Sunday, January 22, 2012

Why, how Kandahar?

CBC's Dispatches hosts an interview with Matthew Willis, who has a chapter on Canada in a new Royal United Services Institute book on the NATO/UK experience in Afghanistan.

It's interesting because Willis suggests that Canada lobbied hard to get Kandahar without really knowing what it was getting itself into. The US presence before Canada took over was small and as a result there remained a dearth of intelligence regarding the province and the problems it might contain. There are other details regarding the small size of the forces Canada has compared the larger resources available to the British and Americans, implying maybe that we bit into the mission without a sense of what it was going to entail.

But as with all these things, it is what's hidden between the lines that tells more of the story. Willis, in my reading anyway, seems to suggest bits of what I've heard from other places along the way. Namely, Canada went to Kandahar for domestic ego. Various types between the military brass and government wanted the hard parts because it would buy us a better seat at the table with the other big NATO powers and forever dismiss the notion that the Canadian Forces are 'soft' peacekeepers in the eyes of the public.   

Missing from the interview at least is any explicit reference to the role of actual mission success in the reasoning behind deploying Canada to Kandahar. You know, the whole 'winning' thing and whether it was possible. Did Canada/NATO idiotically assume winning was a forgone conclusion because we aren't the loser Soviets or something? It would be interesting to read the chapter in full as well as other book mentioned in the interview to see if any of that is addressed.

I mean, it sounds like even before Harper and some politicians or generals projected their own insecurity onto this thing called Canada and blew-up a bunch of people so they could feel better and get let into the posh clubs. You know, The World Stage(tm) and all.


The Mound of Sound said...

Now safely retired ex-general Randy, the Big Cod, Hillier duped Paul Martin on the Kandahar gig. He said Canadian Forces could handle Kandahar and have enough left over for a second major commitment elsewhere. It was rank bullshit.

That Hillier didn't know what he was doing was apparent from the outset when he told reporters our troops were going to Kandahar to "kill scumbags" that he numbered at "a few dozen."

That Hillier believed he could secure Kandahar province and suppress the Talibs with a force one-tenth the strength prescribed by counterinsurgency doctrine operating out of one garrison and a couple of forward outposts illustrates how chronically out of his depth he was in assembling his force.

And then, as his "few dozen" Taliban turned into a few thousand, Hillier confirmed that he was only screwing around when he failed to reinforce the Canadian combat group to reflect the vastly larger enemy they faced.

Hillier was the architect of a dark farce from Day One. He now joins a very long line of decidedly mediocre Canadian generals.

double nickel said...

But but but....Hillier's a "HERO" no?