Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Way Down upon the Afghanadab River

Canadian forces in Afghanistan were involved in pitched battles with taliban insurgents over the past week. "Operation Medusa" was designed to root out the same taliban that Canadian forces have been trying to 'root' out of the Panjwai region since July.

There are claims that 'hundreds' of Taliban have been killed in this offensive, which also involves troops from the 'coalition' forces. If this has been going on since July, given the preponderance, if not in manpower, then certainly in armour, heavy resources and airpower, how come "thousands" of Taliban are still showing up for the current fight?

It could be that the routes to the south, into Pakistan, are wide open for the movement of men and supplies, or it could be that virtually everybody in the Panjwai is a taliban.

This week Pakistan announced a peace settlement with the Taliban in Waziristan - one of the tribal areas abutting Afghanistan. The Pakistani army had been engaged in a four-year, unsuccessful 'war' with the Taliban. This is now over. General Mussharif has said that the Taliban promise to be 'good' and that he will not countenance any 'foreign power' interference in Waziristan. There is no way this can be taken as an advance in the cause of 'peace and democracy'.

This week another friendly-fire incident took the life of one young Canadian and injured a further 30 when an A-10 ground attack fighter strafed a Canadian position. The A-10 'Thunderbolt' was designed as a tank-buster; its main weapon is a 30 mm gatling-type cannon firing depleted uranium ammunition at a phenomenal rate per minute. This ammunition is reputed to have caused wide-spread contamination in parts of Iraq after its use there. Designed to knock out concentrations of warsaw pact armour, the low and slow beast is now employed in trashing taliban. The Canadian reactions to the strafing give some impression of what the Taliban undergo on a regular basis - if their experience is similar, they should have given-up long ago. Either the A-10 isn't the killer it's cracked-up to be, or the Taliban are a hell of a lot tougher than their opposition.

Which brings us back to the point. Why are Canadian troops in Afghanistan killing Taliban and posing in the cross hairs for American jet jockeys? Because they believe in 'the mission' say the supporters of the army. Because we need to fight world terrorism there, says the Prime Minister. Because we can. Because we have to. There are a host of reasons but all lack a certain elementary premise. Who, or what turned the mission of Canadians in support of the Afghan government's rebuilding program around Kabul, into a shooting war down the other end of the country? If anybody can get through to the Taliban it's got to be the Afghans - not us, the Americans or any other foreign power - it none of our business. It will, ultimately, be the Afghans who decide - and I'll bet my bippy, when they do decide, inviting us to leave will be part of it. The Afghans will have the kind of country they choose, even if it's one we don't like.

"They didn't die in vain" will ring hollow if they re-elect a taliban government. It will ring really hollow if Afghanistan reverts to a tribal narco-state. It will echo in Canadian history as Mr. Harper's blunder if it continues as it is.

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