Friday, October 26, 2007

If anyone knows what it takes to train an army, it's Sandra Buckler.

Given the two different assessments of what it would take to train the Afghan National Army to stand on its own, the one offered by the Harper government is easily dismissed. Rick Hillier, for all his bluster, is providing a more accurate assessment of the conditions and challenges facing any group charged with producing a self-sustaining ANA.

Hillier stopped short of saying Canada should remain in situ to do the job, although it's not a leap to presume that that is what he would prefer. Regardless, what Hillier is saying is that given the current circumstances nobody will be able to produce the results offered by Harper's government in the latest Throne Speech.

Enter Sandra Buckler.
[A] spokesperson for the Prime Minister, Sandra Buckler, stuck to the early end date, saying it was "achievable" and in line with the Afghanistan Compact, the agreement drawn up between the international community and the Afghan government. In her emailed statement, Buckler did not acknowledge Hillier's comments.
Spin. And nobody believes it. Just as nobody believed that she didn't attempt to mangle manipulate the message when Harper visited Afghanistan earlier this year. More than one source fell millimeters short of calling Sandra Buckler an outright liar.

The fact is, Hillier's assessment is believable because it's based on the current metrics. Whether the ANA kandaks being trained by the Canadian Army are, in fact, "top-notch" doesn't really enter the picture. What is true is that it takes three years to train a single Afghan infantry battalion and we're only half-way there. That doesn't even take into account that the ANA has virtually nothing in the way of combat support and logistical support elements. Adding those in would make Hillier's assessment optimistic.

Hillier has forwarded something which the Harperites know will cause Canadians to balk: the idea of war-without-end. If the ANA is unable to deal with security situation in Afghanistan on its own, the dismal picture being presented is that Canadian troops will continue to be involved in the same kind of asymmetrical warfare they are now engaged in and will continue to suffer losses - unless we can convince other allies to take on that part of the mission - even for a while.

And how's that effort going?
Even though Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Bernier, the foreign affairs minister, invested much time drumming up replacements or support for Canadian troops in Kandahar, there were no firm offers to send new troops to one of the country's most dangerous regions.
Which would make Buckler's input even farther away from reality.

Even the Bush administration, which should be shouldering the blame for the current situation in Afghanistan, can't convince NATO's European nations to step into the meat grinder.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates yesterday questioned the commitment of some NATO allies to winning in Afghanistan, saying the outcome there is at "real risk" because some European nations are unwilling to provide enough troops and resources to the mission.


The U.S. has 26,000 troops in Afghanistan and the non-U.S. total is 23,000. For the past year, NATO has had overall command of the forces, other than 13,000 U.S. troops doing counterterrorism missions.
As much as Gates cajoled Europe's NATO nations, they did not cough up the helicopters he asked for and they hesitate to take on what is increasingly appearing to be an unending situation in Afghanistan's south.

They have every good reason to refuse to engage any further than they have now.

At the outset NATO was lied to by the Bush administration as to the nature of the mission and the level of stability in Afghanistan. It was sold as a peacekeeping mission. Yet, in the south, there was no peace to keep and the supposed stability Rumsfeld had advertised was non-existent. One of the reasons for early casualties after the NATO ISAF takeover of command was that forces which arrived in the most dangerous areas were under-equipped and lacked the type of robust defensive arrangements required for a full-blown combat mission. NATO can take some of the blame for actually believing a US administration which had now developed a reputation for deceptive bait-and-switch behaviour.

There is another recent revelation though, which, if true, puts a lie to the whole concept of a War On Terror. Regardless of whatever military adventures the US embarks upon, everything goes back to one event and one person: the attacks on US soil orchestrated by Osama bin Laden.

No matter what else happens, support for the US mission in Afghanistan hinges on getting the person responsible for those attacks. And now it appears, either through complete incompetence or perhaps for other nefarious reasons, that the primary target of the Global War On Terror has been ignored.
We know, with a 70 percent level of certainty - which is huge in the world of intelligence - that in August of 2007, bin Laden was in a convoy headed south from Tora Bora. We had his butt, on camera, on satellite. We were listening to his conversations. We had the world’s best hunters/killers - Seal Team 6 - nearby. We had the world class Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) coordinating with the CIA and other agencies. We had unmanned drones overhead with missiles on their wings; we had the best Air Force on the planet, begging to drop one on the terrorist. We had him in our sights; we had done it. Nice job again guys - now, pull the damn trigger.

Unbelievably, and in my opinion, criminally, we did not kill Usama bin Laden.

You cannot make this crap up; truth is always stranger and more telling than fiction. Our government, the current administration and yes, our military leaders included, failed to kill bin Laden for no other reason than incompetence.

The current “boneheads” in charge will tell you all day long that we are fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan to stop terrorists there so they do not come here. Nice talk, how about - just for a moment - acting like you mean what you say? You know walk the walk. These incidents, where we displayed a total lack of guts, like the one in August, are just too prevalent. The United States of America’s political and military leadership has, on at least three separate occasions, chosen not capture or kill bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahri. We have allowed Pakistan to become a safe haven for Al Qaeda. We have allowed Al Qaeda to reconstitute, partially because of money they (Al Qaeda in Iraq) have been sending to Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

Which begs the following question: If the Bush administration is letting Osama bin Laden survive, why the hell should any country spend its resources and waste the lives of its troops pursuing a supposed righteous mission which is little more than something designed to camouflage the grotesque machinations of an American government led by self-serving morons?

Perhaps we should ask Sandra Buckler. She seems to have an answer for everything.

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