Saturday, September 16, 2006

Liberal Leadership Rivals On Afghanistan

Thanks to my comment combatant Lord Kitcheners Own for suggesting this.

Let's look at where the Liberal Leadership hopefuls stand on Afghanistan, in their own words .To begin lets look at last summers Leadership debates where Afghanistan became an issue. Because for many of the Liberal Leadership contenders it was not a major issue and still isn't except for commenting on the positions of the NDP and Conservatives.

For an ongoing overview of the candidates positions check out » Afghanistan

Liberal leadership candidates debate in Winnipeg

Updated Sat. Jun. 10 2006 11:50 PM ET

However, unlike Ignatieff, who supported an extension of Canada's mission in Afghanistan to 2009, Rae called for a less aggressive military role.

"(We need) a party that is committed to peacekeeping, a party that is committed to mediating and being a force for good in the world versus a party that very clearly wants to turn us into a branch plant of the Republican Party of the United States."

While Ignatieff said, "We should stay there until we get the job done with honour," Rae said, "... I disagree quite profoundly with Michael on this issue."

Hedy Fry: a veteran Liberal MP from British Columbia, said troops should be placed in Sudan's Darfur region to help stop the escalating humanitarian crisis there.

And thats all she has said on the issue of Afghanistan

I can't find any comments on her website since the House Debate on the issue.

HEDZ SEZ: Harper Plays Politics With Troops

Submitted by Hedy Fry on Wed, 2006-05-17 11:08.

Tonight the Harper government is forcing a vote on whether we should extend the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, when our mandate expires at the end of this year.

This is the worst sort of political manipulation on the part of this government.

This vote is premature.

There is no information on whether we are achieving our objectives in Afghanistan. No information on whether there will be a mandate change. No information on whether our troops will be put in greater danger. The vote tonight is a clear yes or no.

The government will allow no amendments to their motion. It's the sort of "Take it or leave it," "Like it or lump it" way of doing things that we have come to expect of Stephen Harper.

When Canada first sent troops to Afghanistan, we did so with clear parameters. We went there with a mandate: for capacity building, humanitarian aid, peacekeeping and the duty to protect. These are all worthy Canadian values.

Let us be absolutely clear. We support our troops who are in Afghanistan right now. We are part of a multinational force. We are currently there with the Netherlands and the UK.

But there are many questions to be answered before we can take this vote.

Would our mandate change? Is this a worthwhile project still? Are we achieving our objectives? Could other members of the multilateral forces take their turn to allow Canada to focus in other areas such as Darfur?

Until these questions are answered, this forced blind vote tonight does an injustice to our troops, our aid workers and diplomats currently in Afghanistan.

I'd like to hear what you think.

Globe and Mail coverage of the June 10 debate.

FED - Liberal leadership race

June 12, 2006 - JANE TABER: Eleven Liberal leadership hopefuls raced against the clock yesterday at their first all candidates meeting in Winnipeg, and there were some differences, some marked differences over policy. In a minute, our guest journalists will have their say, but first, the clash of views over the mission to Afghanistan.

MICHAEL IGNATIEFF (Liberal - Ontario): You simply have to have a combat capable military. You can't deliver humanitarian aid and reconstruction. You can't protect people, as Hedy wants us to do, unless you have the capacity to have a military that can stand up and, if necessary, respond with fire. Canada is a serious country. If you ask us to do something hard and difficult, we will do it. We should stay there until we get the job done and return with honour.

BOB RAE (Former Ontario Premier): The risks that we run by turning ourselves into a combat force that's engaged in counter-insurgency and counter-guerrilla forces is that we will, in fact, lose our way as peacekeepers and as people who believe in the maintenance of peace. And that, it seems to me, is a very basic question for Canadians, and very important for Liberals as we head into the next election.

SCOTT BRISON (Liberal - Nova Scotia): The headlines in the New York Times the day after that vote, had we defeated it, would not have been Canadian parliament votes down cynical government motion. The headline in the New York Times the next day would have been Canadian parliament withdraws support for the Afghan mission.

MARTHA HALL FINDLAY (Lawyer): We do not establish our foreign policy in this country because, with all due respect, because we're afraid of what the headline in the New York Times will be.

JOE VOLPE (Liberal - Ontario): I disagree with my colleagues, Michael and Scott, about this being important for the United States. We're running to be a leader in Canada.

Another day and another debate and candidates take shots at each otehr over Afghanistan.

11 Grit candidates hold debate in Moncton June 17, 2006

On Afghanistan, Volpe used his opening remarks to take a shot at Ignatieff, who along with Brison supported a government motion last month to extend the Canadian military mission there to 2009. All other leadership hopefuls opposed the motion.

Holding up a newspaper with a front-page story on Ignatieff's pitch for a more aggressive role for Canada's military in Afghanistan and other global trouble spots, Volpe said, "I read it and I agreed with everything in it because my name is Stephen Harper."

Ignatieff did not respond in kind. Indeed, he went out of his way to praise Volpe for initiating reforms to Employment Insurance.

However, Ignatieff didn't back down on the need for Canadian troops to help "provide human security for populations in danger."

"That may mean you have to deploy your military in a place like Darfur, where it's tough, in places like Afghanistan, where it's tough," he said.

"The single greatest problem with the United Nations is talking about protecting but not doing it. We have to be a country that actually lives by what we say and do."

At one point, Rae spoke movingly of watching young girls in war-torn Sri Lanka ride their bikes to school. That prompted a sharp retort from Brison.

"I would urge you to consider those young women in Afghanistan who did not have the right to go to school under the Taliban," Brison said


Michael Ignatieff: But on the matter of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, Ignatieff is as strong a supporter of the mission as any of the Liberal leadership contenders. Rae has distinguished himself by taking a deeply skeptical position on the entire project, which is far closer to the stance of most Canadians, whose enthusiasm has been waning ever since Stephen Harper’s Conservatives took office.

Why are Canadians becoming so disillusioned?

For one thing, Ignatieff said, Canadian soldiers are dying there. But there is a “deeper obstacle”, and it’s the idea that Canadian soldiers have become “auxiliaries of the American empire, fighting a counterterrorism war that has nothing to do with us”.

On this question, Ignatieff has no second thoughts.

Canada is in Afghanistan at the invitation of the country’s democratically elected government, with the approval of the United Nations, as part of a NATO engagement, Ignatieff said. If we pull out now, Afghanistan could fall prey to a terrorist militia, leading to a civil war, and “the last war cost a million lives,” as he points out.

And this is where we have to leave our innocence behind.

“The things that Canadians have understood is they’ve understood globalization. They’ve understood that the future of the British Columbia economy is somehow tied up to China and India. And Vancouver is the great epitome of Canada waking up to globalization and profiting and benefiting from it,” he said.

“But the other side of globalization is that security threats, very long and very far away, are our business, in a way that I think we didn’t, we don’t, understand. And that’s the innocence here. And that innocence has to end because our security really is involved in these things.”

Ignatieff says Canada belongs in Afghanistan because of 'moral promise'

Angela Pacienza, Canadian Press

Published: Friday, September 08, 2006

Canadians have an obligation to keep their "moral promise" to Afghans despite a mounting death toll, Liberal leadership contender Michael Ignatieff said Wednesday as the bodies of five more soldiers returned home from the battlefield.

"This is an agonizing mission for Canadians but it's a mission that amounts to a moral promise," Ignatieff said following a rally in downtown Toronto where he unveiled a new campaign platform. "It's a promise in which Canada said 'We're going to help Afghans get their country back on its feet.' And the Canada I love and the Canada I respect always keeps its promises."

The latest casualties in Afghanistan, which brings the total to 32 since 2002, have prompted a growing number of politicians to push for an end to the mission.

Earlier this week New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton said Canada should pull forces out and focus its efforts on reconstruction and negotiating a peaceful settlement.

Ignatieff dismissed Layton's proposal, saying it wasn't credible.

"I'm not clear who you negotiate with. I'm not clear what you negotiate about," he said.

"There isn't a responsible politician who doesn't prefer negotiating to combat. That's not the issue."

Ignatieff said he would continue to back soldiers so long as the mission offered the war-torn country a balance of security, reconstruction and humanitarian needs.

Quotable quote: "To defeat evil, we may have to traffic in evils: indefinite detention of suspects, coercive interrogations, targeted assassinations, even pre-emptive war. These are evils because each strays from national and international law and because they kill people or deprive them of freedom without due process. They can be justified only because they prevent the greater evil. The question is not whether we should be trafficking in lesser evils but whether we can keep lesser evils under the control of free institutions." Mr. Ignatieff, writing in The New York Times Magazine in 2004.

Brison has no position or statements on Afghanistan on his website. Instead his only foreign policy statements are in regards to this summers Israeli-Lebanon conflict in which he took Israels side. Though he has claimed to agree with Kennedy his statements say otherwise.

Scott Brison:

Along with Mr. Ignatieff, he departed from the Liberal line to vote with the government in order to extend the mission in Afghanistan. He did so because he was part of the original decision to join the coalition and because he believes, absolutely, that Canada must show its resolve against terrorism. He does not, however, approve of the "wedge politics" Mr. Harper used to split, and embarrass, the Liberals by calling a vote that affects, far more, the real lives of those dealing in a real situation.

"What he did is morally wrong," Mr. Brison said of Mr. Harper's political gambit to use the military to divide, further, the opposition. "This is going to come back and bite him in the rear end."

In response to a question, Brison reiterated his conviction that the then-Liberal government did the right thing sending soldiers to Afghanistan.

He said he lived in New York City during the 1993 terrorist bombing in the parking garage of the World Trade Center that rocked its foundation and left seven dead and hundreds injured.

The subsequent airplane attack on the Twin Towers, as well as other bombings in Bali, Madrid, London and elsewhere and alleged plots in Canada and, most recently, on airplanes leaving England, reaffirm Canada's responsibility and role in the world, he said.

"We can't take ourselves out of the modern world, nor should we," he said.

He said he and Jordan were among the MPs who supported sending the military to Afghanistan to defend the people and build the institutions necessary for the wartorn country to develop.

"It's tough there now," he said, but the objective to fight terrorism and defend basic rights remains laudable.

Scott Brison was the other leadership hopeful to vote with the Conservatives, but he said most of the candidates more generally agree that the current mission needs to match the military mission with broader humanitarian support.


I have already posted Bob Rae and Carolyn Bennett's positions here:Afghanistan Takes Its Toll On Liberal Leadership

Like Hedy another Liberal Candidate who has nothing to say , surprisingly, about Afghanistan is the first person to toss her hat in the ring. She has spoken out on the Middle East on her website but not Afghanistan. However I did find a posting on her Forum page. Whether it is her position or her teams hard to say, I can't identify the poster as I am not registered on her site.

Martha Hall Findlay

I did find this from a forum on the Globe and Mail where Findaly Hall was asked questions.

Ensley Hill, Digby, Canada: How would a government led by you contribute to the 'war on terror'? Would you commit Canada to helping the effort in Afghanistan, and possibly elsewhere?

Martha Hall Findlay: Ensley, thanks for your question -- I'm actually writing this as we "speak" from your lovely province of Nova Scotia. We are of course already helping in Afghanistan and have been for five years. However, when we were asked this past spring to support a two-year extension of that effort, (i) I was offended that the question was put to a so-called "debate," for only six hours in a highly politicized environment -- that was in my view completely inappropriate and offensive to the Canadians risking and sacrificing their lives; (ii) more importantly, it was not then, and it is still not now, at all clear what our real goals are, whether they are indeed achievable, and what to do next. A decision whether (or not) to extend should only have been made after a full and thorough review of the whole situation.

But the key is that we are there, we have made a commitment -- the question facing Canada is what to do next, and how. The idea of unilaterally pulling out at this juncture is completely irresponsible. We are there with NATO, and it is as part of that collective that we can, in this instance, be most effective. This is, however, an opportunity for Canada to step up and do what it has historically done so well (examples being the land mines treaty and the UN "responsibility to protect" doctrine) -- we must engage our NATO partners in serious, honest discussion about where we are, what we hope to accomplish, whether those goals are realistic and achievable and then, decide on next steps. A key element of Canada's foreign policy, and one I want to maintain, for Afghanistan as well as other international efforts, is our commitment to the collectives of NATO and the UN. We have been consistent, and been respected, in that role.

Like Fry and Findlay Hall, Volpe has no position on Afhganistan on his website. Any position or comments he has made were in the debates and no where else.

Joe Volpe

Former federal cabinet minister Joe Volpe would like to see Canadian troops return to Kabul.

Afghan mission a wedge in Grit leadership race

Updated Mon. May. 15 2006 5:15 PM ET

Canadian Press

OTTAWA -- Canada's dangerous military mission in Afghanistan is becoming a wedge issue in the Liberal leadership contest.

The 11 candidates are divided over the merits of the mission and whether it should be extended beyond the current deadline of February. Toronto MP and former minister Joe Volpe is so far the most critical of the mission. He's calling for the withdrawal of troops from Kandahar province, where a number of Canadian soldiers have been killed recently as they attempt to root out Taliban insurgents.

Two more soldiers were wounded Monday when their armoured vehicle was rocked by a roadside bomb.

Volpe wants Canada's contingent of 2,200 soldiers to return to its original base in the Afghan capital of Kabul. He's also calling for a reorientation of Canadian Forces to pursue a more traditional peacekeeping mission while helping to restore "civil society" to the war-ravaged country.

"That's what we're equipped to do, that's what we're capable of doing and that's where our expertise lies," Volpe said in an interview.

The previous Liberal government committed troops to Afghanistan's lawless south last year and included a robust combat element to the deployment. But most of the casualties have come under Stephen Harper's fledgling Conservative government.

Volpe suggested this was no coincidence. He believes there was a change in the mission at the behest of U.S. President George W. Bush.

"We can't switch from peacekeeper to peacemaker on the fly just because a Republican government in the United States asks us to. We can't be an extension of American foreign policy," Volpe said.

Volpe's stance appears to be at odds with that of rookie MP and acclaimed scholar Michael Ignatieff, one of the presumed frontrunners in the leadership race. He has been the most unequivocal in his support for the Afghanistan mission.

Ken Dryden is the only Liberal Leadership candidate in this catagory to have a Foreign Affairs section on his website where he does address Afghanistan.

Ken Dryden said soul searching in the wake of recent deaths will continue because there wasn't a thorough debate before the Conservatives announced in May a vote on a two-year extension — until 2009 — for the military mission.

"We're in Afghanistan for good reasons and we should stay there for the time being," Dryden told CBC. "But what we didn't go through four or five months ago was a real debate over Canadian foreign policy, the present world of peacekeepers and peacemakers, and whether Afghanistan is the right place for us.

"We skipped a step. And now, that step keeps coming back and it will keep coming back until we have a real good debate."

Dryden candidly admitted during a news conference that he doesn't know whether Canadian troops should withdraw or stay in Afghanistan or whether a carbon tax should be part of any climate change plan. In both cases he called for a thorough debate and examination of the issue.

The important voice is the voice that’s missing

In Afghanistan, there has been something – to end its role as a safe harbour for international terrorism; its stabilization and reconstruction. But were the circumstances at the time what we thought them to be? Have they changed? If so, is there still the right role for us to play? Does our participation in Afghanistan represent the best of Canada in the world?

The individual actions of the Conservative Government are troubling, collectively they are disturbing. The sudden extension, without real debate, of our mission in Afghanistan; the softwood lumber deal; Mr. Harper’s governing style; the rhetoric; “God Bless (delete “America;” insert) Canada” (ugh!) at the end of some of Mr. Harper’s speeches; and (double ugh!) “Steve”. There is an attitude and an approach on display here that personally, as a Canadian, I find makes my stomach squirm. But more than that, it gets in the way of Canada playing a role in the world that is critical and that no one can play better. And it keeps the US from hearing the voice that’s missing.

What does that mean for Afghanistan? It means staying where we are, doing our best to fulfill our mission, but with our eyes wide open. Rhetoric is deadly, whether it is from Mr. Harper or some of the other Liberal leadership candidates. “When the going gets tough . . . ;“ Canada doesn’t “cut and run;” leadership is “standing firm” – rhetoric is a comfortable ideological or academic box where you are finally and forever right and you never have to open your eyes again. Except life isn’t like that. Leadership is having the courage to have your eyes always wide open, to change and go a different way if a different way is better.

Dion lacks any policy platform on Foreign Affairs on his website. He has posted comments there on Afghanistan and he did publish a commentary in the National Post on Afghanistan. And here are his reasons for voting against the extension.

Stephane Dion: Like Dryden, Dion voted in May against the extension in Afghanistan, but he was critical Tuesday of the call this week by NDP Leader Jack Layton that Canada should get out of the war-torn nation by February 2007.

"I didn't want my country to commit itself in the international community as Mr. Harper has done, but now it's done," he said.

Dion said any redesign of the mission to place a greater focus on peacekeeping or to leave the country completely wouldn't take place without a comprehensive review.

The only Quebec leadership candidate said he wouldn't rule out withdrawing the troops before 2009, but that under his leadership, Canada would "not leave overnight or put in danger thousands of lives."

Naive assumptions about our armed forces

Stéphane Dion, National Post, August 14, 2006

The role of the Canadian Armed Forces and the topic of security have long been debated throughout the Liberal Party of Canada’s leadership campaign. This debate can be attributed to the importance of the matter, its present international relevance, as well as the serious preoccupations brought on by the propensity of the Conservative government to opt above all for the use of force to resolve international conflicts. The debate is also fed by the variety of opinions on this matter of the eleven candidates. One of the candidates, as many people know, supported America’s intervention in Iraq. Nine candidates, including myself, have voiced our disapproval of the government’s motion to extend the mission in Afghanistan by two years. Many of us, but not all, immediately called for a cease-fire in Lebanon. I would like to outline the criteria that would guide me as Prime Minister in order to ensure the proper use of Canada’s armed forces.

We must avoid two naïve yet contradictory assumptions. In this “we”, I obviously include my party, since I believe it to be vulnerable to these two opposing assumptions. This is apparent in the current leadership race.

The first of these two naïve assumptions is to believe that since peacekeeping is the mandate of our forces, our soldiers will never have to resort to using their weapons. In the cease-fire monitoring missions between two regular armies, UN peacekeepers normally never have to fight and are not equipped to do so. Unfortunately, not all peacekeeping operations are able to unfold in such a manner. When in order to protect a population in danger we must help a weakened government re-establish security over its territory, such as the case of Congo in 1961, Bosnia in 1994 or present-day Afghanistan, peacekeeping operations are replaced by those of a peace-restoring nature. In such missions, soldiers must at times use force and they take the risk of incurring casualties. In refusing to include the Canadian Forces in such operations, we would be refusing to contribute to resolving the worst conflicts our world presently faces and we would be renouncing our “responsibility to protect”, a doctrine for which Canada has been an advocate on the world stage.

The opposite naïve assumption is to overestimate armed force as an instrument for spreading justice and democracy in the world. The decision by the United States to invade Iraq in 2003 was probably a result of this overestimation, and the support by some intellectuals for the invasion certainly was. The majority of Canadians – but not Mr. Harper – voiced their opposition to this invasion and our government refused to participate in it. We were not turning a blind eye to the criminal nature of Saddam Hussein’s regime; we did not believe that the Iraqi people were incapable of democracy. We did believe, however, that a war and military occupation were more likely to lead to violence and chaos rather than democracy. We participated in the Bosnian intervention as it had a good chance of ending the violence and allowing political progress in the country. For these same reasons, we are presently stationed in Afghanistan, although in much more difficult conditions. The political landscape of Iraq was very different. It was predictable that military intervention would reduce the chances of democracy in this country and in the Middle East.

We had good reason to caution our American friends against the dangers of their operation and to not participate in it. The United States is for us an ally, not a model – a distinction that eludes our current Prime Minister.

This is the direction our armed forces must adopt. Although foreign armed forces can in some cases improve the security in a country, they cannot establish democracy within it. Democracy can be established by the local population, in an improved security environment, but that is entirely outside the control of foreign troops. Canadians must continue to help populations in danger where their presence is welcome and where they have a reasonable chance of reducing violence. They must not refuse missions that force them to use weapons or that might lead to casualties. However, they must avoid participating in ventures that would increase violence, rather than keeping it at bay. We must evaluate the extension of our mission in Afghanistan according to these criteria. If an international mission is set up for Lebanon, our decision to participate in it should be based on whether it would be likely to re-establish genuine security in the region and for the Lebanese people who have suffered so much in the current crisis. These same criteria must guide us in evaluating our participation in future engagements.


Gerard Kennedy:

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

No Sustainable peace without answers to opium trade, renewed development efforts

Toronto- Liberal leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy today called for Canada to push NATO to re-evaluate what amounts to a losing strategy in Afghanistan and for Prime Minister Harper to address the shortfall in aid development.

"If NATO fails to change their strategy, Canada should pull out of the war in Afghanistan," Kennedy told Ontario Young Liberals as part of the Young Liberal Summer Speakers Series at Ryerson University last night.

"By focusing solely on military objectives in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Harper is making the same mistakes that the Bush administration made in Iraq and it will lead to similar long-term failure," said Kennedy. "The Prime Minister has failed to answer the fundamental question of whether we are building a civil society in Afghanistan along with the Afghani people, or simply occupying a troublesome part of the world. "

Kennedy pointed out that Afghanistan faces three interlinked crises: an opium crisis, a development crisis and a security crisis. "The international community and the Afghan people must deal with the opium and development crises before lasting security can become reality," Kennedy said. "The biggest failure in Afghanistan to date has been the way the international community has alienated the Afghani people. Unless we change the approach to developing a sustainable economy in Afghanistan, our mission will not succeed"

Last year's crop was worth $2.7 billion at export, or 52 per cent of the GDP, representing a 20 per cent increase in poppy planting and a record for the biggest crop in Afghanistan's history, according to the United Nations.

"These figures signal an abject failure for the British-led attempt at forced eradiation of all opium crops," notes Kennedy. "The consequences have been tragic." Revenues from opium crops fund the Taliban's operations against international forces. Additionally, without economic alternatives the allegiance of local populations shifts support away from the international community and towards Taliban insurgent factions that capitalize on growing economic desperation.

"There are both long- and short-term solutions that will bring illegal opium cultivation under control and take the money away from the Taliban, while at the same time providing economic opportunities and hope to the poverty-stricken opium growing areas of Afghanistan," Kennedy added.

Little has been achieved to relieve the extreme poverty of the majority of the rural population. The substantial efforts and vast amounts of funds provided for the stability and security of the country have not been matched by comparable measures in terms of development.

"The basic needs of the local population are not being met," Kennedy said. Despite being the world's main front in the war against terrorism, Afghanistan has so far received less per capita reconstruction and security assistance than all other recent post-conflict countries. Only $75 per capita has been pledged for this year, and this figure will slide down to $42 per capita for the next five years.

Kennedy noted that Canada has a role to play in marshalling other NATO countries to call for a winning plan in Afghanistan. "Sustainable peace cannot be achieved by military operations alone. The international coalition should focus on the immediate and long-term economic needs of the local communities, and any use of force should be balanced with extensive, visible and effective development efforts," he said.

Kennedy proposes that Canada can help lead the plan to solve the opium trade and development challenges facing the Afghani people, "The only way we can justify staying in Afghanistan is if we can create a mandate for real success."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

t's time to reevaluate NATO's strategy in Afghanistan. The current strategy is a long-term losing one. In order for the mission to be successful, Canada and its allies must win the support of the Afghani people, get smart about the opium crisis and get serious about the abject poverty and alienation facing a country recently ranked one of the 10 weakest states in the world.

Even the US Military establishment is starting to realize that their approach in Afghanistan and Iraq has failed and needs to be rethought. According to a recent Boston Globe report, the Pentagon has "undertaken a wholesale reassessment of its war strategy with a goal of identifying the mistakes made in Iraq and Afghanistan" as they now realize that "winning hearts and minds has proved far more difficult than killing enemy forces."

Just as the Pentagon is now reconsidering the US strategy in Iraq, Canada has a role to play in marshalling other NATO countries to call for a winning plan in Afghanistan.

Canadian principles have been absent in this effort since Prime Minister Harper's shotgun vote to extend the mission in Afghanistan. He has failed to answer the fundamental question of whether we're building a civil society in Afghanistan alongside the Afghani people or essentially occupying a troublesome part of the world.

There are currently three crises in Afghanistan: An opium crisis, a development crisis and a security crisis. Unless we deal with the first two in a rational, thoughtful manner, the last crisis - creating lasting security in Afghanistan - will be impossible to meet, violence will escalate and the mission will fail.

One of the biggest failures in Afghanistan has been the approach to the omnipresent opium trade. Opium production in Afghanistan has exploded under the current policy, signaling an abject failure for the British-led attempt at forced eradication of all opium crops. Last year's crop was worth $2.7 billion at export, or 52% of GDP. The United Nations says poppy planting increased by 20% this year and is projected to break a record for the biggest crop in Afghanistan history.

Ineffective opium policies have had two tragic consequences: the sale of opium now represents a virtual ATM to the Taliban, funding their operations against international forces without any end in site. As importantly, since the international community's opium policy has been to forcibly eradicate the poppy fields without providing any economic alternative, the allegiance of local populations is now shifting away from support for the international community and towards Taliban insurgent factions cashing in on growing local anger and economic desperation. The international community's approach to the poppy fields has resulted in more opium being grown and in farmers turning against the international community.

Effectively replacing the opium crop with sustainable alternatives will be neither easy nor cheap - it will cost billions of dollars to replace opium with a new economy. However, Afghanistan cannot build a long-term viable economy based on the trade of an illegal substance. As the former Afghani Interior Minister wrote in a Parameters journal article in May 2006, "Eradication without providing for meaningful alternative livelihoods is not sustainable. Eradication does not hold promise as a near-term solution, and forcible eradication can be counter-productive...There are no quick and simple solutions."

Canada should take a leadership role in working with its international allies and the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) on demonstration projects to move the replacement of the opium economy forward. Another short-term solution is assisting the country to produce essential opium-based medicines such as morphine and codeine in accordance with the legal framework found in the new Afghanistan Counter- Narcotics Law passed in December 2005. Implementing these provisions would partly bring illegal opium cultivation under control, take the money away from the Taliban and provide new economic opportunity and hope to the poverty-stricken opium growing areas of Afghanistan.

The second crisis facing Afghanistan is a development challenge. After five years of international presence in Afghanistan and the establishment of a democratically elected government, little has been achieved to relieve extreme poverty facing the majority of the rural Afghan population. The basic needs of the local population are not being met and, as a result, the population is returning its support to the Taliban and other local power-holders.

Despite being the world's main front in the war against terrorism, Afghanistan has so far received less per capita reconstruction and security assistance than all other recent post-conflict countries. In Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor, donors spent an average of $250 per capita per year in aid. In Afghanistan, only $75 per capita has been pledged for this year, sliding down to $42 per capita for the next five years. While Canada has spent more than $4 billion by some estimates on the military mission in Afghanistan, it has spent less than $100 million in aid since March 2005.

Canada and its allies need to develop a better balance between short-term emergency assistance (food, shelter, and water) and long-term development (there has not been a single new highway or power plant built in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban). Afghanistan urgently needs an injection of financial aid earmarked for the short-term relief of pervasive extreme poverty.

The international coalition should focus on the immediate and long term economic needs of the local communities and any use of force should be balanced with extensive, visible and effective development efforts. Sustainable peace in Afghanistan cannot be achieved by military operations alone: comprehensive and long-term development efforts are desperately needed. The success of the international mission in Afghanistan relies on convincing the Afghani people that development will provide for a better future than the Taliban offers and on the realization of these promises.

The only way Canada can justify staying in Afghanistan is if we can create a mandate for real success. Loss of life, lack of progress and no end in sight weigh heavily on our national conscience. By focusing solely on the military objectives in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Harper is making the same mistakes that the Bush administration made in Iraq and it will lead to similar long-term failure. It's time Canada advocated and led a strategy that tackles the real issues of the opium economy and the development challenges under which the Afghan people are attempting to rebuild.

James Laxer: Layton and Kennedy Have Transformed the Afghanistan Debate

Here is a comment on the Liberal Candidates from a member of Canada's Defense Establishment from June:

Liberal leadership race needs honest foreign policy debate

By Bob Bergen
Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan is emerging as a central and likely decisive issue in the federal Liberal Party leadership race.
When the Liberals were in power, it was easy to tell where they stood on foreign policy and national defence.
However, the leadership race has exposed the New Democratic Party’s influence on high-profile
leadership candidates like Bob Rae and some anti-American sentiments on the part of both Rae and Joe Volpe that muddies the water considerably. Only two of the 11 candidates supported extending Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, but Rae and Volpe are using the Liberal leadership race as a platform to argue that Canada risks losing its way as a nation of
peacekeepers by following America’s lead.
They both ought to know that the Liberals got out of the peacekeeping business a long time ago and have a made-in-Canada record of sending the Canadian Forces into combat when necessary.
For starters, it was Jean Chretien’s Liberal government which sent Canadian Forces peacemakers – not peacekeepers – into the former Yugoslavia as part of a United Nations effort to put an end to Slobodan Milosevic’s reign of terror in the early 1990s.
Not to put too fine a point on it, it was Chretien’s Liberal government that sent CF-18 warplanes with our North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies to bomb Milosevic’s military and government into submission and end Serbian “cleansing” of ethnic Albanians during the 78-day Kosovo air war in 1999.
It was the Chretien Liberal government that originally committed Canadian land, sea and air forces to the international war against terrorism in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attack in New York. Further, it was the Chretien Liberal government that was the driving force behind “The Responsibility to Protect”, the Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty also in 2001.
In the aftermath of the Rwanda genocide in 1994, the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in 1995 and Kosovo, the Report advanced a case for muscular military intervention by the international community to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing when their own governments fail to do so.
That “Responsibility to Protect” initiative was adopted by the United Nations at the World Summit at UN headquarters in September 2005.
It was also Paul Martin’s Liberal government which produced the Canadian International Policy statement in 2005 that guides Canada’s current foreign policy in defence, diplomacy and development. At the heart of the policy statement is, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, that Canada needs a robust military to protect Canada against terrorism and the spillover of failed and failing states like Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is following the International Policy
Statement’s lead, but appears to be taking it many steps further by beefing up Canada’s military and extending to 2009 the Afghanistan mission the Liberals initiated.
But, by some unfathomable twist of logic, former Ontario NDP premier Rae now argues against the Liberal party’s foreign policy thinking and history, saying that Canada risks losing its way as a nation of peacekeepers in Afghanistan.
Just when and where have Canadians been acting as a nation of peacekeepers since the early 1990s?
Meanwhile, Volpe disingenuously argues that Canada has moved away from peacekeeping into
peacemaking in Afghanistan with a made-in-Washington foreign affairs policy.
The front-runner in the race is reportedly Michael Ignatieff, a well-traveled journalist, a former Harvard scholar and a widely-published author with a highly-developed view of Canada’s place in the world. Ignatieff’s critics label him un-Liberal and un-Canadian for the decades he spent at Harvard. Volpe hascalled him Republican-minded.
They ignore the fact that Ignatieff wrote about NATO’s Kosovo intervention in his book Virtual War, which served as a virtual blueprint for the Liberals’ “The Responsibility to Protect”.
Ignatieff was one of the commissioners who sat on the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty which authored “The Responsibility to Protect”.
Ignatieff’s thinking, if not variations of his exact phrasing from Virtual War, can be found throughout it like a watermark.
Should Ignatieff come to lead the Liberals in opposition, he will bring a sophisticated world view to thedifficult defence and foreign policy issues facing Canada and the United States.
The problem is Ignatieff may be surrounded in his own caucus by the likes of Rae and Volpe who don’t debate at the same level and prefer to simply bash Ignatieff and Washington instead.
Still worse, Ignatieff’s opponents don’t appear to think that Canadians need to hear an enlightened and honest debate on these central issues, which is a sad enough commentary in itself.

Bob Bergen, Ph.D., is a Research Fellow with the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI) in Calgary.

The opinions expressed in this document are those of the author and not necessarily those of CDFAI, its Board of Directors, Advisory Council, Fellows or donors. Bergen’s column appears bi-weekly. Learn more about the CDFAI and its research on the Internet at

Also See:

Liberal Leadership Race


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