Afghanistan Reduced to Finger-Pointing


It's the political equivalent of musical chairs. When the music stops someone has to pay.

Justin Trudeau was prime minister when the Taliban rolled up Afghanistan's central government so it's his fault that Afghanis who worked with/for Canada during the West's ill-fated adventure got left behind.

Was it the prime minister's fault that he didn't realize the Afghan National Army, 20-years in the baking, would fold like a cheap suit, province by province, as the Taliban marched on Kabul?  Was the prime minister forewarned this collapse was a real possibility? Did he have reason to anticipate this fiasco?

I don't know what Justin Trudeau knew or what he ought to have known. Do you? If you want to second guess, here's an idea. Canada was part of ISAF, an international (mainly NATO) force. Here, in alphabetic order, is the roster:  Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Latvia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the UK, and the US, plus Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Finland, Georgia, Ireland, Macedonia, Switzerland, Sweden and Ukraine, plus Australia, Bahrain, Jordan, Mongolia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and United Arab Emirates. That's a real mosaic, don't you think?

How did Canada's effort compare with the rest of the crew? Shouldn't that be the yardstick by which we judge the Trudeau government?

What if word had gotten out six months ago that Canada was summoning its Afghani nationals to di di mau out of that hell hole on the double? What if our ISAF partners had done something similar? How much chaos would that have triggered?

This has been a dark farce from the get go. A Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer testified in the early years that the post-Taliban government didn't stand a chance unless it first rid itself of tribalism and warlordism.  How is a nation of 16 distinct ethnic groups supposed to overcome tribalism? It happened once, under the last king, when the tribes were given a measure of semi-autonomy. That didn't survive the ouster of the monarchy.  As for warlordism, the Americans hand-picked Hamid Karzai, a warlord of the Durrani Pashtuns, to lead the country and, despite Washington's urgings, Karzai had no choice but to allow other bloody warlords to take key posts in his government. It was only Western firepower that kept those clowns in office these past 20 years.

A huge share of the blame for the current fiasco belongs to our generals, a bunch of careerist ticket-punchers to rival the American command in Vietnam. They kept blathering on about this campaign or that and how we were grinding the Talibs into the dust.  Did you ever hear a general admit Afghanistan was a civil war held in abeyance by the presence of outsourced military muscle, a big game of "whack-a-mole"?  They were trolling their soldiers through IED-laced backroads and alleyways to show the flag. Not one of them did the honourable thing by resigning in protest. Not one.

How long does it take to raise an army? How many years are needed to recruit, equip, train  and deploy a credible military force? 20 years? 20 years is tantamount to never. That much is evident in how rapidly the ANA forces folded, often switching to the other side and taking their modern Western weapons and hardware with them.

I think it would have been fair to draw a sharp red line under the Afghan government and the nation after 5 years, definitely at the 10-year mark. But we couldn't do that. This was, after all, a "frat house" war. 46 nations. 46 fraternity brothers. A 20-year kegger.

We went from a security role to combat to a training mission. That training sure yielded results, eh?  Even the South Vietnamese army in retreat bitterly fought the NVA into the heart of Saigon. 

So Canada, like most if not all of its frat brothers, didn't get all of its locals out safely. That is certainly unfortunate but, beyond that, what does it really tell us?

All it tells me is that this makes great fodder coming in the midst of an election campaign. Beyond that, not very much, not much at all.


  1. So much for punching above our weight!
    When will the west stop trying to impose their values upon other ideologies?
    Perhaps when the minerals and oil run out?
    It could be worse, we could have Tony Blaire who still cannot accept any responsibility.


    1. There was one instance when a Canadian infantry lieutenant let slip that at one point, far from punching above our weight, the small Canadian contingent was nearly defeated by the Talibs.

      The Afghan war was launched in the mass trauma of the 9/11 attacks. We really weren't thinking straight. The Americans invoked Article 5 of the NATO charter and its closest allies went along without asking any questions.

      We ought to have at least run the Powell Doctrine checklist. Was a "vital security interest" threatened by the Taliban (as opposed to al Qaeda)? Was there a clear, attainable objective? Were the risks and costs thoroughly analyzed? Was there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglements? Were the consequences of our actions properly analyzed.

      Colin Powell defined eight pre-requisites that had to exist before committing Western military forces to a land war abroad. We didn't meet at least five of his criteria. The writing was on the wall before ISAF troops landed in Kabul.

      We circumvented these difficult questions by the piecemeal way we committed to the fray. At first it was just to secure the national capital, Kabul. Then we moved to a combat role in Kandahar that was conveniently set for a fixed term of years. After that it was on to a training mission that proved pointless.

      We ought to have realized in the early years that America wasn't in this war to win it and that should have informed all our subsequent decisions. Any argument about that ended when the White House chose to divert its efforts to toppling Saddam in Iraq, an act of exquisite stupidity. That ought to have erased all doubt that the guy behind the wheel was piss drunk.

      This was the handiwork of the neocons, many of whom Cheney installed in critical posts in George w. Bush's administration. It was madness, lunacy. Recall when Dick Cheney promised that the Iraq invasion would be a six month, open and shut conquest that would pay for itself out of Iraqi oil resources.

      That Canadian leaders fell for it is inexcusable.

  2. Patrick McKenna ( dressed as a US General in camouflage pj's ) played whack a mole with bin Laden years ago. Prescient. Why isn't he in charge.

    1. Rumley, are you writing of Patrick McKenna of Royal Canadian Air Farce fame?


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