Predicting Canada’s Afghan Mission Post-2011

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.

Where were our elected officials….

….telling citizens about why Canada should be helping Afghanistan?

I’ve whined about this before here and here, but two recent statements by non-politicians draw the eye to how it COULD have been done.

1)  The Governor-General’s latest statement on the death of one of Canada’s fallen:

“To better appreciate our soldiers’ achievements on the ground, I met and spoke with a number of representatives from Afghan civil society, women and men who, faced with barbarity, are defending life in Afghanistan and fighting injustice and misery; these are the people we never—or rarely—hear from. The people of Afghanistan support progress, democracy, the reconstruction of peace, the rebuilding of their country, the respect of rights and freedoms, the equality of women, education and development, and Canada, in turn, supports their efforts and initiatives to promote viable Afghan solutions to Afghan problems.

They all told me that the actions of our soldiers to insure the security of the area and that the contributions being made by the Canadian International Development Agency and all other civil Canadian partners are helping them to move forward as they face the forces of destruction in their country.

At the Sayad Pacha elementary school, which Canada helped to build in Kandahar in 2008, the girls and boys clearly told me in their own words that their greatest concern was security, and that it was essential to rebuilding their country, devastated by decades of war, and crucial in order for them to achieve their dreams. They also told me how grateful they were to all the soldiers who expose themselves to danger to protect them. They see the soldiers at work, on patrol, looking for explosive devices, uncovering mines and defending communities from terrorist incursions, all at great risk to themselves. “

2)  Canada’s Task Force Afghanistan Brigadier General John Vance’s defence of the motivation of the troops (and concern over Senator Colin Kenny’s recent “this is Canada’s Vietnam” editorial), courtesy of the Canadian Press and the Globe & Mail:

“[Pte. Lormand] took a fatal strike where an Afghan family might have. He lived in the community so they knew the families he was protecting and they saw him as just that – a protector …. Neither (he) nor his family benefit from uninformed opinions about what his goals were and the techniques he used to achieve them …. The thousands of young, clear, determined eyes that remain wide open here in Kandahar are working hard every day to protect and stabilize the population – not an impossible mission, as some might suggest.”

Yet another reminder of whose job it is to explain why we’re there:

“Under the Canadian parliamentary system, ministers are accountable to the Prime Minister and to Parliament for presenting and explaining government policies, priorities and decisions to the public. Ministers, both individually and collectively as members of Cabinet, are the principal spokespersons for the Government of Canada and its institutions. It is their role to provide leadership in establishing the priorities and overall themes of government communications …. Ministers are the principal spokespersons of the Government of Canada …. Ministers present and explain government policies, priorities and decisions to the public.”

It could have been soooooooooo different.