Canada’s future in Afghanistan

The Way Forward in Afghanistan: Is withdrawal an option?

Since the beginning of the Afghan war in October 2001, over twelve-thousand Afghan civilians, twenty-two thousand insurgents and over fourteen-hundred NATO soldiers have died in the conflict.

The US has spent nearly $250 billion fighting this war. Canada’s role has been no less important, spending over $20 billion, and seeing 141 valiant soldiers give their lives to the mission.

Yet despite the loss of life, the financial cost, and the immeasurable disruption of life for millions of Afghanis, a full eight years after the international community’s initial engagement in Afghanistan, NATO forces are still fighting the Taliban for control of the country.

We, both Canadians and the broader global community, must decide what the future of our engagement in Afghanistan will look like. How long are we prepared to stay? And what ends are we prepared to accept in the development of Afghanistan?

These are questions that I’ve struggled with over the past several months as the situation in Afghanistan has ebbed and flowed, and as discussion about Canada’s role in Afghanistan has been blurred by the recent Afghan detainee debate.

However, with current government strategy aimed at a withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan in 2011, and regardless of American wishes for us to stay, we need to ask ourselves whether leaving is the most appropriate strategy for both Canada’s national self-interest and our desires to help Afghanistan rebuild.

The next four short essays will try and delve into the topic of Afghanistan’s progress and continued conflict in an effort to help me, and perhaps others, decipher what Canada’s plan for its role in Afghanistan should be.

Part 1: Afghanistan today – Eight Years and Counting
Part II: The Myth of the Moral Crusade
Part III: What do Afghans want?
Part IV: Beyond 2011

This isn’t an ideological yes or no, I don’t believe in those. Rather this is an attempt at a pragmatic look at one of the most important issues to involve Canada since the Second World War.

Unfortunately, pragmatism rarely produces clear answers.

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