Saturday, June 23, 2012

Thanks an Effin Lot, Eh?

In a new book by  Rajiv Chandrasekaran ("Little America: the War within the War in Afghanistan") Canada's noble contribution to the little girls of Afghanistan is being panned by some of the warrior elite of America. Canada's lack of 'performance', or failure to do what it took, or lack of caring about Kandahar, or just not getting out of the way so the guys who knew better could do it right, is being blamed, as a causal factor, in  ISAF's notable  failure-to-thrive.

The Canadian 'lack' has been apparent from the very beginning. When the Martin government signed on to the UN 'mission' to rebuild a devastated Afghanistan, it only took a couple of weeks before Canada's military approach was being criticized as not being military enough. Engineers were less needed than infantry. Even when Canadian soldiers, undergoing 'security training' were mistakenly bombed by a USAF  jabo and the shortcomings of our light-skinned patrol vehicles were made apparent in a couple of  mine incidents, Canada was criticized for its 'peacekeeper' mentality. The criticism came from within the Canadian Forces too. There was a shooting war going on as America had engendered an Afghan insurgency across the formerly-pacified southern provinces. America wanted a more 'robust' Canadian presence. And so 'they' gave 'us' Kandahar.

Canada's 'warfighters' took up their bunker HQs  at the airport facility and extablished a FOB in downtown Kandahar to protect the 'government area'. In typical fashion, however, and in hindsight, what was thought to be 'enough',  wasn't. Out of a deployment rotation of 2500 troops, only 800, or less, qualified as 'fighting forces' - the rest were administrative, or training types,  assigned to base area duties or logistics. The fighters were expected to maintain security in the Kanadahar area. That was soon extended to the Panjwaii and other areas south and west of the city. A massive jail break in Kandahar resulted in a temporary shift of focus to the Arghandab river valley north-west of the city in an unsuccessful joint ISAF operation to bring the escapees back to  prison, or kill them. 

Canada's main war-fighting efforts were centered on the Panjwaii. The first introduction - 'Operation Medusa' - the pacification of the Panjwaii area - led to Canada's first battle deaths and the first criticism from US commanders that Canadians were a bit 'diffident' about getting shot, lacking in the 'warrior ethos' that makes a frontal assault the thrill it is. That lack of 'robustness' would become a chorus in the ballad of how Canadians 'helped', or didn't. Canada went on to pacify the area and build a couple of  'model villages' that were held up as examples of what ISAF intended to do.  When Canadians combat units  were pulled out in 2011, the US moved in and quickly returned the area to 'Dodge City 'status, with their night raids and destruction of  'abandoned' compounds. and marketplaces. It was in the Panjwaii area that the notorious 'one-man massacre' was to take place in early 2012.

The 'girls' club' at US headquarters in Kandahar also managed to remove the Canadian 'hotshot' - Brigadier Danny Menard, when they made sure gossip and war reporter Mike 'Yawn' got to find out he was 'having it off' with a female corporal. That was only the last nail in his coffin, as the 'warfighters' had criticized his 'security performance' on an IED attack on the main road bridge between Kandahar and the airport, and he had been fined for almost shooting the Canadian CinC,  smilin' Walt Natanczuk, in an weapons discharge accident.

We all know that, as Canada was getting ready to leave, President Obama was preparing to 'kick the cat' one last time. Meeting with his military advisors, the 'surge' doctrine was adapted to Afghanistan. The Petraeus part of the strategy - the "I can do that with less troops, Mr President", saw a change of command as 'new boys' moved up to the plate.  Command deals were made, the Marines were tasked with the greatest part of the labour,. timelines were set, success guaranteed and the cavalry rode off to eliminate the savages. 

It failed.

The new boys have been replaced, the old boys have been promoted and other than much more damage than had previously been done to southern Afghanistan, little more than some photo ops has been changed. The insurgency, while diminished perhaps - significant populations being killed, interned or refugeed out of Kandahar and Helmand provinces - is as nasty and as ubiquitous as ever. In fact it has moved from the hinterlands of the south and now occurs, as viciously and regularly, everywhere else. 

And now as things 'wind down' to the vict'ry stage of the Petraeus model, Canada remains, for the time being, engaged in a fairly useless training role and a probably  more useful SF role. Canada's famed SF 'killers' who won glowing accolades from American killers will, no doubt, be part of that 'presence' that will be remaining behind to assist the Afghan 'killers' to eliminate  the insurgency.  Unless, of course, the Afghan 'killers'  continue to kill their allies, as they've increasingly taken to doing.

Whatever happens the Canadians' sub-par performance will be a part of the myth of how America was cheated out of another moral victory (like Vietnam) - to go along with the, obvious, battlefield wins.

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