Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pentagon Report Changes Little

Pentagon report doesn't undermine importance of Afghanistan mission

As surely as dark clouds inevitably bring rain, a recent report out of the Pentagon concerning the war in Afghanistan will bring triumphant cries from opponents of the mission.

"We are losing," the critics will insist. "We need to get out now."

And as disheartening as the Pentagon report on the war effort seems -- portraying the Taliban (and their various allies) as having developed into a "resilient insurgency" -- it ultimately changes very little. It does not one thing to make the war in Afghanistan any less important than it already is.

Preventing the Taliban from returning to power in Afghanistan, opposing their oppressive rule over the Afghan people and providing safe havens for terrorists will remain key to not only Canada's national security, but global security in general. As much as many of the critics of the Afghan war would like the government to admit defeat and withdraw, it's simply something that Canadians cannot afford.

And while, operating out of safe havens in Pakistan, the Taliban has undeniably grown in strength recently, strategically, the outlook of the conflict on the ground has actually changed fairly little.

"The Taliban will challenge the control of the Afghan government in rural areas, especially in the south and east. The Taliban will also probably attempt to increase its presence in the west and north," the report says.

Which, for those who have paid close attention to the Afghanistan conflict, is almost precisely the situation from day one in Afghanistan. In the end, very little has changed.

One thing that has changed, ever so slowly, is the commitment of Pakistan to securing its own territory. Today, Pakistani forces attacked suspected Taliban strongholds in the Peshwar region, saving Afghan president Hammad Karzai the trouble of having to send his own forces into the region -- a prospect that seems to be becoming more and more inevitable (in one form or another) as the war progresses.

As has been suggested by some other commentators, perhaps the time for the international community -- perhaps the Commonwealth -- to take some interest in the deteriorating conditions in south-western Pakistan has finally arrived.

One way or the other, it's clearly time to start addressing some of these concerns on the ground in Afghanistan.

Critics of the war may insist we're losing to their heart's content. But the simple fact of the matter is that we haven't lost yet, and while there remain significant challenges on the ground, we must maintain faith that our Canadian forces and our NATO allies (at least those actually engaged in Afghanistan) are up to the task.

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