Time to leave Afghanistan

Stephen Harper is not the prime minister who first sent Canadian troops to Afghanistan. He is, however, the prime minister who is taking every last one of our soldiers out of that hot spot with an exit strategy that is equal parts good politics and good policy.

Stephen Harper is not the prime minister who first sent Canadian troops to Afghanistan. He is, however, the prime minister who is taking every last one of our soldiers out of that hot spot with an exit strategy that is equal parts good politics and good policy.

His announcement at the weekend NATO summit that Canada will leave Afghanistan permanently after its current training mission ends in early 2014 will be popular at home. People across Canada are weary of being involved in a faraway conflict that began in 2001 and will be remembered — for better or worse — as this country’s longest war.

Those people will approve of Harper’s decision, which came despite pressure from some NATO allies for him to keep Canadian troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Meanwhile, setting an expiry date for the Afghan military mission will spare him from opposition attacks in an area where he would be vulnerable.

But Harper would not be justified in withdrawing Canadian forces from Afghanistan if it was only to satisfy his own political agenda. If he was abandoning Canada’s NATO allies or leaving Afghanistan susceptible to takeover by the Taliban insurgents we have fought over the past 11 years, his decision would deserve severe criticism.

There are, after all, 158 Canadian soldiers who died trying to bring stability, the rule of law and, yes, democracy to the country that served as a base for the orchestrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaida terrorist attacks on the U.S. The huge expenditure of Canadian money, energy — and lives — in Afghanistan would largely be in vain if the Taliban regained control of the country and opened its doors to the terrorists, inviting them back to plot whatever atrocity they wished.

No one can say today what will happen in Afghanistan two or three years from now, after Canada and some other NATO countries have pulled out entirely and when the Americans gradually reduce their troop commitment there. Even so, there are compelling reasons to believe the Afghan army, which Canada has helped, will be strong enough to withstand any Taliban comeback.

There has been method to Canada’s changing roles in Afghanistan. Between 2006 and 2011, 2,500 of our soldiers at a time served in combat. After that a much smaller group of 900 soldiers began training the Afghans. That commitment will end according the original schedule. When it does, Afghanistan should have an army with 352,000 capable soldiers who are more than a match for the Taliban. A sizable American military presence will remain, for a time, to back up those soldiers. Moreover, Canada will provide $330 million to the Afghan military over three years, our part of $4.1 billion in NATO funding.

The war in Afghanistan was unlike most of the other military conflicts that have involved Canada. There was never a conventional enemy in the field to take on in a conventional battle. There was never a conventional war to be ended with one or two decisive victories. This was a counter-insurgency campaign fought against people who wore no uniforms and who outwardly looked like the people we were trying to defend.

In its service to Afghanistan, Canada has acquitted itself with honour and distinction. In the early days, it helped deny terrorists a base in Afghanistan and thereby made all of North America more secure. In the many years since then, it has at great cost to itself helped build a more stable Afghanistan. But no military commitment can be forever. In 2014, Canada will have been involved in Afghanistan over a 13-year period. Unless there is a drastic reversal of fortune before that time, all the Canadian troops should leave. It was right for Harper to issue this order and time to focus on other foreign challenges.

An editorial from the Waterloo, Ont., Region Record.

Just Posted

Rebels drop home opener to Oil Kings

The Edmonton Oil Kings were simply better than the Red Deer Rebels… Continue reading

Diesel spilled in Penhold neighbourhood

Penhold Fire Department responded

House fire in Penhold

Damage estimated at $30,000

Red Deer Players host play reading for public

Audience feedback for playwright

Sylvan Lake cleanup cancelled

Weather prompts cancellation

RDC Kings topple Medicine Hat College Rattlers

Kings Matheus Alves scores twice in the win

Nurse leads Canada over South Korea 82-63 at FIBA Women’s World Cup

TENERIFE, Spain — Kia Nurse poured in 29 points to lift Canada… Continue reading

Aretha Franklin exhibit debuts with eye toward her legacy

DETROIT — The Detroit museum that hosted Aretha Franklin’s public visitations after… Continue reading

‘Anaana’s Tent’ passes Inuit songs, legends, language to a new generation

In Pangnirtung, Nunavut, on the eastern tip of Baffin Island, Rita Claire… Continue reading

Housing data decision opens door to real estate innovation, say realtors

TORONTO — Realtor Daniel Steinfeld has wanted to post home sales data… Continue reading

Ty Long kicks winning field goal, Lions come back to beat Ticats in OT

VANCOUVER — Ty Long was eager for a special moment, and he… Continue reading

Indigenous eateries take centre stage in Canada thanks to increasing awareness

VANCOUVER — Since Paul Natrall started serving Indigenous cuisine from his Mr.… Continue reading

Canada’s capital region reeling after intense tornado rips through communities

OTTAWA — Parts of Canada’s national capital were still reeling Saturday after… Continue reading

Coaches, players on Alberta university rugby team buckle up for the Broncos

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — The head coach of the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns… Continue reading

Most Read