Thursday, February 07, 2008

You played it for Steve, now play it for Petey.

This looks like another piece of kabuki theatre.
France is considering sending a new contingent of soldiers to the volatile southern regions of Afghanistan in a bid to appease Canada.

The country already had planned to send more troops to Afghanistan, and on Thursday, French Defence Minister Herve Morin said he would be willing to have those troops stationed in the south, where Canadians are currently working alongside British, American and Dutch soldiers.

"I said we would help the Canadians," Morin told reporters in Vilnius, Lithuania, where NATO defence ministers are meeting to discuss the mission.

This is after weepy Petey MacKay had come out saying that he didn't have a single commitment from one country and might have to "cobble together" several smaller commitments from several different countries.

Repeating words he learned from US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, he warned of NATO becoming a two-tier organization.

Before all the conservative drum-thumpers start cheering and spitting half-chewed cheese puffs all over the basement furniture, they need to examine this a little more carefully.

Morin implored Canadians to wait on making a decision. He noted final details about France's troop increase would be presented at a later date by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"Be patient," he said.

A Canadian delegation is travelling to Paris Friday to talk to French officials about the troops, CBC News has learned. It is not clear how many soldiers France will be sending, although some reports have suggested 700.
In fact, based on French army information, it had already planned to send a 700 man paratroop battalion which is presently a part of the NATO strategic reserve force. Sarkozy announced that possibility back in December, so this is not new information. Given that the majority of the current French contingent in Afghanistan of 1900 troops is located in Kabul, there was always a plan to send them into a different area and the south was the obvious destination.

The problem is, of course, 700 troops is 300 shy of the Manley Report requirement which the Harperites are waving around as some form of final strategy document to save the world. That means Harper needs to bleed out 300 more troops from somewhere. You can bet that is what Harper's early week phone call to Nicolas Sarkozy was all about and you can put good solid money down that the announcement heard today was already decided before MacKay ever arrived in Vilnius.

What we're getting out of MacKay, as he wipes the sweat from his brow, is a performance which makes him look like a hard-nosed negotiator beating down allies and getting his way.

Don't step in that.

Now, I suppose you're wondering where the extra 300 are coming from. Say hello to the US Marine Corps. If France follows through and sends the battalion they are suggesting they might, the US is planning on a "short rotation" of US Marines to bolster the entire mission. I would bet a big bunch of clam shells that if the French contingent is short, Gates will promise a Marine detachment to Kandahar to make up the difference.

All of this is being slapped together in enough of a hurry to allow Harper to avoid the messy detail in any confidence motion which would see it die before a vote. Without those 1000 extra troops, committed for the same length of time as the extension of the mission he is seeking, he cannot accuse the opposition of killing the Afghanistan expedition.

Did I say, for the same length of time as the extension of the mission?

Yes. Because unless that is the commitment from other countries, Canada ends up right back in the same situation six months after the additional troops arrive.

Further, the Manley Report provided a fairly useless identification of air requirements. While it was watered-down the commanders of Canadian Forces in Afghanistan are actually insisting that the infantry force become a fully air-mobile organization. The reason for that is fairly obvious. It is the infantry footprint which is killing Canadian troops. Most are being killed and wounded by land mines and roadside bombs. They need to get off the roads.

As an additional note, Cheryl picked up on a statement made by Conservative MP Betty Hinton. Hinton stated that if Canada pulled out of Kandahar there would be a genocide. Given that Hinton in her entire term as an MP has never had an independent thought, you can count on hearing that again. It's a Conservative talking point.

H/T Holly Stick in comments.

No comments: