OPED: NDP Attack on Afghan Mission Lacks Credibility
© 2006 FrontLine Defence (Vol 3, No 5)

NDP leader Jack Layton recently went public with his party’s policy on Canada’s commitment to Afghanistan. His statement, and the subsequent approval of a corresponding resolution at the party’s convention in Québec City, was remarkable for its myopic vision of what is really going on in Afghanistan, and its disregard for the consequences of such a misguided policy. Layton declared that Canada should begin withdrawing from Afghanistan immediately, with all troops to be back home by February, 2007.

With dreary predictability, Layton goes on to indulge in his party’s obligatory anti-American rhetoric. The NDP statement proposes a role of “humanitarian aid, reconstruction, and a comprehensive peace process – not a George Bush style counter-insurgency war.” To suggest that Canadian soldiers are fighting – and dying – for anything other than our own national values and interests is insulting to our military and their families, and to the Afghans who have appealed to Canada for help in rebuilding their nation.

Apart from a failure to acknowledge the substantial reconstruction and humanitarian work that Canada and her 35 allies are performing in Afghanistan (poorly reported, to be sure), the most breathtaking fallacy of the NDP’s policy is the suggestion that Canada, once having pulled out unilaterally from that wartorn country, could lead the free world in peace negotiations with the Taliban.

In the first place, Canada would be seen as having betrayed her allies by giving up in the effort to create the stability without which reconstruction cannot proceed in any effective way.  Having thus placed our share of the burden onto the shoulders of the remaining coalition nations, Canada would become an out- cast in the eyes of our allies. Our voice in international councils will have been so weakened through our precipitous and selfish withdrawal that we would be ignored, rather than listened to. Imagine, for example, how Canada would be scorned at the November meeting of NATO heads of state in Riga.

Sept 2006 – Zhary District Center B Company's LAV III crew of vehicle 29 A await new orders: (from left) Master corporal Randy Joy (pronto/communicator); Corporal Pedro McKelvey (driver); Corporal Jonathan Shields (second in command, B Company). Task Force Afghanistan is part of Canada's contribution to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. This mission is about helping Afghans rebuild their lives, their families, their communities and their nation. These Canadians are helping improve the quality of life of Afghans by providing a secure environment which Afghan society can aspire to some normalcy in their life after more than 25 years of conflict. (Photo: MCpl Yves Gemus, Task Force Afghanistan, Op Athena)

Secondly, the premise that the Taliban would be encouraged to sit down at the negotiating table is pure nonsense. On the contrary, Canada’s withdrawal would surely be seen by the Taliban as a victory, a sign that they are winning in their drive to take power once again. As masters of propaganda, they and their terrorist cohorts would exploit Canada’s weakness to the hilt. In publicizing their position on Afghanistan, for whatever political motives, the NDP surely gives encouragement to the terrorists, in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Why, then, would the Taliban want to talk? What could be negotiated, even if they miraculously agreed to sit down and negotiate? Could they be convinced to lay down their arms?Not a chance. Would they agree to work with the democratically elected government of Hamid Karzai? Ofcourse not.

The Taliban have made it clear that their single-minded objective is to regain control of Afghanistan and return it to the fiercely oppressive regime that was brought down in 2001. Afghans dread the prospect of a return to such Taliban excesses as the banning of girls from schools, not allowing women out of their houses unless they wear full-length burkas (and then only if accompanied by a male member of the family), a ban on music, the destruction of works of art, the public beheading of dissenters in football stadiums, and the extremist view that all “infidels” must convert to the Taliban’s grossly distorted form of Islam or face execution.

I wonder if the NDP rank and file are aware that the Taliban, even today as part

of their insurgency, are destroying schools at the rate of about one per day, and murdering teachers in front of their students. Do they know, also, that the Taliban’s operations are funded largely from the huge profits generated by Afghanistan’s opium industry, which feeds 90 percent of Europe’s heroin addicts?

Canada is in Afghanistan because the vast majority of Afghans want us there. Defeating the Taliban is a clear prerequisite for the ultimate goal of full reconstruction.

To cut and run, as Layton and the NDP are proposing, would set the processon its heels. It is fortunate for the people of Afghanistan – and for Canadians – that the NDP policy has no chance whatso- ever of being implemented.
General Manson, a former Chief of the Defence Staff, is currently President of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute (CDAI).
© Frontline Defence 2006