West lacks stomach to deal effectively with Afghanistan, ex-Cdn diplomat says

A Canadian diplomat who endured four months of captivity at the hands of al-Qaida says the West lacks the stomach to deal effectively with the “complex misery” that is Afghanistan.

Robert Fowler stands in the gallery of the House of Commons as he is recognized by the House Speaker and members of Parliament in Ottawa on Tuesday May 26 2009. The former Canadian diplomat says he believes someone in the government of Niger or possibly with the United Nations betrayed him to al-Qaida.The special UN envoy to Niger and his aide Louise Guay spent four months in captivity after they were taken at gunpoint last December while driving northwest of the capital.

TORONTO — A Canadian diplomat who endured four months of captivity at the hands of al-Qaida says the West lacks the stomach to deal effectively with the “complex misery” that is Afghanistan.

In the second part of an interview with CBC’s “The National” being broadcast Wednesday, Robert Fowler called the international community’s objectives in the insurgency-racked country “noble” but unlikely to succeed.

“I just don’t think, in the West, that we are prepared to invest the blood or treasure to get this done,” Fowler said.

“It’s not just the commitment and the wasting of our youth and the enormous, enormous cost in difficult financial times. It’s to get it done, we will have to do some unpleasant things. I mean some deeply hard.”

It was not immediately clear what kinds of “unpleasant” things Fowler had in mind.

The now-retired diplomat and his aide Louis Guay spent four months as hostages of al-Qaida militants in Mali after being taken at gunpoint last December in Niger, where Fowler was the UN special envoy.

In the account of the interview published on CBC’s website, Fowler suggested the energy and time Canada is investing in the eight-year-old Afghan mission would be better spent elsewhere.

“It strikes me as rather extreme that one goes out and looks for particularly complex misery to fix,” Fowler said.

“There’s lots of things to fix that can be done more efficiently and probably more effectively.”

The veteran civil servant and diplomat described the Afghan intervention as one of the most “complex, challenging” missions, adding, “This is not a nice war.”

The Canadian government has pledged to end Canada’s combat role in Afghanistan in 2011 amid rising angst both domestically and among international forces about the increasing amounts of blood being spilled in the effort to put down a wily and obstinate Taliban-led insurgency.

To date, 129 Canadian soldiers have died on the mission.

Fowler and Guay were kidnapped by about 20 members of al-Qaida’s North African wing — the Algeria-based al-Qaida Organization in the Islamic Maghreb or AQIM — who live in a world he said he simply couldn’t understand.

“There was no fun, there was no love, there was no joy.”

Fowler, who lost about 40 pounds during his captivity in the stifling desert heat, said he never gave up hope he would be released but said there were days when he was deeply depressed about his odds of surviving.

The two hostages, along with two European tourists also held captive, were finally released in April, although it remains unclear what prompted the kidnappers to let them go.

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