The Globe and Mail's foreign correspondent Graeme Smith has written an opinion piece calling for Canadian troops to be pulled out of Afghanistan.
Smith's assessment is important for at least two reasons: first, he is easily the best Canadian journalist working in Afghanistan for the past three years, as well as the perhaps the most experienced. Second, his newly declared opposition to the mission is not a principled position. That is, Smith has never seen a problem with NATO's military might being used to install a friendly regime in Afghanistan, despite the fact that the whole operation stems from an illegal invasion and regime change by the world's only superpower.
Thus, Smith's conclusion that Canadian troops should be withdrawn reflects his opinion that the war is unwinnable, not illegitimate:
The Mark - Nov 12 2009
... We should start by recognizing Canada's dwindling importance in Kandahar... Commanders once proudly declared they were chasing insurgents across 60,000 square kilometres of territory, but now Canadians are relegated to guarding Kandahar City and its approaches. From a practical standpoint, we're replaceable.
Symbolically, a Canadian withdrawal would signal to our allies that more soldiers aren't helpful at this point. That's a useful message... Every year I spent in the country, from 2005 to 2009, saw major troops surges – and terrible surges of violence. With every fighting season, more women and children were killed... The mission has failed, so far.
We need to acknowledge this failure if we're going to think clearly about what's next. I have profound respect for optimists... But how many roads are built in rural Afghanistan these days without paying bribes to local insurgents? How many villagers in Kandahar would get polio vaccinations without permission from the Taliban? Making the country better doesn't necessarily require fighting the insurgents – in many cases, it requires working with them.
Our soldiers have bravely followed orders in Kandahar. But they're being swept aside by a tidal wave of U.S. forces, and this surge is likely doomed to bring the same results as previous surges. Canada should withdraw its battle group, and push its allies toward peace talks. (link)
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