Conservative Leader Stephen Harper pledged on Wednesday to pull Canadian troops from Afghanistan as scheduled in 2011, saying 10 years of war is enough.The metric here is important. The previous benchmarks, as loosely identified as they were, were based on some level of accomplishment and success. Now, it's based solely on a date and the length of the involvement. That's not an effective exit strategy - it's a fixed date on a calendar - like a dental appointment.
He added that even though Canada's military leaders won't say so publicly, they believe that a decade of waging war has been enough.Actually, what Harper isn't telling you is that there are two camps in the senior ranks of the Canadian military. One group says stay for as long as it takes to eliminate the threat to Afghan independence, possibly decades. Another significant group considers Afghanistan a complete waste of blood, a drain on resources, a major distraction from other military priorities and a conflict on the road to nowhere. Since Harper has now exposed the feeling of military leaders that "a decade of waging war" is enough, I expect we'll be hearing from them directly... any day now. That will be a third camp which, up until now, has been silent.
Unless Steve is making all of this up.
The original motion to extend the Afghanistan mission didn't have a "pull out" caveat. That was added by the Liberals in exchange for support of the extended mission. It also stated that by July 2011 Canadians would completely withdraw. There was no provision to leave "advisers".
The truth is, the Canadian mission to Afghanistan is being treated as some form of deadly exercise. If Afghanistan, as a nation, ranked high enough on the salvagable scale to be properly dealt with then the numbers of troops on the ground would need to be increased by a factor of ten by all contributors. That isn't going to happen.
Harper's recommittment is meaningless. It presumes to be able to tell the future over the next 34 months. Although it wouldn't be the first time Harper had ventured into fortune telling.
The fixed departure date from Afghanistan was wrong in the first place. It diluted the need to critically examine the mission. The big question has never really been answered. What is the goal in Afghanistan and is it acheivable? If it is, then why are we nibbling away at it? If it isn't, why are we still there?
Not that any of that has any bearing at all on why Canada is there. This is "world stage" stuff for Harper. He wants to be in the lead at the parade. There is also the fact that Harper, speaking all those good words, really can't be trusted to provide an honest answer. Harper will abide by a fixed departure date from Afghanistan, unless (if he's still prime minister) he changes his mind.
Fixed dates and Harper? Tell us another one.