About a week ago, we picked up on a subtlety in Liberal leader Stéphane Dion’s question to the Prime Minister in Question Period. M. Dion seemed to be suggesting that the 1000 new troops that Canada is seeking from NATO would REPLACE our soldiers rather than REINFORCE them.
The Manley report was very clear that “This added deployment should consist of a battle group (about 1,000 soldiers) to reinforce ISAF’s “clear, hold and develop” strategy in Kandahar…These additional troops would serve to expand ISAF’s security coverage in Kandahar, and reinforce ISAF’s capacity to prevent incursions…To repeat: A successful counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan requires more ISAF forces.” [p.35]
The report also emphatically encouraged “Early adoption by NATO of a comprehensive political-military plan to address security concerns and imbalances, especially the need for more troops to bolster security…” [p.37]
In today’s Star article, Allan Woods reports “A government motion to extend the Afghan mission to 2011 could be in jeopardy after the emergence of a major difference of opinion with the Liberals on the future role Canadian troops will assume.” According to Woods, deputy Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff is the driving force behind this fracture in the agreement between Conservatives and Liberals. “‘If the government does not accept a clear focus on training and reconstruction, if they believe that they can sneak past Parliament a motion that continues the existing mission … I am afraid that they will have difficulty securing the Canadian consensus that this party is seeking,’ Ignatieff said in the House of Commons.“
There is no doubt that the Conservatives have made large concessions in an effort to find common ground with the Liberals. Both parties have said they don’t want an election on Afghanistan; the Liberals now appear to be backing away from that. This would be extremely divisive for Canada, and our military will be innocently caught in the middle of a game of political football.
An overwhelming majority of military and civilian pundits have criticized the Liberals position of “stay, but no combat” as unrealistic. Even many in the media have openly contended that it makes no sense at all. When you look at how Canadians have died in Afghanistan, it is clear that “combat” is not what has made our soldiers vulnerable.
What has brought about the deaths of most of our soldiers is driving troops and supplies across Afghan roads booby trapped with explosives. As we documented in a previous post, the number of casualties suffered by Canadian Forces in direct counter-insurgency operations that the Liberals are insisting must be discontinued is 10. That represents only about 12% of all Canadian casualties. The other 88% of Canadians died either as a result of being in military vehicles that came under attack, or facilitating reconstruction and training of Afghans when they came under attack.
According to DND briefings, “Sergeant Tedford and Private Williamson were killed when their unit was ambushed near a road development project in the Panjwayi area of Afghanistan, west of Kandahar. This road project is vital to local development and progress.”
In another report from earlier in that month we learn that “Two Canadian soldiers, Sergeant Craig Paul Gillam and Corporal Robert Thomas James Mitchell, were killed today in the Panjwayi area in Afghanistan… These brave young men were working alongside their fellow comrades to clear mines and improvised explosive devices from a route for a future road construction project, when they came under attack…
Our Canadian Forces members in Afghanistan face an enemy that will go to any length to try to undermine any progress made for Afghans to have a brighter future. The courage demonstrated by Sergeant Gillam and Corporal Mitchell speaks volumes to their dedication to our country and to this mission…These soldiers lost their lives in a mission to prevent Afghanistan from reverting to a safe haven for terrorists and their destructive networks. Canada will remain forever grateful for their service, and we are all saddened by this loss.”
The Liberal proposal to keep our troops engaged in “training and reconstruction,” but tie their hands from combat, will do nothing to keep our troops safe! It will in fact make them more vulnerable because the Liberals would rob our troops of the reinforcements they need to provide security on the ground. The only thing more sad than the Liberals forcing an election on this issue is the fact that more brave Canadians might die because the Liberal want to avoid being seen as supporting the Conservative government.