That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

Tanks for nothing

The NDP’s Defence Critic Jack Harris takes on Harperian logic in Afghanistan:

What is really needed in Afghanistan, of course, is aid and assistance to have a strong government that has the respect of the people. What do we have instead? We have in Afghanistan a government that the international transparency watch organization, in its corruption perception index, sees as tied for 176 out of 178 countries in the world for corruption. It is a government that is not respected by the people of Afghanistan and cannot have the respect without a significant amount of long-term work being done in that country.

In fact, that government is held in so much disrespect and disdain by the Canadian government that we had the Prime Minister in Lisbon saying that we will not dispense a dime to the Government of Afghanistan unless we are convinced the money will be spent in the way it is intended to be spent.

The irony of this is a bit shocking. We are saying that we do not trust that government with a dime of our money but we are prepared to give them an army. We are prepared to train and develop a force of up to 300,000 combined police and security officers and hand it over to that government that we do not trust with a dime of our money. That is what we are saying. The irony of that should not be lost on the Canadian public, because that is what the government is saying.

One if the things he seems to imply is: Would you train 300,000 bees in the art of stinging without first ensuring they knew you were a friendly beekeeper?

And there’s a point in that. But the greater point to me is of efficacy. Indeed, for all Bob Rae’s relaxed approach to have “soldiers doing humanitarian work” (which is how the Liberals and Conservatives want this new mission to appear), Rae can’t explain exactly what training is going to accomplish that it hasn’t accomplished over the past 10 years of ISAF working with their national forces.

As I’ve said before, unless “training” is going to mean magically convincing Afghan national troops that the Karzai disaster is worth fighting for, or that Karzai’s is a government they can even “respect,” or that turning down opportunities for lucrative mercenary income will result in actual counter-reward from the state, then what is the use?

Afghanistan’s fractiousness is not down to a chronic inability for Afghanistan to organise itself militarily. That should be greeted with a “duh.” But is it right to withdraw militarily when there are actual security challenges to those seeking to do real humanitarian work? That’s a fair question. All the same, a) we’ve been doing that military job for a decade, and it’s torch-passing time, and b) the best route to Kabul taking its own sovereignty seriously and creating an effective national army of its own is by us handing it to them.

Filed under: Canada, International, Politics, , , , ,

3 Responses

  1. MoS says:

    Hand them what exactly? How many soldiers do you think we have trained over the past decade? How many remain? Why is no one asking those questions? The current American commander puts the ANA desertion rate at 23% annually. Karzai can’t or won’t staunch the desertions so we’re just wasting our time. The bottom has fallen out of this boat. Why are we still bailing?

  2. polygonic says:

    Handing them responsibility is what I meant there. A well worn line is that any withdrawal would “send the wrong message to the terrorists.” That doesn’t consider what message we’re sending (to Karzai) by perennial occupation instead – the message that he can continue to float atop something of a septic-tank state and never take responsibility for it.

  3. MoS says:

    I agree totally that we should be handing the job over to them. There have been some key warlords who have continued to support Karzai largely because of our ongoing struggle with the Talibs. If (when) we leave they’ll each decide whether to remain with Karzai or switch to the rebels. Treachery is, after all, the traditional stock in trade of Afghan warlords. There isn’t one of them who hasn’t, at various times, been aligned with or at war with each of the others. I’ll bet most would side with the rebels if for no other reason than that side enjoys the support of Pakistan’s ISI. The Afghan army will dissolve into ethnic militias and it will finally become apparent even to the blind that what we’ve really been doing over there this past decade is babysitting an unresolved civil war temporarily on hold.

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November 2010

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