Here’s my first crack at divining what Canada’s mission in Afghanistan is going to look like after the end of 2011, based on what’s been said out there to this point.
First, the assumptions:
A) The March 2008 motion in Parliament and the latest quarterly report on Canada’s mission (PDF) say: Canada’s military will be out of Kandahar by the end of 2011. So, that means no more Canadian soldiers will be in Kandahar (we’ll assume “province” because the word “Kandahar City” wasn’t used.)
B) The Prime Minister, if Canadian Press quoted him correctly, says, “Canada is not leaving Afghanistan; Canada will be transitioning from a predominantly military mission to a mission that will be a civilian humanitarian development mission after 2011.”
C) A recent news release from Immigration and Citizenship Canada mentions “the end of the Canadian combat mission in Kandahar in 2011,” and a speech given by the Prime Minister on the anniversary of 9-11 includes the phrase, “when this military mission ends.” These turns of phrase suggest a “non-combat” mission for the CF may be possible.
So, based on these assumptions, what are the possible mission iterations?
1) Civilian-centred humanitarian & development mission, anywhere in Afghanistan, with no Canadian military presence. This fits A & B perfectly, but means ISAF/US troops would be protecting the Canadians doing the work.
2) Civilian-centred humanitarian & development mission, anywhere BUT Kandahar, with CF guards protecting the work being done. This works for A & B, but will only fit C as long as the bad guys don’t shart shooting at the Canadian project workers and their guardians.
3) Civilian-centred humanitarian & development mission, with some CF presence at the higher levels in Kabul. This fits A, B and C, but let’s remember that any Canadians working in Kabul face some level of risk even if they’re in a strictly “non-combat” role.
What I don’t see happening credibly under these assumptions is any CF role training and/or mentoring Afghan troops. You can’t “mentor” from inside the wire, you have to live with the troops you’re getting up to speed (more on this from BruceR, whose done this kind of work). As long as the Taliban wants to shoot at Afghan troops, this won’t be a “non-combat” mission for anyone standing with them.
How about training Afghan troops without mentoring by standing with them in harm’s way? This would give the Taliban Info-Machine a golden opportunity to ramp up the “infidel foreigners are willing to fight to the last drop of your blood” messaging.
Also, a caveat: since this worthy program to help Afghans who’ve helped Canadians during the mission wraps up when troops leave Kandahar (by the end of 2011, according to Commons Motion), unless another one of these programs is initiated, count on ZERO help from individual Afghans as translators, fixers or security.
Comments from anyone with more/better ideas always welcome.