What is the real story in Afghanistan?
Nov 15, 2010

What is the real story in Afghanistan?
One of the most important decisions facing governments of “the west” is how to handle the dangerous unrest in the middle east, particularly Afghanistan. Many of our leaders recognized the imperative of influencing the Afghan people to create lasting, or real, change. Yet, as time wears on, debts mount, and casualties continue to test us, it is difficult to maintain the resolve. Will the pendulum swing back too quickly?

Terrorism has affected us all – some more directly than others. For instance, ­terrorism has affected our economy through the redirection of government funding toward security and prevention options. Military funding is also squeezing out peacetime project funding. With such a financial drain, it’s no wonder that government leaders are pushing back and exhibiting signs of “commitment fatigue.”

However, a responsible government cannot turn a blind eye to turmoil around the world and “hope” we are insulated from its effects (until their administration is over at least). Will Opposition Members continue to fight the reality of a need for military sustainability, to the detriment of Canada’s future stability?

Clearly, today’s crushing costs could have been mitigated if more responsible replacement schedules had been maintained rather than allowing equipment to rust out and infrastructure to degrade. Rear-Admiral Bruce Johnston focuses on how neglecting the shipbuilding industry for so long has left our Navy in a ­critical position. We cannot dwell on errors of the past, but we can ensure such ­short-sightedness never returns. Describing CF recruitment targets as “too modest,” Senator Hugh Segal points out that such strategic planning must also extend to personnel levels in the Canadian Forces.

Officials and analysts, the world over, have been examining the progress(?) being made in Afghanistan. Of course, we’d all like change to be faster, but consider the extremes of cultural differences between our societies – only gradual change can truly be ­sustainable.

Many difficult complications ­merge to complete this picture, as Claude Bachand outlines in his submission on the NATO Committee he was involved in. However, Don Macnamara notes that a cultural shift is required right here at home if we are to provide the more balanced and sustainable ‘whole-of-govern­ment’ solution needed in Afghanistan. And yet, there is progress. Blair Watson examines how the Provincial Reconstruction Teams have made significant headway.

We can only hope the next stage of response will continue to improve the lives of war-weary Afghan citizens. However, real change will not happen until the rights and protection of women and children are made a priority.

© FrontLine Defence 2010