asset. The guy is far more articulate and thoughtful on Afghanistan than anything the Cons have to offer- in fact Van Loan was quoting Iggy today in QP ;)

ottlib said...

I said this last week, if only 4 or 5 countries are willing to do the heavy dangerous work in Afghanistan the mission is doomed to fail.

It all comes down to public opinion. How long do you think it will be before a critical mass of Canadians say enough, bring our boys home?

The Dutch have already said it and their government managed to massage a deadline of 2010. I doubt they will manage to do that again.

The British are having the same debate on this mission as we are and it is progressing similar to ours.

There is no telling where US foreign policy and public opinion will be this time next year and going forward. But I do know this, the next president will be looking to winning a second term about three minutes after inauguration and defying public opinion on a foreign war is not condusive to accomplishing that goal.

So Steve, if we are going to look at this realistically we should be looking at the very real possibility that if NATO is truly unwilling to rotate troops into and out off hot spots this mission has about two or three years left before it collapses.

That should be a major consideration in the upcoming debate on Canada's continued presence in Afghanistan in general let alone Khandahar.

Stephane Dion is correct to bring it up although I doubt it will be sufficiently hashed out in the next few weeks.

Steve V said...


You lost me with the American argument, opinion is completely onside with Afghanistan, don't confuse it with Iraq. All I hear from the Dems, we need more troops in Afghanistan, to fight the real war on terror. The Americans pulling back, or a re-think isn't even a consideration.

BTW, what if another country comes to our aid, to "help Canada". You can see MacKay, he knows full well the French will send some troops. Australia? If you get a couple more countries to commit, then it weakens the going it alone argument, right smack in the middle of a campaign.

Jeff said...

Jeff, if that is true, than you have just make a mockery of the Liberal position.

I did, this morning, at length, make a mockery of the proposed Liberal position. And I'm doing it again now. I think it's a mockery of a position that essentially adopts the Conservative position, and I don't like it at all.

The Cons have moved, we have seen it for the last few months.

Not really. if you go back and look, you'll see they've rejected many of the Manley recommendations that Liberals would agree with. Such as the need for a showcase redevelopment project? Bev Oda said no, not needed. All they're really onboard with is the 1000 more troops, the choppers and the UAVs. The rest is just window dressing.

Go and read and actual motion they've moved in the HoC. Sure, they talk about reconstruction in the whereas portion, and vaguely at that. But the whereas portions are padding, with no force and affect. It's what comes after the therefore that matters, and that portion is silent.

We do need firm commitments and goals, I agree. That should be the meat of our amendment. That would be useful, and needed. But conceding an extension of the combat mission to 2011, which I'd argue is what we're doing also, is not acceptable to me, and I suspect many others.

Will weasel language around training really fool anyone? Maybe. But I doubt it.

Steve V said...


The motion is vague, which leaves room for us to demand firm commitments.

We have been arguing this "training" angle for months and months, it is the Liberal position. What you said essentially acknowledges that effective training means fighting side by side, which translates to combat. I guess we need some clarification, does Liberal training mean marching around a base, firing at pop cans?

wilson said...

When asked about training an combat, Coderre, on CBC Sunday Report, said Canadian soldiers will NOT be allowed to accompany Afghan troops on a combat mission.

wilson said...

ps. yes to firing at pop cans, they must stay in the training camp.

Jeff said...


I guess we need some clarification, does Liberal training mean marching around a base, firing at pop cans?

Perhaps we do. And it should be detailed in the motion, otherwise the Cons will take training to mean whatever they want it to mean, ie. combat.

If it is back at the base shooting at popcans, and we don't leave the wire and do real combat, then we should make clear we're expecting NATO to bring in someone else on force to Kandahar, because someone is going to have to do the combat.

Right now, I get the impression we're trying to be wishy-washy in order to try to appease both the hawks and the doves of the Liberal caucus. To the doves we say don't worry, we're just doing training. To the hawks, it's we're staying to train, but wink wink training really is combat.

We're going to need to get off the fence at some point and be clear about just what the heck we're actually proposing.

Steve V said...

Dion has consistently mentioned training, in every speech for the last year, as an alternative.

He outlined four areas last week:

"We want to play a role after. Security, training, re-construction, this narco-economy".

Security, combat check. Training, combat check. Narco-economy, combat check, unless you think the druglords will just run away as we eradicate the narcotics trade.

Steve V said...


You and I completely agree here. I've never said we accept the motion, but we exploit what it acknowledges and DEMAND commitments beyond platitudes. If Harper won't acknowledge these demands, then it is him who exposes himself, we are asking for detailed allocations.

We are wishy-washy, and we are trying to appease everyone here, which lead to this fine language debate. The funny part, there seems to be some misguided sense that Dion not wavering is a testament to leadership, when really its more about trying to harness all the internal views together. All I'm saying here, let's get it right, let's make it clear, so we don't give Harper all these easy attacks, which might be bombastic, but I'm starting to think effective.

Jane Taber is an idiot on a good day, but watching here mock Dion yesterday and say "you don't make any sense" should be a warning sign for Liberal strategists about what is too come. Does anyone expect Hillier to remain silent in a campaign? We have to accept this one thing- if you are in the south, you are fighting too. It's the war zone in Afghanistan, and people are sensible enough to see the impracticality of saying we will stay in the war zone but we won't engage in combat.

Anonymous said...


I am following this ongoing discussion before getting my points out. It changes by the minute. Good work.

From your last quote, the idea of Dion being the leader who will get us out of Kandahar is moot. No, it looks like he will not throw the Liberal hawks under the bus as Kinsella wants him to.

Going back to his views on NATO forces in Pakistan, he truly believes in a role for Canadian forces in Afghanistan. That is why he has not been in contact with Layton and the Grits are seemingly moving away from the NDP position in the past week alone. Disappointing or playing traditional Liberal wait and see politics?

MarkCh said...

I'm no Liberal, but kudos to you all for having a serious discussion about this issue. It is important, and it is nice to see people talking about the real military situation, rather than just the politics.

JimmE said...

What is lost in this NATO mission is actually the reason for it. Ensuring Afghanistan is not a failed state & a base for the Taliban. The Afghans are the folks who will have to solve their issues. By telling the world we have done our share of killing & dying for God & the Queen this may be an opportunity to engage with the Pashtun people in both Afghanistan & Pakistan to help them to make peace amongst themselves.
Eric Margolis may write for Sun Media, but has spent some time with the people of the region (& not on so called fact finding missions) and has some very good (& largely ignored) insight into why ANY military mission in the Pashtun region is doomed. At the heart of it is the Pashtunwali pre dates the bible and the Pashtun people think of this latest engagement in the context of their timeless history; this is just another Alexander, Ghengis Khan, British Raj, or Soviet adversary to overcome.
The very best Canadians can hope to achieve is to help Afghans generally and Pashtuns especially to rebuild after 25+ years of war by helping the waring factions to commence a real dialogue. Think about it, the Soviets had over 100,000 troops, helicopter gun ships and were ruthless bastards, & even they had to go packing, & not just because of stinger missiles; given this, what are 2,500 or 25,000 Canadian troops going to accomplish? This mission needs to be TOTALLY RE-EVALUATED, my hope is re-evaluation & redirection is where this debate will take us.

ottlib said...


For me the current motion is secondary. I care more about the long-term sustainability of the Afghan mission. Believe it or not I do support it and I always have.

My problem is I see nothing but failure in the overall NATO mission in its current form and nothing I have seen from the Manley Report or the Harper government changes that.

Whether it is four countries or six countries doing the heavy dangerous work in the South both situations are insufficient to sustain this mission long enough to convert a failed narco-state into a reasonably prosperous and respected member of the international community. Notice I do not say a democracy. It ain't going to happen any time soon.

You mention the French, the Australians and the Democrats.

The French have so far avoided the dangerous assignments because it would not be accepted at home. Fortunately for Sarkozy he has a window where he can defy that opinion but it will begin to close when France gears up for parliamentary elections in about 2 years.

Part of the reason why John Howard lost the election in Australia was his excellent adventure in Iraq. Ironically, the Aussies were in a "safe" sector of Iraq and suffered few casualties. If they replace the Dutch that will not be the case. I really wonder how long Australian public opinion will support a mission that sends their troops home in body bags after they have just tossed out a long standing government for getting involved in another war.

Public support for the war is far outweighed by public opposition to it in all of the countries currently in the South. As well, any support in both France and Australia is fragile. As I said if that opposition reaches a critical mass in one or more of those countries and they leave the South either NATO will take up the slack or the US will.

Other NATO countries have so far demonstrated that they have no interest in moving their troops to the South so it will probably be the US. When that happens opposition to the mission will probably harden in the US. The American people have been going through an insurgency where their military is doing the bulk of the fighting. If a similar situation develops in Afghanistan the American people will not accept it and all of those Democratic candidates you have been quoting will forget what they said in late '07 and early '08.

The idea of rotation is a sound one. What Canada should be doing is forming a united front with the US, Britain, and the Netherlands to exert pressure on their fellow NATO allies to set up a rotation schedule.

It does not need to be too onerous. Each country contributes troops to the South for 1 year assignments. After that year they are relieved by the troops of another country. The rotations and the schedule should be set up and agreed to ahead of time.

Of course, considering the time it will take to make Afghanistan a viable state the countries will have to accept more than one of these assignments, but each of those assignments would be several years apart.

I believe NATO could sell the idea of a one year on, three years off type of arrangement to their domestic populations and I certainly believe that such a plan would resonate well here in Canada.

That should be the condition for Canada's continued involvement in Afghanstan. Forget about the 1000 troops and Canada stays in the danger zone. That is nothing more than a short-term balm that will do nothing to prevent the eventual failure of the Afghan mission.

Canada should put forward a plan and conditions that may actually increase the chances of the overall success of the NATO mission.

ottlib said...

Incidentally, I would bet there are some old Cold Warriors in Russia who are enjoying what is happening in Afghanistan right now.

After all NATO is making all of the same mistakes the Soviet Army did between '79 and '89.

That Soviet defeat greatly contributed to the destruction of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.

I wonder what effect a failure of the NATO mission in Afghanistan will have on NATO.

As I said, some old Cold Warriors are probably enjoying this right now.

Steve V said...

"What Canada should be doing is forming a united front with the US, Britain, and the Netherlands to exert pressure on their fellow NATO allies to set up a rotation schedule."

This pressure is already exerted, that dog won't hunt. Again, I agree with the sentiment, one year in, three out, sounds great, except where does the "in" part come from?

I still see you American analysis as wishful thinking, there is no comparison to Iraq, Americans know why they are fighting in Afghanistan. I see absolutely zero indication of hesitation, the only debate, the need for more. I would add, a recent poll showed American opinion on the war on terror is now higher than at any time in the last three years, and this includes the Iraq mess. If you asked Americans if they should stay in Afghanistan, I'm willing to bet you hit 70-80% support.

Howard did suffer because of Iraq, how that translates to Afghanistan escapes me. I don't get the analogy, and I think people recognize the differences, the superfical optics of war aside.

Ottlib, you admit your support. There isn't one military analyst worth his salt that believes you can effectively train an indigenious army in Afghanistan without assisting them in real combat.

I'm not buying into Manley, or the Tories, I think they use much of this language to appease. However, there is an opportunity for the Libs to use this language and demand firm commitments. If it comes down to the Cons refusing to flesh out the transition of the mission from combat to re-construction and training, then the onus is back on them, their dishonesty full exposed. I would have no problem with the Libs walking away, if they can't secure concrete commitments, that go beyond the lines in the motion. That said, I see a way for the Liberals to get on side, with the added bonus that reforming the mission validates what the Liberals have been saying for months. If we can change this mission, mission accomplished. Doesn't that make sense, isn't that what the criticisms were all about? I say get aggressive here, instead of stubbornly trying to define what amounts to mostly nonsense.


Good points for sure.

Steve V said...

"If you're out there with some people that are building a road and suddenly you're attacked with mortars or whatever but people are hiding somewhere away from the road, what do you do?" asked Liberal MP Roy Cullen. "Do you just sort of stand guard and put on your helmets or do you call for the ‘search and destroy' people?"

ottlib said...


The only sustained pressure being exerted is for those extra 1000 troops.

The countries in the South have not joined to exert sustained pressure on the other countries of NATO for relief. The Harper government made some desultory noises about it last year but they were a lone voice in the wilderness and were easily ignored.

American public opinion will change. Particularly if the US finds itself fighting virtually alone in Afghanstan. At that point the Afghan insurgency will be very much like the Iraqi insurgency.

Also, if the US leaves Iraq as expected alot of the "Muslim warriors" that are fighting in Iraq will make their way to Afghanistan. These folks do not care about Iraq. They only want to kick the west out Muslim lands. Do you think a few thousand Iraqi insurgency veterans moving into Afghanistan might change the complexion of things a bit?

The American public opinion might have softened a bit but it will not take much for it to harden again.

Remember Steve, I am not looking at the next two weeks or the next two months. I am looking at the next two years or so and I am not liking what I am seeing.

What you propose in your response to me would be an effective political strategy. However, one of the reasons why I have such a hard time with the Conservatives on this issue is their politicising of it for short-term political gain while ignoring the real structural flaws in the whole damn NATO mission.

I would love to see one of our political parties, preferably the Liberals, put forward some ideas that actually speak to that. Mr. Dion has a shadow of such a idea but it is being criticized by many, including some of his own supporters, because it does not serve the short-term political needs of the party.

Well, if the Liberals are going to completely subordinate the long-term success of the Afghan mission to their short-term political needs I really do not see much difference between them and the Conservatives on this file. Talking about training and the definition of combat is really not much more than an argument over semantics.

Steve V said...


I'm sorry, but I'm just not buying the American angle, and yes I'm talking the next couple of years. This was a war that was started in response to 9/11, don't ever forget that, they WON'T. People make a grave error in looking at the unhappiness over Iraq and extrapolating that somehow onto Afghanistan. Apples and oranges, there is no groundswell to get out, and don't expect one to materialize. Can we keep with probabilities here, in making arguments, rather than trying to make it sound like everyone will leave, and Canada will be left alone. Last time I checked the Americans put more troops into the theatre, so I guess I can assume that any withdrawal in Iraq will be accompanied by a surge in Afghanistan. Same logic right? As an aside, that's what Hillary, and even Obama have said. McCain, well no doubt there.

Steve V said...

BTW, I appreciate everyone's opinion. I don't claim to have it all figured out, this is just my opinion 10 600 kilometers from Kabul.

Gayle said...

Steve, on CBC news tonight they were reporting the conservatives are willing to set 2011 as an absolute end date. If true, couldn't this be the room to compromise?

Steve V said...

Hey Gayle. I saw that too, just put a post up on it. Pretty big move.

ottlib said...


I profoundly disagree with you on the prospect of American public opinion not turning against Afghanistan. It is a given that populations grow increasingly tired of war as it progresses no matter how the war is going. In about three years the US will have been at war for a decade. By then public opinion in the US should be running pretty steadily against contiuing the War in Afghanstan in particular and War on Terror in general.

As well, if you read my comment it will not be Canada that will be left alone it will be the US.

That is what will probably make American opinion really harden. In a couple, three years it is highly probable that the US will be fighting virtually alone in Southern Afghanistan as they are now in Iraq.

As that point we will no longer be talking about apples and oranges but we will be talking about MacIntosh and Delicious.

Steve V said...


You are giving me theoreticals, I am saying there is NO indication of erosion in support for Afghanistan. I would add one point, given the casualties people have endured in Iraq, the carnage in Afghanistan looks mild, hate to say it. I'm pretty sure people will have a stomach for this conflict for years to come.