Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
November 27, 2006
Can we abandon the Afghani women?
Various recent opinion polls have found a majority of Canadians opposed to the continued stationing of our troops in Afghanistan. One survey, for example, found 59 per cent of respondents saying that Canada is in a battle it cannot win.
In response, retired general Lewis MacKenzie, in an Oct. 10 article in the Globe and Mail, said the question that should be put to Canadians is, "'Do you support letting the Taliban return to power in Afghanistan?' If your answer is yes, please go on to the next questions.
"'Do you support beheading teachers in front of their class if they permit even one girl to attend?' Do you support denying all Afghan women the right to visit a doctor, as there are no female doctors permitted by the Taliban and male doctors are not allowed to inspect female patients?' 'Do you support the government's right to execute women by blowing out their brains in front of thousands of cheering onlookers in a football stadium because the victims were seen in the company of men other than their husbands?' . . ."
MacKenzie puts the issue in a stark light. Canadian troops originally went to Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11 to help root out terrorists and overthrow a government that was harbouring them. We were not focused on the rights of the Afghani people.
The focus has shifted. Terrorist training camps, we are told, have grown in number since NATO forces, authorized by the United Nations, entered Afghanistan. But we are now concerned about the plight of an impoverished country where the rights of women are marginal today and non-existent should the Taliban return to power.
Canada is promoting economic development, human rights and democracy in a region where the Taliban and drug lords want nothing to do with such niceties. This is an honourable fight, one which might not have much hope of succeeding without the presence of foreign military power.
The question Canada must face is whether that fight has any hope of succeeding even with military force. Or, if the presence of foreign armies is making it less likely that the battle will be won.
From all accounts, Canadian soldiers on the scene - the ones who have the most to lose if this war goes wrong - are strongly supportive of our continued presence. Canada, however, appears to be fighting the battle almost alone. Most NATO nations want nothing to do with direct military engagement.
Further, many argue that the presence of foreign armies is making both the terrorists and the Taliban stronger. Afghanis are reputedly tired of foreign armies that promise to make life better but do not deliver. They are tired of foreign armies, period. Is it within Canada's power to make a positive contribution to law, order and economic development in Afghanistan despite our good intentions?
Still more questions force one to ask whether Canada is dreaming the impossible dream. It appears the democratically elected government has little meaningful authority in much of Afghanistan and is beginning to lose its grasp even in some areas where it does have authority.
And what of neighbouring Pakistan? Is it providing sanctuary for the Taliban and al Qaeda in an effort to appease extremist forces within its own borders?
There is a likelihood that if NATO is going to fight the growing Taliban insurgency, it will have to vastly increase the number of troops in the country. Do Canadians have the stomach for this? Is it morally right to turn this into a full-pitched war? Will the war be lost anyway?
These questions need to be faced squarely. There are other, probably better, ways to combat terrorism than fighting a war. But in the end, any rush to bring Canada's troops home ought to be tempered by the questions Lewis MacKenzie asks. What will happen to the women of Afghanistan if the Taliban return to power?
- Glen Argan
Letter to the Editor - 12/11/06
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