by Tim Kennelly, The Bullet, Aug. 25, 2010
On March 13, 2008, Canada’s Parliament voted to extend the country’s military “mission” in Afghanistan to July 2011. The motion by the minority Conservative government was supported by the opposition Liberals. The warmakers correctly estimated that fixing an exit date would deflect mounting opposition to the war among the Canadian public and buy time for Canada’s continued participation. Since then, the political and military situation in Afghanistan has continued to deteriorate for the occupying forces, and leading politicians are now floating proposals to extend Canada’s claimed exit date for a military mission that already constitutes a gross violation of the national sovereignty and human rights of the Afghan people.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the government will stick to its date. However, he also says that Canada will maintain a military presence in Afghanistan after 2011, to train Afghan police and military personnel. This is a de-facto extension of the military mission and not, as the government claims, in a non-combat role.
Following a visit to Afghanistan in late May, Liberal MP and Foreign Affairs critic Bob Rae said it is time to revisit the exit date and prepare for a longer intervention. Even the New Democratic Party’s military affairs critic, Jack Harris, doesn’t rule out a continued military role. He was on the same delegation as Rae and told reporters in Kandahar, “Obviously, there are considerable humanitarian and institution-building concerns about Afghanistan. Whether that involves the military or not is another question, indeed. … There are other ways we can help build institutions.”
The Canadian government’s vast increases in military spending belie the promise of withdrawal. A 2009 report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives stated that Canada would spend $21-billion on its military in 2009-2010, a 56% increase since 1998-1999. Recently, it announced a $9-billion purchase of new fighter jets, one of the largest purchases in Canadian history.