canada afghanistan mission
The Walrus has launched a remarkable online tribute to the Canadians who have fallen during the Afghanistan combat mission.
Canadian artist Joanne Tod has created a riveting portrait collection of the 157 Canadians who have died during our military mission in Afghanistan between deployment and the spring of 2011, and her portraits are online at walrusmagazine.com.
Each portrait is posted as a downloadable large-format image with a dedicated comments field, and is intended to be a lasting memorial to these brave men and women, and Canada's role in Afghanistan. The 157 portraits have also been published in their entirety for the first time in the July/August issue of The Walrus magazine.
To view these series of portraits, please follow the link below:
Canadian soldiers fought honourably against an enemy who preyed on the innocent civilians of Afghanistan. Our effort helped turn the tide against the Taliban. We've also helped create an institution, the Afghan Security Forces, that is respected in a country where other elements of Kabul's writ raise concerns over human rights and corruption. And as our mission changes, we can still look back on these years proudly. From Matthew Fisher in The National Post:
“I want to share our successes and explain how we got them, and I want to learn from their experiences,” Brig.-Gen. Habibi said of his upcoming trip during an interview at an Afghan army battalion headquarters, at an austere forward base in Panjwaii that was teeming with Canadian, U.S. and Afghan troops.
“It is a matter of fact that the Canadians sacrificed a lot here. I remember there were 400 or 500 Taliban in the area when the Canadians came to Kandahar in 2006. They are the ones who stood with us and fought not only in Panjwaii but across the province. The enemy is on its knees here now. The truth of it is that it is because of the hard work of the Canadians.”
Canadian army mentors went to great lengths to teach Afghanistan’s “new army” to respect human rights, the general said.
“It is from the Canadians that we learned how to treat prisoners of war,” he said. “All of our foot soldiers now know this. The Canadians taught us how to behave according to democratic principles.”
When we discuss Canada's role in Afghanistan, we often focus on the challenges... and there are many. That said, it's worthwhile noting the successes that have been achieved so far. Our Prime Minister was in Kandahar marking the end of one stage of the mission:
He made efforts in his visit to symbolize what has changed in years of war in Afghanistan, visiting Tarnak Farm – once the site of an al-Qaeda training centre that is now a wheat and barley field using Saskatchewan irrigation equipment to grow crops. It was a way for Mr. Harper to emphasize his message that despite the difficulties of the mission, it has made progress.
As he spoke to reporters at the end of his 12-hour visit, the Prime Minister argued that while Afghanistan may still be a deeply troubled country, the presence of Canadian and allied troops has helped reduce a perilous threat.
“The biggest single success of this mission, and this is the big picture: We came to Afghanistan, the world came to Afghanistan, because Afghanistan had become such a terrible and brutal place that it had become a threat to the entire world. And whatever the challenges and the troubles that remain, Afghanistan is no longer a threat to the world.”
Afghanistan's many problems stem in part from a failed way of looking at the world, that mistakes arbitrary repressive customs for positive cultural traditions. Canadians are helping persuade Afghans that other ways are possible. Barb Pacholik explains:
An armoured vehicle rolls into an Afghanistan community and out jumps a woman with a helmet and rifle who is in command of a battalion of mostly male soldiers.
"It's one of the most powerful ideas we have, visual images," Lt-Gen. Andrew Leslie, who led the Canadian army for four years during the Afghanistan mission.
An armoured vehicle rolls into an Afghanistan community and out jumps a woman with a helmet and rifle who is in command of a battalion of mostly male soldiers. It's one of the most powerful ideas we have, visual images," Lt-Gen. Andrew Leslie, who led the Canadian army for four years during the Afghanistan mission.
"The women of Afghanistan see that, they see what's possible," said Leslie, who added that the country can't be transformed by might alone and the "humble Canadian way" can also be a persuasive force.
Leslie was in Regina Wednesday to speak at the annual Law Day Luncheon, hosted by the Saskatchewan branch of the Canadian Bar Association. Appointed deputy commander of the NATO-led force in Afghanistan in 2003, Leslie became chief of land staff three years later and last year was named chief of transformation.
Showing a video of the work in Afghanistan, Leslie noted one of the key images is of an Afghan woman teaching female students in a school.
"I and others believe the future of Afghanistan rests on the shoulders of those women," he said. He said the country has for too long been dominated by "grumpy, middle-aged males" and warlords.
With Canadian Liberal MP Bob Rae's articulate latest display of courage regarding the Afghanistan mission, we do hope that media pundits and political commentators of all stripes get the message: the values of defending democracy and human rights abroad ought to be something that transcends politics.
Yes, politics is and should be a factor. But let's remember why we got involved in the first place. An excerpt from Bob Rae's statement on Afghanistan:
No doubt there might be short term partisan advantage in playing to the gallery about its fatigue with the Afghanistan engagement. It is a difficult, frustrating, costly, and painful military and political conflict. It is hard to see a road to success, and hard as well to see much progress in the life and condition of the people. “Troops out now” would win much applause.
We went into Afghanistan with our NATO partners, with the full approval of the United Nations. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, ravaged by 30 years of civil war. Al Qaeda and other extremist groups have found a haven in the south of the country and the north of Pakistan.
Of course all issues are about politics. But some issues can transcend partisanship. In every other country in the NATO alliance there is multipartisan support for efforts in Afghanistan, a willingness to discuss options, in a climate of public candour.
Why should Canada be any different ? Our political culture is now all about trench warfare. Everything is supposed to seen through a partisan lens, and everything played to short term advantage. Anyone who asks “what’s best for Afghanistan ?”, or “what’s best for Canada, our role as a reliable member of NATO and the UN ?” is portrayed as some kind of poor sap who doesn’t “get” politics.
It’s called doing what you think is right, talking to the public about it, and worrying less about who gets credit. There’s something almost pathological about the state of our politics, to say nothing of political commentary, if we can’t have that kind of conversation.
CASC's Terry Glavin provides much-needed analysis of what the new Canadian commitment to Afghanistan means and what it took to get here.
For two full years, in spite the pleadings of the Conservative government, the House of Commons refused to show any leadership at all on the question of Canada's post-2011 role in Afghanistan. It is an irony of the most spectacular kind that when 11th-hour statesmanship was revealed to be finally breaking the impasse last week, the main thing the pundits instructed us to do was to join them in their harrumphing and trousers-wetting about Stephen Harper's supposed contempt for the House of Commons.
We should recall that for two full years the House of Commons Special Committee on Afghanistan refused to discharge its duties, in contempt of the Parliament by which its duties were assigned. Instead, it turned itself into a lurid chamber for the most foul (and groundless) "torture" allegations against members of the Canadian Forces. It had become like some kind of celebrity television show where the contestants were challenged to find ways to put the name of a cabinet minister in the same sentence with the words "war criminal."
It's finally over.