The death of another young Canadian soldier has provided the kindling to reignite the debate over the usefulness of Canada’s role in Afghanistan — and even Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean waded into the issue Monday.
The death of 21-year-old Pte. Patrick Lormand, Canada’s 130th soldier killed in the mission, prompted an impassioned address from the country’s top-ranking soldier in Afghanistan.
Brig.-Gen. Jonathan Vance’s stern rebuke was aimed directly at a Liberal senator who publicly expressed doubt about the mission’s potential.
Senator Colin Kenny, the chair of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, compared the effort to a historic military quagmire and suggested Canada should scale back its role in the remaining year of its combat mission.
“What we hoped to accomplish in Afghanistan has proved to be impossible. We are hurtling toward a Vietnam ending,” Kenny wrote in an opinion piece published in several Canadian newspapers.
In an interview with The Canadian Press on Monday, Kenny said military and aid goals have simply not been met and there’s no sign they will be.
That was met with a harsh response from Vance as he spoke about the passing of Lormand.
“Neither (Lormand) nor his family benefit from uninformed opinions about what his goals were and the techniques he used to achieve them,” Vance said. Military officials told reporters the statement was directed at Kenny.
Kenny said he has nothing but the utmost respect for Vance and the work of Canadian soldiers on the ground, working against tremendous odds. However, he said, Canadians need to have a frank discussion about the mission.
Canada’s normally apolitical governor general also waded into the issue.
Departing from the standard statement of condolence for a fallen soldier, Jean issued an unusually passionate tribute to the Chute-A-Blondeau, Ont., native. She described an emotional trip she took to Kandahar last week, and applauded the good work of Canada’s soldiers.
“It broke my heart today to learn of the death,” Jean wrote in the statement, which was posted on her website.
“As a tribute to Private Lormand, I would like to reflect on the mission for which he so bravely gave his life, because, not three days ago, I was with our soldiers in Afghanistan to honour the difficult and remarkable job they are doing.”
Jean described a hospital where she met children who had been burned and mutilated by insurgents’ bombs.
She also visited a school where, she said, children expressed gratitude that foreign soldiers would risk their lives to provide security for their country.
“These are the people we never — or rarely — hear from,” Jean said.
“They all told me that the actions of our soldiers to insure the security of the area . . . (is) helping them to move forward as they face the forces of destruction in their country.”