Thursday, April 26, 2012

Canada and Afghanistan: Clearing the Confusion

So, Canada may be doing more than expected and for longer than expected.  But let's not over-react, shall we?

First, there is the shocking discovery that there may be Canadian troops in Kandahar!  No, the CF does not have any units, respecting the will of parliament.  But Canadians are in exchange programs with other countries' armies, most especially the US and the UK, who happen to have most of the forces deployed to southern Afghanistan these days. 
         The key to understanding exchange programs is that the people inserted into another country's military are not just observers but fill a real job.  Yanking them out whenever the two countries are doing different things  (say one is trying to reclaim the Falkands and the other is "neutral" or one is invading Iraq and the other is staying out) is problematic.  So, Canada learned from the Falklands experience that letting a few military folks stay embedded is worth the hassle.  Otherwise, no exchange programs, no mil to mil relationships, more conflict/less cooperation when the two countries are actually in the field together, and so on.  Thus, there may be Canadians doing combat in Kandahar but as individuals in American or British units (or whoever else is flowing through the region).

Second, there is yesterday's news that the US is going to/has asked the Canadians and Aussies to deploy Special Operations Forces [SOF] to Afghanistan as everyone else exits.  I already posted two days ago that SOF boots do not count as boots on the ground, perhaps because these guys use hover-boots?  Prime Minister Harper has now said that no request has been made, no decision has been made, but is already criticizing the opposition (the NDP) for opposing it, comparing that to opposing involvement in World War II.  Alrighty.  The Harper statement (h/t to goes on with this:
all of the military missions committed to under this government have come before the House: the mission in Libya, which the House approved; we did not begin the mission to Afghanistan but the extensions of that mission. Certainly, should there be any other significant military missions, we are committed to getting the consent of Parliament before we act. That has been our action and that is what we will do in the future.” (emphasis is mine).
Funny thing this language is.  Come before the House?  Um, I believe not all have been subject to a vote.  Also, "significant" implies that insignificant missions would not require the consent of Parliament.  Such as only a small detachment of SOFs to be sent as trainers?  Hmmm.   And, of course, now that the Conservatives have a majority of seats in Parliament, they can have a vote anytime Harper wants.

There is far more continuity on these things than not, that none of this is terribly surprising.  US wants help, Canada is asked to help, Harper government denies making decision, and may make late announcement without consulting military.  I was tempted to entitle this post: Same @#$$%$#%, Different Day.  Seemed a bit harsh. 

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