Monday, February 25, 2008

Afghanistan and the Soldiers of Battle Company

The big debate on Afghanistan that we should have had years ago is finally underway.

But already it's looking more like a comedy show.

With Peter Mackay warning if we don't stop the Taliban in Afghanistan we'll have to fight them in Winnipeg. If they can find it on a map.

Stephane Dion blabbing on about how how our troops should have a non combat role... in a war zone like Kandahar.

Leaving Jack Layton.... who nobody listens to anyway.... to state the obvious:

"Make no mistake about it, Mr. Speaker, this is a motion to continue a war."


The bottom line? Our troops are condemned to three more years in Afghanistan... fighting as hard or harder than they have long as NATO can come up with 1,000 more troops.

Even though our own commanders say we need five times more.

Canada needs as many as 5,000 professional NATO soldiers — double its current force — to hold Kandahar's key districts, a senior commander says, suggesting that previous demands for extra troops are not enough for basic security in the province.

Even though a Pentagon general recently told Congress that we need 400.000 soldiers to beat back the Taliban and provide security for reconstruction.

Even though if we are to win the counter- insurgency war....we will eventually have to move out from the Kandahar districts into bandit country.

Tribal elders from the mountainous district of Khakrez complained last week that NATO has failed to prevent the Taliban from running amok in the northern part of the province.

And start losing Afghan hearts....and OUR minds. Like the American soldiers from Battle Company.

One full-moon night I was sitting outside a sandbag-reinforced hut with Kearney when a young sergeant stepped out hauling the garbage. He looked around at the illuminated mountains, the dust, the rocks, the garbage bin. The monkeys were screeching. “I hate this country!” he shouted. Then he smiled and walked back into the hut. “He’s on medication,” Kearney said quietly to me.

Then another soldier walked by and shouted, “Hey, I’m with you, sir!” and Kearney said to me, “Prozac. Serious P.T.S.D. from last tour.” Another one popped out of the HQ cursing and muttering. “Medicated,” Kearney said. “Last tour, if you didn’t give him information, he’d burn down your house. He killed so many people. He’s checked out.”

Sandifer was questioning why they were sticking it out in the Korengal when the people so clearly hated them.

One day an Afghan visited their fire base, Sandifer told me. “I was staring at him, on the verge of picking up my weapon to shoot him,” he said. “I know right from wrong, but even if I did shoot him everyone at the fire base would have been O.K. We’re all to the point of ‘Lord of the Flies.’ ”

Uh oh. Memo to HQ. Send a pig's head and a sharp stick to Afghanistan.

Seriously though... would it be too much to hope that our politicians and the generals would just level with Canadians? And tell the truth about the bleak military situation.

So something can be DONE about it. So our brave and professional soldiers have a chance to succeed...instead of dying for a Mission Impossible.

Because as it is....three more years in Afghanistan, without enough troops, and no realistic expectation of ultimate success.

Could be a REALLY long and bloody time...

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