Yesterday, our Defence Minister said that Afghanistan was a 'success story,' 'improving,' and that Canada will have a presence there until the progress made cannot be reversed by Taliban extremists. He said that he would watch the progress this year to determine whether the Afghan mission needed to be extended beyond its existing mandate - i.e. Canadian troops there until 2009 and millions of dollars in aid until 2011. He did not mention the billions more required in military expenditures.
This was consistent with the statements of happy warriors Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Treasury Board President Vic Toews. Earlier in the week while in Afghanistan they announced further aid to the Afghan police. Proudly sporting their bullet proof jackets and strutting about in the style reminiscent of General Patton, they used their photo-op to declare that Canadian assistance would not only help Afghanistan develop a professional civilian police force that would fight crime, but also promote Canadian values such as the Rule of Law and human rights.
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission monitors carefully the goings on in Afghanistan. This is what Ahmad Zia Langari a commissioner of the AIHRC has to say about the Afghan police that our Government is trying to bolster with our money. He said, "There is not a very strong rule of law and the government is not keen to follow the law. Also, in the criminal court there is not a very strong and clear code for prosecuting police action." . . . "The main problem in Afghanistan is the culture of impunity. The government is not powerful. When a Governor, for example, has committed violence or he has been very corrupt, he is not prosecuted. The President just changes his position."
A recent joint report by the Pentagon and the US State Department said the Afghan police was 'far from adequate' at carrying out even conventional responsibilities. The report stated that recruits were illiterate and there was pervasive corruption.
Nicholas Kristof, a prominent American Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times journalist and
columnist as well as an expert on the history and politics of Asia and the author of several books on the subject recently interviewed President Karzai in Afghanistan. Karzai accused Pakistan of aiding the Taliban so as to turn Afghanistan into a colony of Pakistan. In Karzai's mind the NATO forces had focused on the wrong targets in seeking to wipe out terrorists. Instead of attacking villages, they should have stopped Pakistan from harboring and financing the terrorists. In other words, NATO should have been fighting the source of terrorism - namely, Pakistan. Karzai said that terrorism in his country was surging because of the Pakistani policy of turning a blind eye on the Taliban.
Kristof, an acknowledged Asian expert, who has witnessed the troubles in Afghanistan first hand, described conditions in southern Afghanistan as 'a catastrophe.'
In fact, the only optimists around talking about progress in Afghanistan is the Conservative Government of Bush's pal Steve Harper together with his Rumsfeldian Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor (a character right out of Dr. Strangelove, to be sure) and two dim-witted Ministers, Stockwell Day and Vic Toews. All of the feel-good talk about our commitment to Afghanistan is likely to continue only until the election is held. Then, whichever Government takes power, it will be truth time. No more photo-ops with bullet proof vests for campaign pamphleteering ballyhooing pointless and toothless assistance to a corrupt and violent Afghani police force. No. Then we will have a painful reassessment of our Afghanistan policy, the result of which will be to high-tail it out of there and pronto.