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Resident Curmudgeon
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Thanks for that MacGuiver. That is the kind of thing my military neighbours here talk about all the time. Too bad so many Canadians don't hear it first hand like I do. Instead they keep harping on bringing troops home in ignorance of their achievements.
 

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Canadian By Choice
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Yes, helping children to get an education is something we can all feel proud of, be it there or here. This is their key to a better life for all the children in Afghanistan.
 

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Out Now.

On Tuesday, April 23rd the Globe & Mail published a piece by Graeme Smith that detailed human rights abuses committed by Afghan authorities on detainees after the Canadian military transferred them to their authority. The report details horrible accounts by detainees at the hands of Afghan authorities…

“None of the abuse was inflicted by Canadians, and most Afghans captured — even those who clearly sympathized with the Taliban — praised the Canadian soldiers for their politeness, their gentle handling of captives and their comfortable detention facility.”​

That, of course, reflects what the standards of this nation are all about. Unfortunately, when there are others prepared to get their hands bloody, the compassionate resonance of this paragraph is quickly erased…

“Mahmad Gul, 33, an impoverished farmer, said he was interrogated for three days in May of 2006, without any meals, at Zhari District Centre, a small town west of Kandahar city.

His tormentors were the Afghan police, he said, but the Canadian soldiers who visited him between beatings had surely heard his screams.

“The Canadians told me, ‘Give them real information, or they will do more bad things to you,’ ” Mr. Gul said.”​

If that is accurate, if Canadians did indeed have contact with him during that time, knowing what was happening, after he had been in Canadian custody and transferred to Afghan authorities which then tortured him, then that is, without question, or even the possibility of arguing the fact, a breach of international law, human rights laws, and actually constitutes war crimes. It should also be noted that, unlike other foreign militaries operating in Afghanistan, Canada has not ratified an agreement that requires them to check up on those they have handed over to Afghan authorities.

According to both Michael Byers and Amir Attaran, two of the most noted legal experts in Canada with regards to human rights and international law…

“Under international law, you are prohibited from transferring to torture. You are prohibited from facilitating torture in any way,” said Mr. Byers, who teaches international law and politics at the University of British Columbia.​

“We’re not simply speaking about the criminal responsibility of individual Canadian soldiers. We’re speaking also of command responsibility, of criminal responsibility that continues up the chain of command, to any superior officer who knew of the risk of torture and who ordered or allowed our soldiers to transfer detainees nevertheless,” he said.​

Of course, like a host of others, we can simply choose to disregard both international and human rights laws under the auspices of the The War On Terror and continue to be complicit in the transfer of detainees into the hands of torturers. It should also not be overlooked that this is not the first instance of our complicity. Canadian authorities basically did the exact same thing to Maher Arar.
 

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There are very few in Canada that do not support humanitarian aid in Afghanistan.
The problem arises that resources are be allocated to cowboys like Hillier and NOT enough to the civilian portion of PRT and other agencies.
Blurring military and humanitarian missions makes the latter very difficult to achieve.
If the US and Britain want to be the world swat teams - fine....that's not a role I and many other Canadians like to see our nation "front and centre" on. As a support role maybe not as the lime light.
We squander our international goodwill.

Mr. Gerry Barr (President - Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Council for International Cooperation):
Mr. Casson, I'll lead off. My colleague, Erin Simpson, is here principally for the back and forth that we hope will follow these presentations.

I will start by saying the Canadian Council for International Cooperation is an umbrella organization of Canadian NGOs working worldwide to eradicate global poverty and to promote peace and human rights, and I'd like to thank the chair and the committee for the opportunity to present as part of your review on Canada's role in Afghanistan. The lives and the futures of Canadian soldiers and of Afghans are at stake in the Canadian mission, and we welcome a focused reflection by this committee.

Today I'd like to speak to three issues. The first relates to civilian and military roles in the delivery of assistance to Afghans. The second point is the mandate of Canada's military engagement. Finally, I'd like to highlight the need in Afghanistan for a greater attention to development and human rights.

The issue that's front and centre for many NGOs active in Afghanistan is the blurring of lines between aid strategies and military strategies. You've heard a little bit about that here from my colleague Mr. McCort. This blurring arises when the military delivers aid, and when aid delivery by NGOs or the government is tied, implicitly or explicitly, to a military strategy.

It's problematic because it puts both those who receive aid and those who deliver it at risk, and because it diverts aid from its proper purposes--poverty eradication and the promotion of human rights, and, in the case of humanitarian assistance, the health and the nutritional security of communities.

It probably won't surprise anyone on this committee to know that NGOs were shocked at the recent comments of Lieutenant-Colonel Tom Doucette, who was reported in the Ottawa Citizen as saying that development assistance is a useful counter-insurgency tool in Afghanistan. It's a comment that puts a sharp spotlight on an ongoing controversy about aid in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. Throughout the war, the delivery of aid by, or in close coordination with, coalition forces has put people at risk. When aid strengthens the military objectives of one side in a war, aid becomes a weapon, and those who receive it frequently become targets.

Canada's official position is that there is no confusion of roles in the Canadian strategy in Afghanistan because humanitarian assistance--that is, specific life-saving assistance--is not being provided through the provincial reconstruction team in Kandahar. In fact, that is simply a budget-line distinction, not a distinction of roles. The military is carrying out community development-type activities, such as repairs to local schools. There is a civil-military cooperation fund managed by the military for these types of activities, and the details about the spending of that fund have not been made available to requesting organizations.

Beyond these programs, CIDA's confidence-in-government program for Afghanistan is publicly described now as providing aid to communities that commit to cooperating with coalition forces to drive out the Taliban. The idea is to weaken the Taliban by rewarding communities that plainly take sides with the coalition forces.

If true--I repeat, if true--that strategy is a clear violation of the humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality and independence, principles with their origins in the Geneva conventions and principles that are reaffirmed in multiple UN Security Council resolutions.

As well, the program would certainly appear to blur the distinction between combatant and non-combatant, also enshrined in the Geneva conventions. These principles are fundamental to the general goal of the conventions, which is to provide minimal protection to non-combatants in war zones. By essentially recruiting communities to side with Canada in a war against the Taliban, we are involving those communities in the war--but we can't protect them. Even the governor of Kandahar stated that the military can't protect these projects or these communities from security threats. So if we systematically link the delivery of aid to the military offensive against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, we make targets of the communities that benefit ostensibly from that assistance.
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I think the committee must inquire into the statements of Lieutenant-Colonel Doucette. We need clarification of the military's position with respect to the use of development assistance in their campaign, and I would respectfully say, Canada needs to make this right. The committee should also seek clarity, and urgently, from CIDA on its approach in the field and the rationale for it. The delivery of aid should be focused on the needs and rights of Afghans and not tied to any military or political strategy, and in all but exceptional circumstances, military forces should avoid engaging in reconstruction or relief activities in Afghanistan. Aid workers are the right people for that job.

The mandate for military forces should be focused on providing a secure environment and protecting Afghan civilians, and military communications should emphasize that mandate and avoid messaging that emphasizes the humanitarian and reconstruction role of the forces. God knows there are reasons for humanitarian and reconstruction efforts, but they ought to be done by the right people.

Beyond distinguishing the military from assistance strategies, there is also a need to distinguish the Canadian operation in Afghanistan from the combat-focused U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom. In our view, the transfer from Operation Enduring Freedom to the NATO-led UN-authorized ISAF needs to happen promptly and without delay. The NATO mandate should remain clear that the use of force is a last resort and it is for the purposes of security and protection.

There is a wide range of security threats in Afghanistan. The committee will know that, surely. The threats posed by warlords, for example, and by other factions, and a military campaign narrowly focused on defeating the Taliban will not have the range necessary to ensure security for all Afghans. Of course, poverty and unfulfilled human rights set the stage for violence in Afghanistan. Currently, Canada's development resources are focused on the type of security that really should be left to the military and the police--for example, paying the salaries of Afghan police, large weapons destruction programs, and that sort of thing. About 40% of CIDA's development assets in Afghanistan are focused on security sector reform.

Canada should give greater attention to current initiatives to resolve longstanding conflicts between various factions, including the implementation of the action plan for peace, justice, and reconciliation, a little bit down the line of the comment made earlier about prioritizing some of the political initiatives. We should also be investing more in women's rights, and a greater focus needs to be placed on the development of sustainable livelihoods and local community development.

To summarize very quickly, the military should stick to security and protection of civilians, not to delivering assistance. Assistance delivered by government or non-governmental bodies must not be tied to military strategy either explicitly or implicitly. The transfer to ISAF should be carried out promptly, and the implications of this transfer in mandate terms should be made clear to Canadians.

Lastly, resources and attention need to be directed toward the peace process, reconciliation, along with the support of gender programs, livelihoods, and community development
This intentional blurring of roles is disheartening....even in this thread. The PRT has a large civilian component not mentioned once.

The nation building resources are put at risk and starved of funding by the emphasis on military roles in an unwinnable situation.

Canada ...peace enabler...not warmaker. :mad:

Military do their job...they don't make policy as much as Hillier and others would like to.
I prefer the Dutch approach to security and far more resources allocated to reconstruction.

The Dutch........ "we are there not to fight the Taliban....but to make them irrelevant".
:clap:
 

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The Dutch........ "we are there not to fight the Taliban....but to make them irrelevant".
:clap:
Hrmmm...looks like they've changed their minds.

People's Daily Online said:
Dutch troops in Afghanistan to adopt more offensive tactics


The Dutch troops in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan will change its strategy this month, which could lead to more fighting with hostile groups, Dutch daily Trouw reported on Monday.

The battle group of the Dutch mission in Uruzgan will patrol around the clock to prevent movement by any gatherings of insurgents, including members of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, lieutenant colonel Rob Querido, commander of the battle group, told Trouw.

The battle group is going to operate according to the "amoeba model," named after a single-cell organism, which constantly changes shape. Querido said the Dutch unit will suddenly turn up here and there, with the aim of harassing the insurgents and eventually driving them out.

"That is the key to counterinsurgency: taking the initiative from the hostile groups and removing their freedom of movement," he said.

"By being more mobile we are going to irritate those groups. I expect they will react and that we will have more fighting," he added.

With the amoeba model the main priority of the military mission in Uruzgan will change. Up to now it is the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), which decides where patrols will go, but soon the PRT will follow the battle group and carry out reconstruction where patrols have been.

Querido dismisses criticism from other countries that the Dutch unit is too cautious. The Dutch troops only suffered five casualties in Afghanistan, while the British and Canadian troops have both lost more than 50 soldiers.

"It is absolutely not right to judge our actions by the number of deaths. The battle group is willing to face any risk and if necessary to fight," he said.

The Netherlands currently have about 1,400 troops in Uruzgan, and several hundred deployed elsewhere in the country.
 

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Resident Curmudgeon
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The problem arises that resources are be allocated to cowboys like Hillier and NOT enough to the civilian portion of PRT and other agencies.
Once again zero conception of what is required in a theatre of war.

If the boys are going to be directly involved in hostilities, better to be led by a real cowboy than a sissy peace-nick from a dude ranch, given the reality of the task at hand. ;)
 

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Agreed that an army, Canadian or otherwise, needs to be able to move in and out of both offensive and defensive stances as needed. Meaning you have to have some men capable of real aggression and courage as well as wisdom and tactical brilliance. Focussing on feel-good stuff like peacekeeping and reconstructing is fine for public consumption but the fact remains that we have our armies do a great deal of dirty work that we'd often rather not know about.

An army that can't fight at least as well as it digs wells or builds bridges is an army I would not wish to place my trust in.
 

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Meaning you have to have some men capable of real aggression and courage as well as wisdom and tactical brilliance.
And, Women. :)

The fact is, Canada (read: not the US or UK) has been put in the most hostile parts of Afghanistan. Or, so I heard on the radio last night. If that's the case.. then, our troops should be highly skilled in combat. But, that doesn't mean that it's always necessary.

Aggression, courage as well as wisdom and tactical brilliance can come from other sources too. As far as I'm concerned... fire only when fired upon. This can be a tough thing to do, especially in a well known hostile environment.

Communication is first.. and should be. Not the intent to kill every person whose not on your team with a gun.

As far as I'm concerned.. troops sent to places of foreign tongue.. should be made to learn said foreign tongue before being put into combat. At least 50% of them, or more and I'm talking fluent. You can spend all the money you want on fighting and combat.. but, being able to speak will get you further any day of the week.
 

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Vexel said:
Communication is first.. and should be. Not the intent to kill every person whose not on your team with a gun.
Had the Canadian soldiers who fought in both world wars took that philosophy to heart, we would doubtless have suffered many more losses. As it was, there were plenty of slaughters.

Again: we create armies to do the dirty work that not even politics can cover, then tend to take umbrage at how they do it.
 

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Agreed. My father, wounded on the French/German border early in 1945, spoke not a word of German. We should be grateful for all those who volunteered who spoke only English. Had it not been for them, we might very well be using German on this board today.
 

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Max, well said.

I don't know whether you've had an opportunity to speak with a soldier who has done a tour in Afghanistan. If not, and have a chance, do so. It was a real eye opener for me. I was amazed how much was going on at all levels. The care that they take to communicate with the people is astounding. It isn't all shoot 'em up.

Progress has been slow because we are trying to do things right. Our role isn't to go and occupy. The education process takes time to prepare the Afghanis to fend for themselves. Those folks are understandably wary. They've had decades of war with those who wished to occupy. They aren't used to armies sitting having tea with them to discuss security and reconstruction projects.
 

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Marg, I am certainly in agreement with yourself and Vexel that communication is important. That said, the United Nations has multilingual staff and translators galore and it's still a minefield of stumbles and missteps. Communication in and of itself is of limited utlility... much as we often wish it were otherwise. My greater point is that we demand a great deal of our troops and expect them to be proficient on a huge number of levels. All very well and good but it's a very tough series of benchmarks to meet and hold onto. I have lots of respect for our people in the field and I am prepared to cut them a great deal of slack when the strenuous mission objectives they are assigned are not achieved. You know, the old "walk a mile in my shoes" thing.

But to answer your question, no, I've not talked to any Canadians who have seen duty in Afghanistan. The last soldiers I talked to, and this is probably almost ten years ago now, were a couple of fellows who had served in Bosnia. The one guy had been ambushed in a jeep and shot twice. He was a real character and I keenly recall a certain measure of bitterness at how some Canadian citizens typically reacted to his service record.

Anyway, I don't doubt that the Canadians over in Afghanistan are doing their best and are making progress here and there. It's the long term I am concerned with. It seems to be a place that ultimately must decide its own affairs and those who prolong their stay are likely to find their welcomes wearing mighty thin.
 

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I'm concerned about long term as well. I think a key issue is determining what to do about poppy production. It's their livelihood. Eliminating poppy cultivation is not the answer. Some other carrot and stick approach is needed. They aren't any different than us. They need to produce something to feed and house their families. Afghanistan must sustain itself somehow. We can help but we can't tell them what to do.

The Taliban are an evil, fanatical bunch. They are bullies. It's not unlike a local gang terrorizing a neighborhood. They brainwash young, impressionable minds into doing their deadly deeds. You don't see the top tier strapping bombs to themselves. Unfortunately, fighting this kind of war is long lasting unless you get to the root of recruitment and training. As far as I can understand the problem is driven by schools in Pakistan and to a lesser extent by boys schools within Afghanistan. The tricky part comes in determining what is acceptable teaching within the confines of the Koran. No easy answers.
 
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