Canada in Afghanistan

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By Dana R. Brown

On August 31st, New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton called for troop withdraws from the counter-insurgency mission in Afghanistan. He stated that “This is not the right mission for Canada. It is not clearly defined, there is no exit strategy and it is unbalanced in that it focuses on counter-insurgency and not peace keeping.”

I agree with Layton, and so do the majority of Canadians, according to a recent Angus-Reid poll. The August 2006 poll maintains that a clear majority of Canadians feel that our “troops should not be deployed in Afghanistan and they should be brought home as soon as possible.”[1]

Combat operations in Afghanistan will only create the type of people in which “the war on terror” seeks to eliminate. The facts have become clear over the past few months. Combat operations have taken too much precedence over construction and rebuilding. Destruction through counter insurgency efforts only increases the popularity of insurgents. Our leaders are not being honest in that they fail to explain the real reasons why Canada is in Afghanistan.

If peacekeeping is dead or dying today, as right wing pundits like to say, it is because the Liberals and Conservatives over the past 10 years have been hacking and slashing it to death. Overall, our military spending has been increasing. We now spend more than 15 billion tax payer dollars per year.

Canadians have not seen this level of spending since the menace of Nazi Germany. This new spending is meant to make Canada a junior partner in George Bush’s hardcore militarism. At the same time, our level of funding towards United Nations missions has dropped to an unprecedented low.

Right now we can fit the number of blue-helmets on a single bus, yet we have thousands of combat troops in Afghanistan. This new level of military spending by Ottawa signifies a shift in Canada’s foreign policy. This dangerous shift towards supporting unrestrained U.S. military force will only further destabilize the world.

According to a recent report by an international think tank, The Senlis Council, insurgents are in control of a significant part of southern Afghanistan.[2]

Why would remnants of the Taliban still have support?

It may have something to do with brutal aerial bombardment campaigns put on by the U.S. Air Force. According to the United Nations Human Rights Watch, entire villages have been raised, and their inhabitants murdered for sympathizing with the Taliban.[3]

The failed counter-narcotics and counter insurgency missions have proved to be inflammatory, heightening levels of poverty and outright starvation of the Afghanis people. According to the Senlis Council report, there are “makeshift, unregistered refugee camps of starving children and civilians displaced by counter narcotics eradication and bombing campaign.”[4]

American military planners have placed such a low value on the lives of Afghanis that Canadian troops are paying the price for being viable targets on the ground. It’s unfair to ask our troops to take punishment for war crimes perpetrated by the U.S. military.

It’s true, the Canadian press is constantly reporting Canadian casualties, but they can only estimate the far larger number of civilian deaths as Coalition forces refuse to count the bodies of dead Afghanis men, women and children.

The truth is that peace making, not peacekeeping in Afghanistan means that compliance is ordered through the barrel of a gun. Stephen Harper insists we are there to create a “democratic, prosperous and modern country."[5] History has taught us that very few wars are fought for such altruistic reasons.

There are more compelling, less honourable, economic and military motivations behind Canadian involvement in Afghanistan. According to Canada’s Economic Development Corporation, Canadian foreign investment is concentrated in two areas:

  1.   Oil, gas and energy markets in Asia 2.   Financial institutions in the United States.

The economic reasons for Canadian involvement is perfectly clear, considering that Afghanistan is the gateway to oil markets in central Asia and the Caspian Sea; and investment in American banks means that elite business people in Canada profit off of new markets created by imperialist forays.

Just follow the money.

On a military strategic level, putting military bases in Afghanistan makes it easier for the United States to contain and challenge hostile and potentially hostile countries in the Persian Gulf region. These are the real reasons we are in Afghanistan.

To take my position on the war is not to support terrorism or the Taliban. Canada should not abandon the Afghanis people; however, the current mission is causing more harm than good. Calling for troops out of Afghanistan means we support our troops by getting them out of there and back home to their families.

Most Canadians support our traditional role as a peacekeeper nation. Most Canadians want to see Afghanis supported through humanitarian assistance and development through aid programs, not through destructive combat operations.

The nature of the US lead mission in Afghanistan is not working; we therefore must pull out and reorient our foreign policy to support a multinational peacekeeping force that truly emphasizes peace and rebuilding.

Troops out NOW!



  1. A synopsis of the recent Angus Reid Poll:

  2. See Z Mag Article:

  3. See Human Rights Watch report:\\ See also

  4. Ibid

  5. CBC Report: