Polygonic

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

How do you fire this thing?

It was British Field Marshal Earl Frederick Roberts, after fighting in the Second Anglo-Afghan war of the 1880s, who said:

“I am sure I am right when I say that the less the Afghans see of us, the less they will dislike us.”

This coming from a man who himself is credited with being “instrumental in promoting the mass training of civilians in rifle shooting skills through membership of shooting clubs.”

Accidental Deliberations has posed the essential question on numbers required for a training extension, and identifies the Conservatives (and Bob Rae’s) long-standing desire to maintain a military presence post-2011. Recent U.S. pressure on Ottawa to stay put has been the twisting of a rubber arm. Ottawa’s ambiguity on the numbers belies an ambiguous, and probably more expansive, military purpose than what we’re being sold.

“Training” sounds benign. We hear assertions from Ottawa of a non-combat role post-2011: a “behind-the-wire” (sigh) type of service, nothing dramatically different from carrying out any other type of humanitarian or developmental activity.

This is pure pig-lipstick. Are Rae and Harper actually convinced that the greatest problem in Afghanistan is a lack of adequate military training? Afghan soldiers, after ten years of working with ISAF (and generations more of repelling every band of conquering heroes who nobly stumbled upon the Hindu Kush), still remain insufficiently knowledgeable in the ways of war?

In any case, military training has been going on for decades. The CIA were very effective in training mujahadeen warriors in the ’80s, of course. That didn’t lead to a very palatable outcome.

Afghanistan’s inability to defend itself is not down to poor military training, but to divided allegiances. Afghan soldiers aren’t yet sufficiently convinced that fighting for the Karzai government is where they want to be. Too many remain poachable in a mercenary landscape of immediate interests. What Canadian training in troop formations and rifle practice is going to do to change that is beyond me, when Karzai’s advanced dependence on NATO has already contributed to his failure to mobilise a self-sufficient and stable central government.

But, hey ho. Call it a training mission, and people might even make the correct mistake of thinking we’ve finally taken a bow on a war that’s got to be ended.

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