By: Scott Taylor
While Canada pulled the plug on the Afghanistan mission two years ago, the U.S. and a handful of other NATO countries have continued to provide a drip feed of life support to prop up the Western-installed regime in Kabul.
No one even pretends that the current Afghan government has a democratic foundation.
When the election process in 2014 failed to produce a verifiable result, the U.S. brokered a power-sharing arrangement wherein Ashraf Ghani would rule as president, and his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, would assume the newly fabricated post of national chief executive officer. Given that this not so dynamic duo are in cahoots with the same motley collection of warlords in top ministerial posts, they are as widely despised as the country’s former president, Hamid Karzai.
To prop up this Kabul cabal against the steadily increasing threat from the Taliban, al-Qaeda and now Daesh, the U.S.-led international coalition continues to pour in weapons and trainers with the objective of making the Afghan security forces self-sufficient.
This was of course the initial goal of the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) when it first deployed to Afghanistan in 2002.
Back in those heady days, it was believed that within just three short years the international community could create a democracy, stage an election, build an Afghan army and withdraw all foreign troops by 2005.
The present announced timeline would see the U.S. training mission cease at the end of 2016 — just eight short months away. However, given the recent track record of the Afghan security forces in waging a counterinsurgency on their own, it would appear the U.S. will need to extend its military commitment well into the foreseeable future.
Throughout 2015 the Afghan military suffered horrific casualties and lost vast tracts of land to Taliban control. Contributing to the ineffectiveness of these Afghan units are widespread, unreported desertions, which results in the phenomenon known as ghost soldiers.
The corrupt commanders continue to collect rations and pay for these non-existent troops. This proves ultimately problematic when those understrength battalions are called upon to actually fight the insurgents.
One excuse offered by NATO trainers for their lack of success with the Afghans — and Canadian trainers used these same lines — is that they had to virtually build an Afghan military from scratch following the ouster of the Taliban in 2001.
While that excuse might have been applicable in 2002, the fact is that the U.S.-led coalition has been arming, training and equipping Afghans — arguably the fiercest warriors on the planet — for 15 years without achieving a successful result.
In 1914, when Canada heeded Britain’s call to arms for the First World War, the number of regular soldiers in uniform was a mere 3,000.
Just over four years later, at the signing of the Armistice on Nov. 11, 1918, we had trained and equipped 620,000 citizen soldiers into what was considered the best shock army in the world.
In 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, Canada’s military consisted of 4,500 members in the Permanent Force and a tiny underfunded militia.
Less than six years later, at war’s end, Canada had over one million men and women in uniform, had the fourth-largest navy in the world, and arguably one of the most effective air forces on the planet. That is what you call building a military from scratch.
Of course the failure to create an effective security force in Afghanistan and thereby the failure to create a secure environment means that any of so-called reconstruction successes that were achieved are being reversed.
In late March the Afghan Ministry of Education admitted that, due to the escalating insurgency, 714 schools have had to close, leaving 2.5 million Afghan children without education.
In 2014, when Canada staged a day of honour on Parliament Hill to commemorate the 158 soldiers killed and 2,000 wounded during the 12-year commitment to Afghanistan, many pundits used that milestone to ask whether it was worth it. This prompted the warmongering apologists to argue it was too soon to tell.
Well, 24 months later the Afghan army is in complete disarray, the Taliban are resurgent, Daesh has a foothold in the country, and the schools we built are being closed.
So no, our failure in Afghanistan was not worth the sacrifice in blood and gold.