Afghanistan: Wrong Mission for Canada
Description: The coolly reasoned case made by a leading expert in international law.
Date: 05 October 2006
Author: Michael Byers
We are approaching the five-year mark of Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan.
Joint Task Force 2, Canada's special-forces unit, has been active in that country since shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. We know that JTF-2 soldiers transferred detainees to U.S. custody in January 2002, participated in an attack at Tora Bora in December 2002, and transferred detainees to U.S. custody again during the summer of 2005.
The first deployment of regular soldiers came in January 2002, when 750 infantry from the Princess Patricia's Regiment were sent to Kandahar as part of an U.S. counter-insurgency task force. Four of these soldiers were killed, and eight others injured, in a "friendly fire" incident in April 2002.
Then, over a two-year period from August 2003 to October 2005, some 6,000 Canadian soldiers were rotated through Kabul as part of a UN-authorized, NATO-led "international security assistance force" providing security and stability for Afghanistan's new government.
In late 2005, the focus of Canada's military effort reverted to the counter-insurgency mission in Kandahar. The U.S. government, bogged down in Iraq, and with an eye to next month's mid-term elections, was keen to reduce its troop levels. NATO responded by scaling up its presence from 9,000 to around 20,000 soldiers, with most of the new troops coming from Britain, Canada, Denmark and The Netherlands.
Originally, the plan was to expand NATO's responsibilities to include southern Afghanistan by early 2006. But the transition was delayed by concerns, in Paris, Berlin and elsewhere, over the tactics employed in the counter-insurgency mission. For the better part of a year, Canada's soldiers operated as part of the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom, where, despite being placed in charge of ground operations in Kandahar, they remained under more general U.S. operational control. In the end, the French and Germans refused to deploy into the south.
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