Canadian generals quick to change their tune on Afghanistan

… with their tails between their legs. All the talk about sending troops abroad in the name of high ideals. Americans pull the plug and not an eye is batted by Canadian political leaders. It was all empty phrases – lives squandered, billions spent, a country left in ruins.

Maj-Gen David Fraser (above left) & Maj-Gen Dean Milner (above right)
Maj-Gen David Fraser (above left) & Maj-Gen Dean Milner (above right)

By Scott Taylor*

(July 12) – Over the past few weeks the news out of Afghanistan has not been very re-assuring. In keeping with U.S. President Joe Biden’s election campaign promise to end the war in Afghanistan, American troop withdrawals have begun in earnest.

On July 2, in one of the most dramatic and farcical moves to date, the U.S. military literally bugged out of the sprawling base at Bagram in the dead of night.

Reportedly the last American flight lifted off around 4 am, and it was not until three hours later that those Afghan security forces remaining in Bagram were advised of the departure.

The Afghans did have a suspicion that something was afoot as the Americans had shut down the base generators before leaving. In other words they literally adhered to the old adage “last one out turns off the lights.”

By the time the Afghan security forces were aware that they were now in sole control of the base, locals had already breached the perimeter and spent over two hours looting the American provisions left behind.

The American military scale down has emboldened the Taliban, who have been resurgent on the battlefield all across Afghanistan.

The NATO trained Afghan security forces, tasked with propping up the corrupt regime of President Ashraf Ghani are showing little stomach for the fight with the Taliban. Without U.S. air support and American special forces backing, it has been reported that thousands of Afghan soldiers are illegally crossing the border to seek asylum in neighboring Tajikistan.

Earlier this month it was announced that the Taliban had taken control of the Panjiway district in the southern province of Kandahar. This news struck a resonant chord among Canadian veterans, many of whom fought to defend Panjiway from insurgents between 2005 and 2011.

Almost on cue, the tone deaf Liberal government issued a statement on Wednesday July 7, wherein Minister of Veteran Affairs, Lawrence MacAulay and Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan jointly marked “the 10th anniversary of the end of Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan.”

Almost exactly one decade after Canada withdrew, the Taliban officially rendered our soldiers’ sacrifice meaningless by retaking the ground which we had temporarily held.

Observers are no longer speculating as to whether the Taliban will defeat the Afghan security forces. They are now simply trying to pinpoint when that victory will occur.

This has led to a grass roots campaign among our veterans urging the Canadian government to fast track the immigration process for those Afghans who served as translators for the Canadian military.

I fully support this initiative, as there is no doubt that these individuals and their families will be at risk of Taliban retribution.

Canada has already brought nearly 800 interpreters and their relatives out of Afghanistan for asylum prior to 2011, but it is estimated that several hundred remain at risk.

What was interesting to note was that three Canadian retired generals – all Afghanistan Task Force Commanders – have written a joint letter urging the government to fast track the rescue of these former interpreters.

Ironically it was two of these three generals who were among the most vocal in reassuring Canadians that the war was all but won.

When I interviewed Maj.-Gen. Dean Milner in Kabul in 2013 he was in command of the NATO training mission for the Afghan National Army. At that juncture he stated “They [the ANA] have come a long way, I’ll tell you. Look at the force now, the Afghan National Army some 190,000 strong. I’m very confident in them. We have built that force to these numbers with the professional capability to beat the Taliban.”

Fellow letter-writer, Maj.-Gen. David Fraser went one better when he released his book in May 2018 titled Operation Medusa: The Furious Battle that saved Afghanistan from the Taliban.

Is it in any way the Canadian government’s fault for not prioritizing the evacuation of these Afghan interpreters sooner? One general was telling them confidently that the Taliban would soon be beat and the other general wrote a book just three years ago claiming Afghanistan was already saved.

Now they are begging the government to forget their past analysis and get these Afghan interpreters out of harm’s way.

Given this level of incompetence in judging the situation on the ground, is it any wonder that we lost the war?

*Scott Taylor is publisher and editor of espritdecorps, a Canadian military magazine, in which this article first appeared..

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