By Scott Taylor
Since last August, it has been known that the Liberal government is intent on sending a force of peacekeepers to a United Nations mission somewhere on the African continent.
Canadians have been told there will be approximately 600 soldiers deployed and the budget will be approximately $450-million. What we still don’t know is to which UN mission these Canadian Blue Helmets will be sent, and that means there is no way to gauge what measure of success we can hope to achieve.
The betting money is still on Mali being the mission Canada will most likely reinforce, but if that is the case, then the number of troops and dollars committed would mean that this is just another exercise in useless tokenism.
There will be no quick fix in the Mali quagmire.
The current crisis erupted in 2012 following the collapse of Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in neighboring Libya. Nomadic Tuaregs and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) armed themselves from the abandoned Libyan arsenals and quickly overran the demoralized Malian government troops in the northern province.
To avert a complete collapse, France deployed a military expeditionary force — with the assistance of airlift support from the RCAF — to her former colony. The French were able to drive the AQIM from their self-proclaimed caliphate, but the spirit of Tuareg separatism still burns bright in the region.
In July 2017, the UN stood up the current peacekeeping mission, which presently has a combined military and police strength of close to 15,000 international personnel. Despite the scale of this UN deployment, the rebels continue to resist and with 101 peacekeepers killed in Mali to date, it remains the UN’s most deadly mission.
The final objective, or ‘victory’ in the case of this international intervention, is also not clearly defined.
Mali’s boundaries were drafted by the European colonial powers using straight lines on a map. As such, the Sahara-dwelling Tuaregs have almost nothing in common culturally or linguistically with their fellow Malians in the south. The current regime in Bamako is also considered one of the world’s most corrupt, and one can therefore somewhat empathize with the Tuaregs’ separatist sentiment.
Have we learned nothing from our 11-year commitment to the U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan?
Canadian politicians, diplomats and military brass repeatedly told the public that the Canadian military was “punching above its weight” in Afghanistan. To prove that point they highlighted not only the size of our contingent, but also the fact that Canada suffered the highest ratio of combat casualties among all of her allies. Despite that contribution, Canada never had a seat at the big boy table. Any and all major strategic decisions were ultimately made by the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon.
Our Canadian soldiers, Canada’s sons and daughters, spent over a decade spilling their blood propping up a corrupt cabal of former warlords, who were ostensibly ‘elected’ under the farcical election processes staged by the West. Our troops in Kandahar were not hated because they were Canadian; they were hated because were seen as the enforcers of the hated Kabul regime.
One hundred and fifty-eight Canadian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan and over 2,000 more service members were injured or wounded. Added to this growing list of casualties are the countless number of Afghanistan veterans who are still suffering from the invisible wounds of PTSD.
We did not succeed in Afghanistan and, despite the U.S. military’s continued presence there, the country is fast devolving back into a failed state that is awash in lawless violence and abject poverty.
This failure to defeat the Taliban and stabilize Afghanistan only serves to highlight the senseless sacrifice made by our soldiers. They endured hell, witnessed comrades killed and maimed for life, all in the service of Canada, but with no actual tangible positive effect.
Now it seems we are about to deploy a fresh wave of keen young soldiers to a complex conflict, wherein no one seems to know how to clearly define what a ‘victory’ would look like. Let’s hope that saner heads prevail and that the Liberals push the ‘rethink’ button before committing our troops to Mali or any other no-hope missions in which we have no vested national interest.