By Scott Taylor
A new book was recently released entitled Operation Medusa: The Furious Battle That Saved Afghanistan from the Taliban. The author of this book is Major-General (ret’d) David Fraser who was the Canadian commander at the time of this battle back in September 2006.
In the interest of full disclosure, I know Fraser from the social circuit, and I have not yet had the opportunity to read his book. However, I have followed with great interest the media coverage and analysis of Operation Medusa.
The most misleading element of Fraser’s book is the title itself, which implies that somehow this one conventional clash with the Taliban twelve years ago saved Afghanistan. All that was accomplished by NATO’s victory in that clash was for the Taliban to realize they were not capable of defeating the massively superior firepower of NATO in open battle.
There was no lull in the fighting after Medusa, the Taliban simply changed their tactics back to hit-and-run guerilla strikes.
Eleven years later, most NATO countries – including Canada, have withdrawn their troops from the conflict and the Taliban are at their strongest level since the U.S. pronounced them defeated back in 2002.
To claim that Medusa was a turning point in a war where the fortunes did not actually turn would be akin to writing a book entitled Dieppe’s Successful Defence: The Battle that Saved Hitler’s Third Reich.
Just last week the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released a report outlining how America’s sixteen-year effort to stabilize Afghanistan had ‘mostly failed’. T4he problem was not in the volume of money spent, it was the fact that billions of dollars were spent creating widespread corruption rather than generating government capacity or tangible infrastructure.
One key SIGAR observation was that “The effort to legitimize the government was undermined when the very Afghans brought in to lead the efforts themselves became sources of instability as repellant (if not more repellant than) the Taliban.”
This theme of NATO supporting such dubious and corrupt Afghan allies is also referenced in Fraser’s new book. Fraser singles out the former governor of Kandahar, Asadullah Khalid as a particularly distrusted individual.
It was Fraser’s belief that at the time of the Medusa battle, Khalid was attempting to spy on the senior Canadian officers. “Khalid was trying to get us to hire his own police for our security, thereby putting his henchmen where they could watch us and report. He could then pass on our plans to the Taliban.” Fraser wrote.
While it is disturbing to think that an Afghan ally would be considered a Taliban spy while Canadian troops are engaged in a battle against the Taliban on behalf of that same governor – it is even more disturbing to know that Fraser, and other senior Canadian officials said nothing of this at the time.
In fact, as one who reported extensively on the Afghan conflict, I can state that these same officers vehemently defended these same Afghan allies to any journalist who would listen at the time.
None of them ever admitted that the regime of Hamid Karzai, which our soldiers were propping up in power, was the most corrupt cabal on the planet. With our own soldiers tasked with training the Afghan security forces, no one ever admitted that they were in fact a demoralized, ill disciplined, incompetent pack of rogues who used their weapons and authority to rob the helpless Afghan citizenry.
Fraser’s admission that he and the others were well aware of the shortcomings - yet these facts were deliberately kept from the public domain, serves to illustrate why Canada needs a full parliamentary inquiry into that failed mission.
We lost 159 soldiers killed, over 2,000 physically wounded and countless more suffering the invisible wounds of PTSD. It is estimated that once the long term care of our wounded is factored into the equation, Afghanistan will have cost over $20 billion.
If Fraser knew in 2006 that we were polishing a turd in the form of Karzai’s government, why did we continue to commit such vast resources to the task for an additional eight years?
Our veteran’s deserve to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.