Finishing the job in Afghanistan should be a moral imperative for Canadians
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Laurence Cannon recently reaffirmed his government’s intentions to pull all Canadian Forces personnel out of Afghanistan by the end of 2011. This is a great mistake that will have grave implications for the people of Afghanistan. A Canadian departure from Afghanistan any time before the country is both significantly more democratized and secure would represent a complete failure for Canada and NATO’s mission in Afghanistan.
Since the Taliban was overthrown in 2001, Canadian forces quickly became involved in the war effort in Afghanistan. Our troops have fought insurgents face to face and assisted in the nation building process by working with and training local police and military forces.
By 2006, our armed forces had become instrumental in the maintenance of security in Afghanistan, particularly in the southern region of the country. While the Taliban have proved to be able adversaries, Canadian forces have performed well in their combat operations. Moreover, they have gained the respect of the Afghan population and the international community in the process.
The recent resurgence of the Taliban has led many to claim that the NATO’s counter-insurgency mission is unwinnable, and that troops should withdraw at the end of 2011. This calamitous idea is a horrible mistake in judgment.
The people of Afghanistan need the security provided by the Canadian Forces now more than ever. To leave at the end of 2011 would create a vacuum that would quickly be filled by Taliban. Canada participated in the efforts to eject the Taliban from power, and it is only right that we stay there until the Afghan government and army is strong enough to keep the Afghan people safe and prevent a return to Taliban rule.
One of the main justifications for the invasion of Afghanistan was to establish a democratic system of government. While significant democratic gains have been made since 2001, the goal of a democratic Afghanistan remains largely unfulfilled. Corruption in the Afghan government, the continued dominance of tribal leaders and warlords, and the blatant fraud that was the recent Afghan election are indications that Afghanistan is far from democratic.
While many would look at Afghanistan’s democratic deficit as a failure on the part of the Western countries that currently have troops there, we need to recognize that democracy takes time. The tribal systems that have traditionally governed Afghanistan have been in place for thousands of years.
In more recent history, Afghanistan has been frequently invaded, and the country has been in a nearly continuous state of civil war since the late 1970s. Because of this, Afghanistan lacks many of the facilities and institutions that modern democratic states require.
There has been significant progress made by the Western forces in Afghanistan in terms of implementing democracy, but there is still much work to be done. We must stay there to make sure that the job gets finished and the people of Afghanistan can share in the democracy we Canadians hold so dear.
Afghans deserve the best that we in Canada can give them. By participating in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, we involved ourselves in one of the most ambitious security and democratization projects that has ever been attempted. If we leave before Afghanistan is secure and democratic, we will be failing not just ourselves but we will be failing the people of Afghanistan as well.