Friday, January 29, 2010

From Coast to Coast: Saideman on CA/A-Stan

I was on CBC Syndicated Radio today for five minute spots or so at seven radio stations from Cape Breton in the East to Victoria in the west.  It may be the closest I get to Thunder Bay (one of my all-time favorite names for a Canadian locale, along with Moose Jaw, Medicine Hat, and Yellowknife). 

Anyhow, I was on to talk about Canada's role at the London Conference on Afghanistan and the implications of the CA military withdrawal in 2011.  What did I say?
  • That Canada was not playing a big role at this conference--that this was a British and American show.
  • That Canada's time at the adults' table at these kinds of conferences is likely to come to an end as it removes its military from Afghanistan and back to the kids' table, where Canada hung out during the Balkan wars [I know, as I helped to organize a QUINT dinner of the five major force contributors and policy planners for the Balkans--US, UK, France, Italy, Germany--there was no kids' table at that meeting].
  • That Canada's decision to pullout in 2011 was a political one: not based on a politico-military analysis of the situation in Afghanistan but the requirements of extending the parliamentary mandate beyond 2009.  Driven by the difficulties of a minority government facing three parties that were hostile to the mission (including one that started it--the Liberals--oops!).
  • That there has not really been a national conversation/debate about what to do in Afghanistan after 2011 as the Conservatives duck and cover
  • It didn't have to be all or nothing--that the CF could have left behind at least 300 troops at the Provincial Reconstruction Team [PRT] in Kandahar City to escort the civvies as they do their development/governance stuff.  That the CF could have left behind one or more Omelets [OMLTs--observer, mentor, liaison teams embedded in Afghan National Army units to train and facilite].  Instead, PM Harper has essentially said zero.
  • Which means that the civilians still in Kandahar are going to have to rely on other troops--Americans, most likely--to escort and protect them.  Which is fine since the CA and US forces have been working closely together. EXCEPT that the US priorities may not exactly match the CA ones, so the Canadian civvies may have to wait for a lift, rather than just riding out.
  • Canada has been doing counter-insurgency better than most contingents in A-stan as far as I can tell, and even better than some American units since US contingents vary quite widely in how much they implement the Petraeus playbook and the McChrystal strategy, so the exit of Canadian Forces is meaningful even though they will be replaced by Americans.
So, that is the jist of what I said seven times more or less.

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