Canada’s contribution to the war against terrorism

Canada is taking on a big challenge in Afghanistan: we have assumed command of the international coalition in southern Afghanistan, where insurgents continue to inflict heavy casualties.

This is Canada’s contribution to the so-called war on terror. The Government of Canada decided against sending troops into Iraq, a decision that most Canadians feel has been vindicated by subsequent events. However, we have participated in the war in Afghanistan, presumably freeing some US troops to fight in Iraq.

Taking charge of the region around Kandahar is a responsibility of a much greater magnitude, however.

According to today’s Globe and Mail, Brigadier-General David Fraser has been on the ground in Kandahar for several weeks, but he did not formally assume command of the international coalition (from U.S. Colonel Kevin Owens) until yesterday.

In recent days, senior Canadian defence officials, most notably Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor, have been at pains to say that the 2,200 Canadian troops deployed in the Kandahar region are there primarily to support the Afghan government and its institutions.

The reality on the ground, however, is that the Afghan institutions most under threat now are the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army, both of which have sustained casualties in a concerted insurgent campaign of roadside bombings and suicide attacks.

As a result, Canadian soldiers, while pursuing their humanitarian mission, will also be taking the fight to the insurgents, just as the U.S. troops they are replacing have done over the past year.

“In fact, what we’re doing is we’re going into their yard,” Brig.-Gen. Fraser told CTV’s Lisa LaFlamme yesterday. “We’re going to start kicking them.”

That will mean sending combat patrols into outlying areas where Taliban remnants and other insurgents retain control.

At the same time, Canadian troops can expect more of the urban suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices that have recently plagued coalition and Afghan troops in and around Kandahar city, U.S. military officers said.

Opposition leader Bill Graham, the former defence minister, expressed strong support for the Afghan mission yesterday.

“This is no longer the original mission that was started back when the Taliban were behind al-Qaeda. This is a mission now where the international community has committed itself to have Afghanistan create a stable society. They now have an elected, democratic government there. They want our troops there.”

On Saturday, the Globe and Mail published the results of a poll commissioned jointly with the CTV television network. The poll found that 62 per cent of Canadians oppose sending troops to Afghanistan, while only 27 per cent support it.

(Note: the pollster’s question was somewhat misleading: it implies that there are no Canadian troops in Afghanistan at present, which is not true.)

“I’m very, very surprised at the degree of opposition to something that is not well known by the population,” said Allan Gregg, chairman of the Strategic Counsel, which conducted the poll.

“I think you’ve got a knee-jerk against doing anything with the Americans, especially on the military front, but also part of this distinctiveness and difference with the United States is our unwarlike nature.” …

76 per cent of Quebeckers were against the idea, while 56 per cent of respondents in Western Canada — who are seen to be closer in values to the United States — also do not like the idea. …

On a related question, the poll found that among those who support sending troops, 31 per cent would change their minds if the operation leads to significant casualties.

It’s true, Canadians like to think of themselves as peacemakers, not aggressors, and we like to distinguish ourselves from the USA on that basis. But I’m not sure the poll results should be taken at face value.

The Liberal government did little to build support for an aggressive campaign against terrorism. The new Conservative government may be able to increase public support for Canada’s role in Afghanistan just by getting the facts out there. But that remains to be seen.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. snaars
    Mar 02, 2006 @ 17:58:00

    It’s about time you boys cowboy’d up and did your part. We real Americans are dang tired of doing all the dirty work. Why, betcha didn’t know all you Kanuks up there’d be speaking French if it wadn’t fer us! Now that we did the majority of the work, it’s safe for you guys to lend a little hand, you know, give us a breather for a while.

    You think peace comes easy, but I can tell you we’ve worked real hard to pummel those Ay-rab guys, and they still haven’t stopped fighting back! They’re so backwards, they don’t realize we’re doing it for D’mocracy and their own good.

    Thank God for George W. If he wad’nt in the White House, the them terrorists would win fer sure.


  2. Q
    Mar 02, 2006 @ 20:53:00

    That verb, “cowboy’d up”, just aint the same no more. Not since “Brokeback Mountain”.

    Them Hollywood liberals should be shipped straight to Gitmo. (‘Cept “straight” aint the right word in this context.)


  3. snaars
    Mar 03, 2006 @ 17:19:00

    Just remember not to squat with your spurs on, that’s all I gots to say.


  4. 49erDweet
    Mar 05, 2006 @ 18:04:00

    Add “cowboy” to yet another formerly honorable concept usurped and ruined by cretins from Hollywood.

    Good post, Q, and a strategic move welcomed by freedom lovers from many countries, even some whose governments are less than enthusiastic over a Canuck doing anything “together with” the great satan.

    Sorry about the MVA rollover fatality early on.–>


  5. Yo.
    Apr 20, 2007 @ 09:36:46

    I think that Canada should not be in Afghistan becsuse we have no purpose to be there and not to mention we’re losing our men there for no reason. If we wern’t there then they’d probably sort it out for themselves anyway.


  6. Stephen
    Apr 20, 2007 @ 15:22:39

    Canada is part of NATO. NATO agreed there was good cause to depose the Taliban government and deprive Osama bin Laden of his base.

    Letting the Afghan people “sort it out for themselves” means the Taliban will seize control again. If that’s the result we want, then you’re right — we should get out of there.


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