Canada’s combat role in Afghanistan will almost certainly end in a little over two years, if not sooner, due to a convergence of recent events.
On Friday, Canada’s military death toll in Afghanistan reached the 100 milestone after three Canadian soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb. Tragically, just one day later, three more Canadian soldiers were reported dead by roadside bomb, pushing Canada’s death toll to 103. With roughly 2,750 Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan, Canada has now lost a little less than 4% of its total armed contingent – a rate of death higher than the U.S. – representing approximately 1 out of every 4 non-American soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
Canadian forces are currently focused on the south Afghanistan region in and around Kandahar, the heart of the resurgent Taliban insurgency. Though Canadians have demanded that other ISAF allies rotate into the Kandahar region, relieving Canadian forces as casualties mount, most other countries have refused, adhering to strict combat restrictions imposed by their relative governments.
Just a day before the latest spate of Canadian casualties, Canadian Defense Minister Peter Mackay rejected U.S. Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates’ request that Canada prolong its combat commitment beyond the 2011 deadline agreed by Parliament. Gates was making a push for Canada to continue to support the American effort in Afghanistan by holding the Kandahar front while an expected surge of American troops, of two brigades, arrives by spring.
Spring may be too late.
The Taliban and allied anti-American forces are resurgent in Afghanistan. A recent report released by the International Council on Security and Development indicates that the Taliban have increased their presence in Afghanistan, and now hold roughly 72% of the country while their overall support amongst the local populace continues to increase. The findings mirror the most recent as-yet classified National Intelligence Estimate, in which the various intelligence agencies of the United States have concluded that American effort in Afghanistan is in a “downward spiral” with a real and growing danger of “losing” the war to the Taliban.
For their part, the Taliban and various allied militant groups on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border are increasing their attacks on NATO forces and convoys. Recently, militants in Pakistan torched almost 145 U.S. army vehicles destined for Afghanistan. With almost 80% of NATO supplies going through the narrow passes along the Pak-Afghan border via Pakistan, the Taliban and allied anti-American forces are attempting to choke off NATO supplies by controlling the AfPak region.
Since Afghanistan is a landlocked state, no other route into Afghanistan is viable enough to continue the American war effort against the Taliban – should the latter control the passes into Afghanistan, the war will certainly be lost sooner rather than later. Additionally, the proposed surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan, expected by spring, will only increase the demand for more supplies travelling by vulnerable convoys through hostile Pakistani territory.
Surely, increased Taliban attacks, particularly against Canadian forces operating in the Taliban heartland in and around Kandahar, will augment anti-war calls in Canada.
It is no surprise, then, that Mackay, of the pro-war Conservatives, so quickly and decisively rejected Gates’ call for continued Canadian presence in Afghanistan, shattering Obama’s hopes for support of his planned expansion of the Afghan War.
Perhaps even more crucial to Canada’s role in Afghanistan is the recent constitutional crises leading to the unprecedented suspension of Parliament by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Should Harper’s government fall in January when Parliament reconvenes, the proposed three-party coalition preparing to replace him is comprised of parties inimical to continuing Canada’s military role in Afghanistan.
If the Conservatives do fall in January, and casualties continue to mount, Canada may not wait till 2011 to pull out of south Afghanistan.
SUMMARY OF EVENTS: December 8 – 15, 2008
Inside and out, the rusted towers of El Salvador’s biggest grain silo show how the World Bank helped push developing countries into the global food crisis.
A Canadian man wrongly accused of terrorism and sent to be tortured in Syria was the victim of a high level US conspiracy, his lawyer told a court in New York.
General Motors Corp on Monday unveiled an unusually frank advertisement acknowledging it had “disappointed” and sometimes even “betrayed” American consumers as it lobbies to clinch the federal aid it needs to stay afloat into next month.
Military leaders knew the dangers posed by roadside bombs before the start of the Iraq war but did little to develop vehicles that were known to better protect forces from what proved to be the conflict’s deadliest weapon, a report by the Pentagon inspector general says.
A growing chorus of intelligence officials in the U.S. and in south Asia have pinned the Mumbai attacks on the Kashmir-based militants Lashkar-e-Taiba, yet the extremist group’s deep ties to American-based jihadists has hardly been mentioned.
The Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday singled out former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, former Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, and other top aides for approving inhumane interrogation techniques that were used on detainees at Guantanamo, sites in Afghanistan and at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The United States has remained silent while Afghan warlord and key U.S. ally in ousting the Taliban regime, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, destroyed evidence of alleged war crimes.
The Federal Reserve refused a request by Bloomberg News to disclose the recipients of more than $2 trillion of emergency loans from U.S. taxpayers and the assets the central bank is accepting as collateral.
The Justice Department has evaded a request from President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team for documents about the secret programs of U.S. intelligence agencies.
Belgian police on Thursday arrested 14 suspected Al-Qaeda members, including a man believed to have been planning a suicide attack, officials announced as EU leaders gathered in Brussels.
Britain on Friday questioned the wisdom of a U.S. proposal to seal Zimbabwe’s borders in order to hasten the collapse of Robert Mugabe’s government, saying such a move could have far worse consequences.
Rioting by youngsters angered by poor economic prospects and political scandals could soon threaten the survival of Greece’s conservative government.
Riots erupted for a fifth day and strikes paralyzed Greece on Wednesday, as unrest ignited by the police shooting of a teenager was fueled further by resentment of economic hardship and government scandals.
EU ceasefire monitors in Georgia claimed a small victory on Friday when Russian forces pulled back from a disputed village near breakaway South Ossetia, but witnesses said they returned with nightfall.
Russia is concerned over Georgian moves to escalate tensions in the Caucasus, but will not under any circumstances invade the country, the chief of the Russian General Staff said on Wednesday.
Iran on Monday rejected U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s latest call for a “carrot and stick” policy in dealing with Tehran’s nuclear issue and reiterated its unbent will to continue the nuclear work.
With friction building in the occupied West Bank over the prospect — albeit distant — of a Palestinian state, the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence, is quietly knuckling down on Jews who might turn to violence to try to wreck any future peace accord.
During the recent terrorist assault on Mumbai, India, an alleged ‘hoax’ phone call to the Pakistani government had the two countries on the razor’s edge of war.
The 10 men who conducted the attacks in Mumbai belonged to a group of 30 recruits selected for suicide missions and the whereabouts of the other 20 are unknown, the New York Times reported.
Pakistan responded to intense pressure from the U.S. to take action after the Mumbai attacks by arresting 15 people in a raid on a camp in the disputed region of Kashmir, an intelligence official said Monday.
A U.N. Security Council panel declared Wednesday that a Pakistan-based charity is a front group for the terrorist organization blamed in the attacks on Mumbai that killed 171 people.
Pakistan on Friday tightened the screw on an Islamic charity linked to militants suspected of being behind the Mumbai massacre, arresting dozens of members and placing a local leader under house arrest.
Democratic Republic of Congo
At least 150 civilians were massacred in a Democratic Republic of Congo town last month, Human Rights Watch said in a report Thursday which strongly criticized UN peacekeepers.
African Union rejected tougher action against Zimbabwe on Tuesday and said only dialogue could solve the deepening crisis, while U.S. President George W. Bush joined calls for President Robert Mugabe to step down.
An Australian Defence Department (ADD) report published in October, and highlighted on November 26 by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Lateline” program, provides a rare account of the shameful death squad operations being performed by the Australian military as part of the U.S.-led occupation of Afghanistan.
Manjit Singh is a contributor to Geopoliticalmonitor.com