Wednesday, April 11, 2007

If everything goes according to plan in Afstan...

...there is light at the end of the tunnel (the Salang Pass Tunnel, that is). I think that is asking rather a lot, but one can hope. At least the minister is giving the outlines of the "exit strategy" the opposition and pundits have been demanding.
Canadian troops could be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2010, the Minister of National Defence suggested yesterday.

However, Gordon O'Connor said the withdrawal would be conditional on Afghan security forces meeting their targeted levels of expansion.

"We don't want to be there forever. Our exit strategy is to try to get Afghan governance, development and security to such a level that they can look after themselves," he said in an interview with the National Post. "We will probably have to provide aid there for many, many years but that doesn't necessarily mean we have to keep large security forces there. If the Afghan army and police can get to some reasonable level -- in their value system, not ours -- that will allow NATO to withdraw."

Under the Afghanistan Compact, signed between the Afghan government and the international community in London last year, targets were set at 70,000 [by the end of 2008] for the Afghan army (roughly double current numbers) and 62,000 for the police force [which is in a much worse state than the ANA--Canadians are helping train the police and the army].

Asked whether the Afghan army is on course to reach its target size, and whether this would constitute a "reasonable level," Mr. O'Connor, said: "Yeah, I think so," pointing out that the United States has recently committed around US$8-billion to purchase equipment for the army.

Mr. O'Connor, who will host a working meeting with the defence ministers from the eight other NATO countries [including the Dutch, who are only committed until August, 2008; a decision on extending their mission will be taken this summer] in southern Afghanistan this week in Quebec City, said the scenario is hypothetical at the moment, because Canada's military commitment is only firm until February, 2009.

"We haven't made any decision whatsoever [beyond that]. We wouldn't look at that until some time next year," he said...
In any event, patience will be needed. I wonder if we and many others in NATO will have it. CTV news is reporting two more Canadian soldiers have been killed.

Meanwhile, this does not appear to be good news:
The White House wants to appoint a high-powered czar to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with authority to issue directions to the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies, but it has had trouble finding anyone able and willing to take the job, according to people close to the situation.

At least three retired four-star generals approached by the White House in recent weeks have declined to be considered for the position, the sources said, underscoring the administration's difficulty in enlisting its top recruits to join the team after five years of warfare that have taxed the United States and its military...
The US Army certainly is stretched:
The U.S. announced Wednesday that all active-duty Army troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will serve 15-month tours -- three months longer than the usual standard -- beginning immediately...
Update on the Quebec City meeting:
The recent squabbles, over the insistence by some NATO countries on limiting how their troops can be used in Afghanistan, have gone quiet, at least in public. And shortages in equipment and personnel for the new NATO mission in Afghanistan have been reduced. They are now mostly seen in a lack of helicopters and transport planes, and military trainers, Pentagon officials said.

The question facing Mr. Gates [US Secretary of Defense] and his counterparts from Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands, with lower-level officials invited from Estonia and Romania [all countries engaged in combat - MC], is more strategic, and more stark: Does the alliance have the ability, and the will, to sustain the most complicated and bloody combat mission in NATO history for years to come? It is universally agreed that is what will be required...
Now a Canadian Press story--I think the implication in the lead paragraph that the US will ask the other countries to contribute substantially more troops is misleading (at best). It is trainers that are in question as the second paragraph says, but it is the first para that has been constantly trumpeted on TV news.
The United States is pressing Canada, Britain, and other NATO allies to send more soldiers and equipment to Afghanistan.

The call will come today in Quebec City, where U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates will meet with Canada's Gordon O'Connor and the defence ministers of five other NATO countries. A U.S. official said the alliance needs aircraft, medical equipment and military trainers to boost its planned spring assault against Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan...


Post a Comment

<< Home