Canadian troops in Afghanistan Two planes. Two towers. Two wars. 9/11 fucked the world up, or at least the part of the world that nobody really gave a fuck about until the United States started bombing it. Most people didn’t even know where Afghanistan was before 9/11, yet alone understand the century of warfare between rival tribes, warlords, imperialists and Islamic extremists that had ravished its rugged terrain.
Whether you think Osama bin Laden is an evil psychopath or a weirdo with a lot of wives doesn’t matter. After 9/11 he became another talking head on television and the sole reason Canada sent its cavalry into Afghanistan for America’s “War on Terror.”
But as Canada’s death toll mounts (42 soldiers, one diplomat, and how many Afghanis?) and everyone has given up trying to find bin Laden (he’s in Pakistan), more Canadians are beginning to wonder what the fuck Canada is doing smack in the middle of a country that has chased away every foreign occupier that has ever dared enter.
“We can’t win in Afghanistan military,” says Scott Taylor, a former soldier and editor of Esprit de Corps, a magazine for Canadian soldiers. “The more that we up the mission and the more combat we engage in, the more we begin to be seen as a foreign occupier and as the enemy to [Afghanis]. You can’t win the hearts and minds at the point of a gun.”
The debate has divided the country between those who believe Canada needs to show some balls–even if it means getting them blown off–versus those who feel Canada has gotten itself caught in a suicide mission. Most are torn between the opportunity for Canada to help and the possibility that Canada may be doing more harm than good. Even more don’t really have a clue about what they’re talking about.
Those in favour of Canada’s war note that the Taliban are vicious
bastards who won’t go down without a fight. These are the same assholes that banned girls from attending school, beat women if their burqas were too short, punished adultery with stoning, and liked to blow things up.
Although the Taliban helped push Afghanistan back 10 centuries in 10 years, Canada didn’t feel the need to get all up in arms until 9/11. Sohaila Siddiqui, president of the Afghan Benevolent Association of BC, says Canada now has an opportunity to stabilise the world’s worst “failed states.”
“Because Afghanistan is a poor country, they ignored it,” says Siddiqui. “[But with] 9/11 they felt our pain… If Canadian forces pull out now, we will have the same problem as before and these [past] years of efforts will be useless.”
9/11 actually gave the world a chance to right its worst wrongs. But in the five years after the Americans bombed the fuck out the impoverished country, the Taliban is rejuvenated, opium is flourishing, and there has been little redevelopment outside of Kabul.
Canada’s track record in Afghanistan has also been questionable. Although Canada has spent $1 billion on redevelopment in the country over the past 10 years, there is little evidence of concrete results. Around 2,500 Canadian soldiers are now involved in heavy combat in southern Afghanistan. According to Human Rights Watch, their bombing campaign has turned many Afghanis against them. But with the US bombing the shit out of Iraq, who will keep the Taliban at bay?
Last May, Canada agreed to commit troops to the region until 2009. No one in their right mind thinks Afghanistan will be stabalised for another 50 years. Should Canada stay or go, or is there something in between? In the next three issues, Only will examine Canada’s role in a complicated war.