The latest piece on Canada and Afghanistan notes something that we should have all figured out a long time ago: leaving in July 2011 is just an abysmal choice. That is going to be the high point of fighting season. It would have been nice to leave in winter, either this one or the next one, so that the folks filling in the hole that the Canadian departure will create would have time to settle in and prepare. Instead, the Canadians will be focused on leaving in the spring of 2011, just as things get busy again, despite claims that the Forces will be fighting until the last minute.
The problem, of course, is that deadlines set by politicians often have little to do with the realities on the ground. I am a big believer in civilian oversight and control over the military, but as war is politics by other means, the domestic politics should not crowd out the battle politics, if you will. Some consultation with the military guys over the exact ending of the Canadian presence would have been nice. But that might have required a bit of leadership--on the part of Harper for the past several years and perhaps even by General Rick Hillier, who could have made a noise or two about the timing when the last mandate was passed.
Spilt milk? Not yet. But this timeline reveals what happens when people are not thinking about the battlefield but just kicking the can down the road.