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Sunday, January 31, 2010

In search of elusive peace in Afghanistan

One of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s best decisions was his plan to exit Afghanistan in 2011. Now I seewar several other nations, notably the Americans, seeking an exit strategy on about the same timeline. Few are the voices calling for victory in Afghanistan—whatever that might look like.

At a 60-nation conference in London, England last week, The United States’ and British governments agreed on a strategy to pay-off low-ranking Taliban fighters to lay down their arms. According to the plan, Western nations would provide funds to finance jobs, education, farmland and cash in return. The strategy would target Taliban fighters who joined the insurgency for economic rather than ideological reasons—and estimated 70 per cent of Taliban rank-and-file.

I hope our prime minister will think long and hard before joining such a scheme. We’ve done our part in Afghanistan—I’m for a clean withdrawal in 2011 with no ties that bind us to that miserable war and the Taliban terrorist who murdered dozens of our soldiers.

Ironic, isn’t it, that not too long ago Conservatives like myself were disparaging NDP leader Jack Layton for his position that we should negotiate with the Taliban enemy. We nicknamed him “Taliban Jack.” At that time, the Conservative caucus was sympathetic to our view. That was then. Now we have our Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon attending a London conference that’s seeking an agreement to do just that.

To be fair, Minister Cannon—who, by the way, is doing one heck of a good job in the foreign affairs portfolio—seems lukewarm to the proposal, telling reporters, “I think it’s probably too early ... to start looking at whether or not Canada is going to participate financially.”

Let’s hope Canada ops out.

We went to Afghanistan for the right reason: eliminate or, at least, reduce the ability of international terrorists to launch attacks against us or our allies. That has been largely achieved. International terrorists represented by al Qaeda have largely left Afghanistan for Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc. We’ve already achieved the only real purpose for our combat troops to be in that country.

Canadian troops are to begin withdrawing in June of 2011 and vacate the country by the end of that year. As recently as December 8, General Walter Natynczyk, chief of defense staff, affirmed that the Canadian forces would uphold that timeline.

This is the plan, let’s stick to it and let’s not augment it with other financial commitments of any kind regarding Afghanistan.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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6 comments — This is a moderated blog and comments will appear when approved. Please don’t resubmit if your comment doesn’t appear immediately, and please do not post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable.

  1. If I remember correctly, 'Taliban Jack' was a name given him by our troops,
    a columnist mentioned it, and it caught on like wild fire...if I remember correctly.

    Wasn't the Canadian position that we are in Afghanistan to provide security, not to negotiate with the Taliban,
    but supported the Karzai government holding talks?

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  2. wilson, is it important who started the term? The fact is many of us agreed with its use--and many used it.

    Isn't it splitting hairs to say we won't negotiate with the Taliban, but our allies can?

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  3. Having family friends who have fought in Afghanistan I totally agree that Canada should get as far away from this war that has been grinding on for years in one form or another. But having said this we got involved in a fight that was not our concern (despite all the rhertoric about democracy, blah, blah, blah)and now out of this we have created some moral obligations to the Afghani people, our soldiers who have been injured and those who died there.

    There are better and more respectful ways of assisting the Afghanis in building their own country. There are many models out there that are being used by NGOs. This idea of paying off the Taliban seems to be modelled on what was tried in Nigeria, but this is falling apart now and the Nigerians have no layer of religious believe fueling their anger.

    You don't win fighting ignorance and poverty with bullets. You just wind up with a lot of dead people.

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  4. Won't this encourage more people to join the Taliban so that they can then be bought out? Also great scheme to get more money for arms that will be used against us.

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  5. Albertagirl46,

    I do not believe, in your words, "we have created some moral obligations to the Afghani people…"

    And the fight was of our concern: our NATO ally, the U.S., was attacked on 9/11 and we responded as is our obligation under the NATO charter, as did many other NATO members.

    We may "want" to help rebuild Afghanistan, but we are not "obligated" to do so. At least, not IMHO.

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  6. Hi Russ
    In regards to moral obligation - this is the rhetoric that has been used as a defense for not getting out right now - concern for what will happen to Afghanis, particularly women and children, if we leave sounds like a moral obligation is being raised.

    The US is our ally and you stand by your friends, but not to the point of being ingenuous. My neighbor was in the Russian army in Afghanistan and he sees this as a pretty hopeless exercise, so maybe the European NATO countries recognized this too. Too bad the US armed and trained the Taliban so well. The enemy of my enemy can also wind up being my enemy.

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