Canada’s role in Afghanistan peace

The former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament at the United Nations spoke out Thursday night against the current overseas UN policies to rebuild Afghanistan, and advocated diplomacy to achieve sustained peace in the country.
Peggy Mason, the Executive Committee Chair of the Canadian Peace-building Coordinating Committee, addressed local members of the World Federalist Movement at the Unitarian Church of Montreal in Westmount on Canada’s current peacekeeping role in the world.
An audience of 30 people listened intently as Mason, in a passionate address, shared past global conflict resolutions in places such as Bosnia and Cypress, to critically assess the U.N. and Canada’s current role in stabilizing Afghanistan.
“Cypress is known as a ‘peacekeeping success, but a diplomatic failure,'” said Mason, referring to the reliance of military force over diplomatic channels that proved to be an unlikely achievement for the UN in Cypress. She said it was a method that is still being used unsuccessfully in Afghanistan today.
Her focus was to get the Canadian government to begin exploring options to bring peace to Afghanistan without the use of military force.
“Afghanistan gets worse every day” said Mason. “A comprehensive peace agreement… and reliable third party intervention” she said, “is required to bring an end to the escalating bloodshed.”
Mason made it clear that a trusted third party will be essential in allowing the rival groups vying for power, namely the Taliban and opposing tribes, to negotiate a settlement that would benefit the population and return peace to a country that hasn’t been seen in decades.
Although Mason’s projected solution was full of positive ideas, she didn’t believe that countries such as the U.S., U.K. and Canada would use her ideas to end the war as the risk of appearing defeated would be likely due to a military withdrawal. She viewed the conflict as a modern day quagmire and compared it to the Vietnam War as a situation without an end in sight, and no lone victor to end the war.
“A backdoor agreement” said Mason, “will bring an end to the war.” She believed that coalition countries will reach a settlement with Afghan tribes to allocate land and power in the region. All of this will be done to ensure the West departs appearing as the victor in the war. However, she sees another option that utilizes the U.N.
“The U.N. can play a key role” said Mason. “An integrated mission involving the military, police, humanitarian aid, disarmament, human rights and democratic stabilization,” she said, including grass-roots level involvement as essential elements in reaching a peace agreement.
She criticized Canada for not taking a more active diplomatic role, instead relying only on military involvement to rebuild Afghanistan.
“Foreign Affairs [Canada] is in disarray,” said Mason, claiming that Canadian diplomacy has taken a back seat to the pursuit of trade as the number one priority of the government. Gone are the days of larger Canadian involvement as United Nations’ peacekeepers. She cited a “massive decline” in the number of “blue helmets” (U.N. peacekeepers) sent by Canada in recent years, and attributed this to a Harper government that does not believe in using diplomacy to resolve international issues.
As of Sept. 30, Canada was ranked 60 among 119 contributing peacekeeping countries in the world. That included only 16 troops and 75 police officers working as U.N. peacekeepers in the field. Pakistan ranked number one with 9,674 troops and 822 police officers.
Canada is currently committed to keeping troops in Afghanistan until Feb. of 2009.


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