Wednesday, February 28, 2007

canada should shut up and just buy into afghanistan; ya right!

Canada urged to stop complaints about Afghan burden
Mike Blanchfield, CanWest News Service February 28, 2007

OTTAWA - Canadians should lose the notion their troops are the only ones bearing the brunt of violence in Afghanistan, say two of Canada's biggest players on the international stage.

The two diplomats delivered that message directly to politicians in Ottawa on Tuesday from the NDP, who have called for a troop withdrawal, and the Liberals, who want Canada to serve notice to NATO that it will end its Afghanistan combat operations in 2009.

"The idea that Canada is in the south alone is simply wrong. The idea that other countries are not contributing or increasing their contribution does not reflect the reality," NATO spokesman James Appathurai told the Commons defence committee, one of four public forums where he appeared Tuesday in Ottawa.

Appathurai credited Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor and Gen. Rick Hillier, chief of the defence staff, for raising Canada's clout in NATO by calling on allies to commit more troops to Afghanistan, with fewer restrictions that would prevent them from front-line fighting in southern Afghanistan, where 2,500 Canadian Forces troops are based.

But Appathurai's remarks suggested Canada should stop complaining about whether some of its allies are pulling their weight because the number of troops in the south has mushroomed to 12,000 from 1,000 in the last 18 months.

"Canada is not bearing the burden alone when it comes to casualties," he added. "Over a dozen NATO countries have lost troops in significant numbers. I can tell you we have the flag down in front of NATO headquarters on a regular basis ... These sacrifices are being made by everybody and in all zones, in the north, the west, and the capital and the east and the south."

That remarkirritated NDPdefence critic Dawn Black.

"I also have some trouble listening to you talk about the casualties other countries have suffered," she told Appathurai.

Chris Alexander, the UN's deputy special envoy to Afghanistan and Canada's first ambassador to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, challenged MPs to abandon suggestions that NATO countries should withdraw their troops.

The billions of dollars spent in the last five years assisting Afghanistan would "go up in smoke," while the very existence of NATO and the UN would be threatened if the West withdrew, he said.

"And most tragically, none of us around this table would be able to explain to the families of the 44 Canadians who have lost their lives in Afghanistan what the purpose of that sacrifice was," Alexander told the committee.

Since 2002, 44 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have been killed in Afghanistan.

While neither Appathurai nor Alexander wanted to make specific recommendations on how long Canadian troops should stay in Afghanistan nor offered direct criticism of the NDP's calls for withdrawal, both stressed there would be a role for Canadian soldiers long after February 2009, the extent of Canada's current commitment.

Alexander drew parallels with the reconstruction of the Balkans, which is in its second decade.

"If we are rushing for the exit, if we are trying to cut things short, if we are flagging in our commitment to achieving the objectives ... we will be giving comfort to the enemy of this transition and we will, quite frankly, be undermining the achievements and the efforts that are underway today," Alexander told the committee.

Later, Appathurai said the issue of "why" NATO is in Afghanistan is simply not up for debate.

"There is no controversy in any serious discussion," he told a luncheon audience of diplomats, military and non-governmental organizations. "Anyone who calls that into question is not being serious."

Alexander said while Afghanistan remains desperately poor, its gross national product and annual per capita income have doubled in the last five years. The extension of health care to 85 per cent of the population and the fact that more than five million children were back in school were indicators of progress.

He said Canada's infusion of $200 million of extra aid spending represented "principled engagement and investment" that would set the bar higher for other countries.

Alexander made clear he was not sugar-coating the challenges that lie ahead, both in defeating the renewed insurgency and rebuilding a shattered country.

"Until then, peace is still an elusive goal in Afghanistan."


The Mound of Sound said...

What a load of crap. These guys bring some wafer thin arguments to the table, relying on emotionalism to deflect fact. I've posted a rebuttal to their nonsense if you're interested.

Regards from the best part of British Columbia.