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

  • Syrian civil war heats up as U.S. denounces alleged use of chemical weapons

    World News CBC News
    Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday. TODAY:Allegations of a chemical weapons attack by Syria's government spark international demands for investigation. Source
  • Jury finds Vermont man guilty of murder in wrong-way crash that killed 5 teens

    World News CTV News
    BURLINGTON, Vt. -- A jury found a Vermont man guilty of murder charges in the deaths of five teenagers Wednesday caused when he drove the wrong way on an interstate highway. The jury returned the verdict in the case of Steven Bourgoin on its second day of deliberations following a two-week trial in Vermont Superior Court in Burlington. Source
  • China's Xi Jinping tells his country to get ready for hard times in trade war

    World News CBC News
    China must prepare for difficult times as the international situation is increasingly complex, President Xi Jinping said in comments carried by state media on Wednesday, as the country faces increased tariffs in a bitter trade war with Washington. Source
  • Man graduates from university where he was once a janitor

    World News CTV News
    A newly-qualified nurse who graduated from the same university where he used to work as a janitor hopes others are inspired by his story of hard work and perseverance. Frank Baez started cleaning patient rooms, bathrooms and hallways at New York University's Langone Tisch Hospital on weekends as a 17-year-old high school student. Source
  • Niagara officer shot by fellow cop now facing criminal charges

    Canada News CBC News
    The Niagara regional police officer allegedly shot and seriously wounded by a fellow officer has himself been charged in connection with the incident. My brother's a 'monster,' man says of Niagara policeman shot by fellow officer Niagara officer charged with attempted murder in shooting of fellow officer Source
  • Top soldier acknowledges handling of Afghan memorial 'hit a nerve;' vows access

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Canada's top soldier acknowledges that last week's unveiling of the Kandahar memorial without the families of dead soldiers present hit a nerve. Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, tells The Canadian Press no insult or disrespect was intended. Source
  • Cyril Ramaphosa elected by South Africa's parliament, promises to tackle corruption

    World News CBC News
    South African president-elect Cyril Ramaphosa took steps Wednesday to crack down on corruption as the new parliament votes him to lead the country for a five-year term. South Africa's lawmakers were sworn into the legislative body in Cape Town following elections earlier this month in which Ramaphosa's ruling African National Congress party won a 57.5 per cent majority. Source
  • Winds shift as High Level, Alta., wildfire jumps in size

    Canada News CTV News
    Crews battling a massive wildfire near High Level, Alta., may be able to make some progress against the blaze Wednesday thanks to a slight shift in winds, officials say. Despite hot and dry conditions plaguing the region, a shift in winds out of the southeast is pushing the blaze away from the High Level community, allowing firefighters to attack the blaze. Source
  • New mortgage loans slowed in Canada but overall value is still rising, says CMHC

    Canada News CBC News
    The number of mortgage loans in Canada grew at a slower pace in the fourth quarter as housing activity cooled, according to a new report from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, but the value of all mortgages is still rising. Source
  • Marineland confirms walrus death, two deer killed in opening day stampede

    Canada News CTV News
    Controversial Canadian waterpark Marineland has announced the death of one of its walruses, days after “demonstrators” were blamed for causing a stampede that led to the deaths of two deer. The tourist attraction in Niagara Falls, Ont. Source