Thursday, November 24, 2011

Short Memories and Forgotten Realities

This piece in the German press suggests that Canadians are flummoxed by the German stances in Afghanistan and Libya.  The idea is that the Canadians did lots of heavy lifting and risk-taking and the Germans did not do so much, entirely opting out of Libya.

There is some truth to all of this, but the piece ignores a few key realities:
  • Canada did not pay the highest price per capital in Afghanistan.  That would be the Danes, followed by Estonia and then the Brits. 
  • More importantly, the Canadians did have significant restrictions on their forces deployed to Afghanistan between 2002 and 2004, and before that in missions elsewhere (Bosnia).  So, Canada is not new to the Caveat game.  
  • Yet even more importantly, Canada now has forces in Afghanistan that are far more restricted than the Germans--a training mission that keeps the Forces behind the wire in and near Kabul, Herat and up north.  So, it is kind of funny that a country that pulled out early and only came back to a highly restricted mission is smug about the Germans, especially when:
  • The Germans did evolve over time do to more, to risk more.  While German troops are still not operating in the hardest parts of Afghanistan (South and East), the North has gotten more challenging and the folks back in Berlin have given some more discretion to the troops on the ground to engage in combat.  
    • However, Germany did not participate in the Libya mission, even pulling out its contribution to NATO's AWACS planes (they compensated by providing more help to the AWACS flying over Afghanistan, but still this was challenging given the leading German role in the NATO AWACS program).
So, Canada did sacrifice a great deal and can be proud of the contributions it made, but this is not particularly good time to be too critical of other countries' caveats and other limitations in Afghanistan.

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