As the families of nine Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan gathered in Kandahar over Easter to pay tribute to the fallen, strategic thinkers in Ottawa were speculating on what the next military mission should be.
According to reports, the families of fallen soldiers were openly hoping that all Canadian troops are not withdrawn from Afghanistan next year – that at least a contingent of fighting soldiers remain to provide security for civilian aid operations, and to keep some continuity for the role our soldiers have invested in the country and its people.
If solders themselves were given a vote, they also would likely want to stay until the job is finished – or a satisfactory conclusion is in sight.
U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, pulls no punches when she hopes there’s a way our soldiers can play an active role in Afghanistan after 2011. She doesn’t just want more soldiers, she wants Canadian soldiers because after our years of being in the Kandahar region, we know the country (and the enemy) better than most.
Hillary is getting this not from politicians and commentators, but from American generals and soldiers who see what our troops do. Proof being the willingness – nay, eagerness — to have U.S. soldiers serve under Canadian command.
That is arguably the big difference between civilians and soldiers. The civilian leans towards peace at any price, the soldier wants to get the job done. Afghanistan may be increasingly unpopular at home, but it’s been a proving ground for our military. Individually, our soldiers can legitimately claim to be among the best in the world.
The more fighting that occurred in Afghanistan, the easier it was to recruit soldiers. That’s another thing that puzzles the civilian mind: the adventure of foreign missions.
Since Afghanistan, traditional “peacekeeping” has been on hold in the Canadian military. As a fighting force, our troops can scale down to peacekeeping, but it’s increasingly difficult for a purely peacekeeping force to ratchet itself up to combat.
And the primary role of soldiering is combat — if required. And while civilians may not appreciate it, when Canadian soldiers are in serious combat, they are most comfortable when their flanks are protected by other Canadian soldiers. In itself, that is testimony to high morale.
The Sun’s Kathleen Harris reported that Prof. Walter Dorn of the Royal Military College is one of many who thinks a return to peacekeeping is “long overdue.” He would like to see Canadians sent to Darfur, Haiti or Congo. This theme is echoed by UN contacts.
Are we nuts? Darfur is a cesspool and a lost cause until the homicidal regime in Sudan is brought to heel. A terrible place to send soldiers, who’ll be sacrificial pawns, yet that’s what the NDP wants.
Congo, too, is an open wound without cure. To involve our soldiers in an ongoing jungle war does no one any favors. And Haiti – now replete with billions in earthquake contributions, is likely to continue being more inept and corrupt than in the past. Haiti has always been the greatest recipient of aid money that has been a total waste.
Why Canada would send it’s small, efficient, battle-hardened troops to any of these hopeless causes defies logic and understanding.
Instead, pick a place where our troops can play a positive role – like Afghanistan, maybe.