I had not given much thought to Afghanistan before September 11th 2001. Most Canadians would be lying if they said that they did pre 9/11 –lying to themselves. I suspect that the Al-Quaeda attack was not “about” the forced conversion of the world to Islam but rather a response, rightly or wrongly, to perceived abuses of Western influence in the Arab world.
The Taliban are a local Afghan phenomenon, largely allied to the Pashtun tribe. It seems the word Taliban means “student” in reference to the Koran and names a religious movement that, as a government, if not completely competent did provide some stability to the country after years of war fueled by foreign interests (Russians, Americans etc). The question I have is: can the Taliban/Pashtun be excluded from the government of Afghanistan? To put the question somewhat in a Canadian context: could we tell Alberta or any other province that they can participate in Confederation only through Liberal representatives? You can have your say but only if they are Conservatives?
Its hard to change the minds of a religious movement. It seems to me that a bad situation would be compounded by excluding the religious/tribal Taliban/Pashtun group from power especially when the exclusion is enforced by Western (colonial) military forces. As I said, I think the 9/11 attacks were in fact motivated by the perception, rightly or wrongly, of abusive Western influence in the Arab world. I would not like the Canadian military “cure” to cause more problems than it is intended to fix.
The counter-insurgency efforts seem to be failing. While I believe that the intentions of those who would have us continue throwing soldiers and money at the Afghan mission are good, I also think that they are wrong. I am not a coward. You are not a coward. I just think that you are wrong and perhaps a bit naive. The goals of the current mission are ineffective and wasteful and I would not have another brave Canadian soldier (or Afghan civilian) die for wishful thinking.
Make a habit of two things: to help or at least to do no harm.
Although Canada has more than done its fair share, it is feasible that our military continue to serve a limited security role in the region while negotiations amongst the different factions of Afghanistan proceed --they better get on with it. But the aggressive counter-insurgency tactics are a failed policy and need to stop.