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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Thursday, July 5, 2007
Smoke N’Oakum

News from our neighbor to the north …

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion served notice on Prime Minister Stephen Harper that he can forget the idea of persuading the three main opposition parties to agree on extending Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan past February, 2009.

"This consensus will never exist," Mr. Dion told a news conference yesterday called to mourn the death of six more Canadian soldiers in southern Afghanistan….

… Earlier, NDP Leader Jack Layton said Canada should pull out all its troops now and not wait until 2009. "The strategy we're following is wrong; we should take our troops out," Mr. Layton said, asserting that NATO's presence in Afghanistan is only serving to increase civilian backing for the Taliban.

A quick note of clarification. While Canada is one of many NATO nations that has sent troops to Afghanistan to be part of the International Security Assistance Force, it one of the few countries willing to put its soldiers in harm’s way. By all accounts the Canadians have fought well and have also taken its proportionate share of the causalities, While the number of troops Canada has deployed seems small, around 2500, the impact of its withdrawal will be large:

The growing possibility that Canada's 2,500 troops will be out of Kandahar by February of 2009 is causing mounting concern at NATO headquarters in Brussels, according to Charles Heyman, an independent British defence analyst and editor of The Armed Forces of the United Kingdom.

"It's not panic yet but it's at the nail-biting stage," Mr. Heyman said in a telephone interview.

The problem is that NATO cannot afford to lose the 2,500 Canadian troops in the south, when in fact what is needed are substantially more soldiers, he said.

The argument that the Democrats have given for withdrawing from Iraq is that not only is the American presence is not only counter-productive, but that we are trapped in the middle of a civil war that we cannot win. Better we get out of the way between the Sunnis and Shiites, stop inciting the insurgents by being a presence in their country, and force the Iraqi government to get its act together rather than use American troops as cannon fodder. Most Democrats say that leaving Iraq will allow us to focus on…. Afghanistan.

However why should Afghanistan be any different?

The Canadian argument of 2007 regarding Afghanistan probably presages the future debate in the US. This is a war that despite crushing US victories shows no sign of ending with the enemy enjoying both protected sanctuaries in Pakistan and ethnic collaborators in southern Afghanistan, has a secure source of financing, and with the allies having too few troops to properly secure the country. In other words the enemy controls the tempo of operations. Add in the fact that the Afghan Army is far too weak to fight the war on its own and you start to get a quagmire that looks eerily familiar to Iraq

Add in the fact that Afghanistan has rarely enjoyed any type of stable central government and you can forgive someone from wondering why we are there… certainly many people in Canada are with popular support for its military deployment dropping since the casualty rate went up.

In fact if you apply the arguments the Democrats use for withdrawing from Iraq, you are left wondering why American forces should be fighting anywhere. That's a question to which few Democrats seem to have an answer to these days.