The Globe and Mail and other outlets are reporting comments by Defence Minister Peter MacKay that the Conservative government is 'considering' keeping hundreds of troops in Afghanistan after the 2011 pull-out date as 'trainers'.
"Mr. MacKay said the government would likely make a decision in the coming weeks in the run-up to the Nov. 18 NATO leaders' summit in Portugal.
Mr. MacKay stressed that any such mission would take place out of Kandahar province, where fighting is fiercest and would be 'behind the wire' — military parlance for non-combat mission.
NATO has identified a shortfall of about 900 troops to conduct training and Canada is mindful of those requests, the minister said.
Mr. MacKay finished three days of hosting foreign politicians, diplomats and academics at the Halifax International Security Forum.
NATO's future in Afghanistan was a top topic of discussion, with many foreign participants wanting to know what Canada's plans are in Afghanistan post-2011.
Mr. MacKay said Canada's post-2011 role would respect the Parliamentary motion that calls for an end to combat operations by next summer."
In other words, MacKay and the Conservatives have no plans to even seek a parliamentary rubber stamp for extending Canada's troop presence. And even if they did decide they needed to take it to the House of Commons, they would likely have no trouble getting it passed.
That's because what MacKay said in Halifax really isn't news. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff announced the 'training mission' policy back in June, speaking to the Empire Club at Toronto's Royal York Hotel:
"I'm very concerned that once the combat mission ends, and I believe the combat mission should end, and should end completely in 2011, we will walk away with the job undone. And we will look back and ask, ‘What was that about? Did we let ourselves down? Did we let our allies down? Did we let Afghanistan down?
I think there is a place for Canada to commit to a training role, to train the military, to train the police. What were we there for in the beginning? It was to enable the Afghans to defend themselves. It's not our country, it's their country. The whole purpose of our engagement in that country was to enable that country to stand on its own feet and be self-sufficient. We're not yet there. Are Canadians content to walk away with the job half done?"
Chalk up another one for the Liberal-Conservative coalition.
Although some news outlets reported MacKay's comments over the weekend as a 'surprise', it's been clear for some time that the country's two traditional ruling parties would come to an agreement like this to continue Canada's role in the occupation of Afghanistan post-2011. The lack of outrage and public debate speaks volumes to the timidity (and sometimes complicity) of the rest of the parliamentary opposition.
Now that MacKay has made the government's plans crystal clear, social movement organizations and civil society in general should be loudly echoing the words of former Afghan MP Malalai Joya, delivered on a recent speaking tour in Canada:
"...Harper is saying that Canada will stay to do 'training' of troops of puppet Karzai regime. We Afghan people don't need any more 'training' from Canadian government after 2011. We Afghans don't want any more bombing after 2011. We Afghans don't want any more torture by NATO and Afghan puppet forces. We Afghans don't want any more occupation by NATO. Instead of staying after 2011, it is better that Canadian troops leave sooner, leave now."
Note: For anyone unconvinced that leaving hundreds of military 'trainers' constitutes ongoing warmaking and participation in the occupation of Afghanistan, please see Vietnam.
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