Canadian troops took up combat posts 10 years ago in Kandahar province

OTTAWA -- Col. Ian Hope, the first in a long line of Canadian battlefield commanders, arrived in Kandahar aboard a C-130 transport plane with an unobstructed view of the sunrise over the wide, abandoned sands of the southern Registan desert.

See Full Article

It was the beginning, in more ways than one.

He landed a little ahead of his troops from the 1st Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, who 10 years ago Wednesday, formally -- but quietly -- took over for U.S. Army units in the heartland of the Taliban.

Even before the hulking transport touched down on the sun-baked airstrip, Hope knew they would need energy, moral strength and mental focus for an unfamiliar kind of war -- a counter-insurgency fought from the shadows.

"I knew by reading history and through professional development it was very difficult and unpredictable," Hope told The Canadian Press in an interview.

"I also knew that the situation would change, requiring mental flexibility. But I was very, very confident. I was confident when I left nearly eight months later."

Just how much spirit, endurance and concentration the Canadian people and political establishment would need in the weeks, months and years ahead was not apparent on that winter day in the desert.

By the time Hope left, however, reality was all too clear.

Kandahar was on fire and awash in both Canadian and Afghan blood, and Hope's successor was preparing for a major ground offensive to retake territory from the Taliban fighters who were surging out of their Pakistan sanctuaries.

When it was all over five years later, 158 Canadian soldiers were dead, nearly 2,000 more had been wounded and billions of dollars had been spent on military hardware and development.

Canada assumed wider responsibility for the southern command of Afghanistan under Brig.-Gen. Dave Fraser on Feb. 28, 2006.

Fraser called it an unheralded moment of national pride to be given that sort of international responsibility. The intervening years demonstrated that Canada was country that pulled its weight in difficult times, he added.

"It probably shaped the 10 years that have come and gone," Fraser said.

Hope said he's not "overwhelmed with nostalgia or remorse" at either milestone. The mission, he said, was simple -- and wavered little throughout Canada's long, costly engagement.

"We needed to buy time; time for the international effort to create Afghan institutions capable of standing up to the pressures on their own," Hope said.

"When I left, I felt that we had given the province of Kandahar, the south of the country, NATO, the other international players and the Afghan government the time they needed.

"This even though the Taliban, supported from and by Pakistanis, surged in great numbers into southern Afghanistan in an attempt to win space and to disrupt plans to create those viable institutions. We denied them that in 2006, and again and again until we left in 2011."

In some respects, a decade later, the international community is still buying time.

A report released last week by the Rand Corporation, a U.S. non-profit think tank, says the counter-insurgency war throughout all of Afghanistan took two steps forward and two steps back in 2015.

The election in 2014 of a new president, Ashraf Ghani, offered promise, it noted.

"But now that the honeymoon with Ghani is ending, it appears that Afghanistan is left with many of the same unresolved issues as when the conflict began, including corruption, poor governance, and weak rule of law," it reads.

"The best prospects for the conflict's resolution are through some kind of negotiated settlement, and future U.S. efforts should focus on reaching such a settlement and on favourable terms."

The war and world attention has moved on from Afghanistan, but the policy group argues there is a growing imperative for the West to let Ghani to bury the hatchet with the Taliban, which has recently resisted incursions by the latest global terror threat: the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.

"To avoid a repeat of similar missteps in Iraq, the United States should push for reconciliation to ensure an inclusive negotiated settlement (likely to include constitutional reform) that gives the Taliban a legitimate voice in the political process," said the report.

"By achieving this objective, U.S. policy would work to drive a wedge between the internally directed insurgency of the Taliban and the transnational threat posed by groups like al-Qaida and the Islamic State."

Fraser said he believes the premature ending of the Kandahar combat mission in 2011, while NATO was still fighting, and the latest withdrawal from Iraq has eroded Canada's standing among its allies.

Hope, meanwhile, is inclined to dismiss "hyperbole" and predictions of "imminent doom."

From his perspective, the struggle in Afghanistan is no different than many other nations throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

"Afghanistan was just phase one of a long generational struggle."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Future of Grace Mugabe's farms, assets an open question in Zimbabwe

    World News CBC News
    For years, a group of Zimbabwean villagers resisted efforts by the wife of President Robert Mugabe to force them off a farm near the capital, enduring police raids and the demolition of their homes. Now that Mugabe has resigned, the farmers say they are able to move more freely in a blow to Grace Mugabe's efforts to expand her land holdings. Source
  • Children out of cancer treatment options offered hope by new Terry Fox program

    Canada News CBC News
    Seeing children suffering with cancer when he was being treated himself broke Terry Fox's heart and inspired his Marathon of Hope. Now, those efforts have fuelled a unique initiative to give kids and young adults across the country a chance to live when there are few, if any, treatment options left. Source
  • Newfoundland and Labrador announces weed will be sold through private stores

    Canada News CTV News
    ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Newfoundland and Labrador has announced recreational marijuana will be sold through private stores. The provincial government unveiled its plan Thursday, which will see the Crown-owned liquor corporation oversee the distribution to private retailers who will sell it. Source
  • Couillard denounces Adidas store manager's comments on French language

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL - Quebec's premier is criticizing the manager of an Adidas store who reportedly told a Montreal crowd that he would say a few words in French at an event to accommodate the city's French media. Source
  • Sask. Party leadership candidate walks back comment on abortion for rape victims

    Canada News CTV News
    REGINA -- A candidate in the race for premier of Saskatchewan is walking back his anti-abortion comments, saying victims of sexual assault should have access to the procedure. Saskatchewan Party legislature member Ken Cheveldayoff says in a release that any sex assault victim has the right to make the choice to have an abortion. Source
  • Ontario moves to allow Indigenous institutes to independently grant degrees

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO - Ontario is moving toward allowing Indigenous post-secondary institutes to independently grant students degrees and diplomas. A legislative change that would allow for the first step in that process was contained in the Liberal government's fall economic update bill, but the advanced education and Indigenous relations ministers highlighted it in an announcement today. Source
  • Tesla's massive battery in Australia is ready for testing

    World News CBC News
    The world's biggest battery is ready for testing in South Australia, with hopes it can help solve the energy problems plaguing that state. Tesla's Elon Musk promised back in March to build the 100-megawatt lithium ion battery within 100 days of signing a contract with the South Australia government. Source
  • Homeless man surprised with big reward for returning lost US$10K cheque

    World News CTV News
    A day before Americans gathered to celebrate U.S. Thanksgiving, a homeless man in Connecticut was given plenty to be thankful for when he was rewarded for his honesty. Two weeks ago, Elmer Alvarez found a cheque for US$10,000 (C$12,000 approximately) on the streets of New Haven, Conn. Source
  • Trial sees photos of suspected blood where off-duty cop was allegedly killed

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX - A detective has told a Halifax murder trial that he saw what he suspected to be blood droplets in the apartment where Christopher Garnier allegedly punched and strangled an off-duty police constable. Scroll down or click here to replay the live blog from the reporter in the courtroom. Source
  • Pair sentenced to 9 years in toddler scalding death

    Canada News CTV News
    A man and a woman have been sentenced to nine years in the death of an Ontario toddler who died after being scalded by coffee. Amanda Dumont, 33, and Scott Bakker, 27, were sentenced in a London, Ont. Source