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The Liberals purported Afghanistan amendments look reasonable.

I just was reading the Star, and these are apparently the Liberal amendments that Dion will propose to the Conservative government motion to extend the Afghanistan mission to 2011:

In addition to the February 2009 end date for the combat mission and the full withdrawal by 2011, sources said the Liberal amendment will demand a freer flow of information about the mission. It will call on the government to submit quarterly progress reports to Parliament and for cabinet ministers to make monthly appearances before a new Commons committee on Afghanistan. As well, the amendment will call for the appointment of a special envoy to oversee the treatment of Afghan detainees, some of whom have allegedly been tortured after Canadian soldiers handed them over to Afghan authorities…The amendment is expected to make it clear that after next February, Canadian troops should be involved strictly in a non-combat role, focused primarily on reconstruction and training. It is expected to specify that soldiers could still fight if necessary but would no longer actively be seeking engagement with the enemy.

I think these are all pretty reasonable amendments, and it appears the Liberal caucus thinks so too:

…sources said Dion’s amendment was well-received during the caucus meeting and even some MPs who’ve been uneasy about their leader’s position emerged giving a thumbs up.

If those are the actual Liberal amendments, I have no problem supporting these, and I like the criteria put in place that demands more accountability of the government. If the Cons. are really serious about avoiding an election on this issue and not politicizing it, I see no reason why they can’t accept these – after all, these amendments demand accountability of what’s going on in Afghanistan, and not only were the Cons. elected promising accountability, but Manley’s report, which they’ve been waving all over the place since it was released, also demands accountability and more openness.

Of course, if the Budget gets tabled on Feb 26, and it goes down to defeat, and/or Harper insists on going through with his farcical “non-confidence in the government due to the Senate not passing my crime bill tomorrow” on March 1st, these amendments might not see the light of Parliament, but at least we could take those to the electorate if an election was called and be able to state quite firmly what our position is.. and I think these would be well received.


15 comments to The Liberals purported Afghanistan amendments look reasonable.

  • Juelz Fiorilli


  • correction: It does NOT seem likely to me that the country will be stabilized as long as the Pashtun are excluded from power

  • ALW,

    I don’t doubt your good intentions. I just think that you are wrong. I think that you are not being realistic.
    The invasion as it was originally advertised in the West was to route out Al Quaeda (the group behind the 9/11 attacks). The Taliban got in the way so the invasion went ahead. That mission failed, but it would be responsible and realistic of us to leave the country in some stability. 
    But then the neo-conservatives started getting fantasies of building hospitals and reworking the local culture to our values, a total revolution.  ALW writes "And if you don’t think it would be oppressive, why did we go to Afghanistan in the first place?" You seem to have forgotten that we went there to get bin Laden. That’s it. We would not have invaded to do these other fantastical things you are now talking about. It sounds like the NDP throwing billions of dollars at problems except the conservatives also want to blow up things and people as well.  In 2000, you would have been laughed out of the room. We don’t go around invading other countries because we don’t like their culture.

    Now, since we are there, we might provide some assistance, but that should not obscure the primary goal of leaving the country in some stability. That would be getting the job done. The Taliban, a religious group, are integrated with the Pashtun. It does seem likely to me that the country will be stabilized as long as the Pashtun are excluded from power. This means that there will need to be negociations to co-opt the Taliban/Pashtun into the government. I would have the international community move toward this solution sooner rather than later. Consequently, supporting an ongoing counter-insurgency war strikes me as a stalling tactic of those who have not yet thought through the issue of how we are going to end the conflict.  If eliminating the Taliban is besides the point as you (ALW) say, then why would we be fighting a counter-insurgency war.

    I think your talk of winning or surrendering completely misses the point. Canada needs to start thinking like a mature middle power with realistic foreign policy objectives.  

  • mississaugajoan

    WHY SHOULD HARPER NOT AGREE WITH THE FIXED DATE? We will be there after February 2009  – that’s all Harper and NATO care about right now.

    There is an election scheduled in Fall 2009. If Harper gets a majority, which he expects, he will extend the mission past 2011. If he does not, whoever is leading the Conservatives will have to deal with it accordingly.

    Since Canadian troops will remain in Kandahar, where the Parliaments of Germany, Spain, and Italy have forbidden their troops to go, Harper has got what he needed to keep NATO happy.

  • ALW:

    Since you’re so outraged at a fixed date, tell me what you think of Harper coming out and sounding half-reasonable to the Liberal amendments… looks like he’ll even agree to the "fixed" 2011 date.

    Let me guess – brilliant coming from Harper.. and more then acceptable.. but bad coming from Dion and the Liberals.

  • ALW

    I actually don’t know that Taliban can be completely eliminated (then again, I’m not sure it couldn’t be either). But that’s beside the point: even if they can’t, surely they can be contained in a way far greater than they are right now.
    Your statement that "ending the counter-insurgency war will immediately improve the lives of the Afghans in Kandahar" is precisely like saying you can have peace by surrendering. That is certainly true: but how much is that peace worth if it is severely oppressive to the people who live there? And if you don’t think it would be oppressive, why did we go to Afghanistan in the first place?
    I don’t disagree with you about the severe opium problem. But that doesn’t mean the counter-insurgency is failing; it just means that the opium problem is not being paid enough attention. I am fully in favour of putting more resources into tackling the Afghan drug trade and reconstruction efforts. And if conservatives are guilty of neglecting redevelopment at the expense of fighting (which some are), surely the opposite is true of liberals. So my question is: why can’t we just do both? Keep fighting, but also invest more in reconstruction and battling the opium problem.
    What evidence would convince me that counter-insurgency is a failed policy – that’s an excellent question, but the premise strikes me as odd. If we are losing a fight, and the choices are to fight on or surrender, isn’t it still better to fight? Wouldn’t even staving off defeat lead to better outcomes – and the possibility of intervening events or reinforcements – than to simply surrender right away? I know people prefer to avoid the term "surrender" because of its connotations, and I don’t mean to be jingoistic, but if pulling out of a combat role isn’t surrendering control over previously free people to these tyrants, then what is it?

  • Blackstar

    What does an American retired four star General say about Afghanistan? At a recent Q&A at UCLA, his comments sound very much like the Liberal position. Go here and about a quarter of the way down, you will find his comments after a question about the NATO led war. 

    My own thoughts - if we knew then that the Bush Gov’t would dump this on NATO and take off for Iraq virtually the day after entering Afghanistan, would we have agreed to go in the first place?  Our reason for being there AT ALL was to respond to 09/11/01 as a NATO ally of the USA. The mission was to defeat the Taliban IN ORDER TO CAPTURE OBL PERIOD. Mission not accomplished. Staying forever and inventing new reasons for being there will never erase this fact. The mission was not accomplished. Those whom we went there for, our American friends, left us there without completing the mission.

  • "Suppose that the only way to actually defeat the Taliban involved more fighting, not less? " -ALW

    Why do you think that the Taliban can be completely eliminated?Is that really an option? Ending the counter-insurgency war will immediately improve the lives of the Afghans in Kandahar province. So then should we not be thinking, how do we get to the resolution of the conflict?

    After six years, opium production is up; violence is increasing. It appears to me at least that the counter-insurgency effort is failing. What evidence would convince you that the counter-insurgency war is a failed policy? 

    The conservative response to aghanistan like other issues is to simplify the terms of the debate beyond recognition in an attempt to confuse the problem and the voters. You want to get the job done, but you have not even spent the time necessary figuring out what the job is.

  • ALW

    What a typically Liberal response – your biggest concern seems to be patting yourself on the back for a job well done. It’s 5 o’clock, working day is over – we’re outta here! Doesn’t really matter that the work you signed up to do isn’t yet done. Maybe you can wave goodbye to the Afghanis from the back of the last truck to pull out. "Sorry old chaps, but you’re not our problem anymore. You see, NATO has hung us out to dry. So we’re just going to have to do the same to you. Have a nice life – I’m sure it won’t be a long one."
    Why do you suppose it is that we can’t prod other countries into sharing the burden, Scott? Would it have anything to do with the constant insistence from people like, say, yourself, that Canada is going to leave anyway? Or is that just a bluff to force NATO’s hand? Let’s say it is; what if it doesn’t work? Too bad, so sad, Afghanistan? What do you think this is, Scott – a poker game?
    Yes, I’m a "typical neo-conservative" because I have the nerve to suggest that no one can accurately predict when an armed conflict will end. In your cushy little make-believe world, fighting a war is just like any other government program, where you can set start and end dates and tie everything up nice and tidy. I would hate to stuck fighting with you in a matter of life and death – you’d call it quits whenever it became too much of an annoyance to you. This is a matter of life and death to thousands, if not millions, of people in one of the poorest country in the world, but the deciding factor in your mind is the opinion polls. Guess that shows the depth of your commitment to principle, doesn’t it.
    I also see you are critical of the Karzai government. Then naturally the best way to ensure that the situation improves in Afghanistan will be…what? For the Taliban to grow stronger? For the Karzai government to collapse? What, precisely? Ah, I forgot. You don’t really care about answering these sorts of complicated questions, because you already read an opinion poll that says "not fighting" is popular amongst Canadians.Of course you’re not scared of the Conservative position on Afghanistan, or anything else: because you have an unshakeable belief that everyone else in Canada thinks exactly like you do.  Unless they’re radical extremist nazi so-con bigots, of course.

    I look forward to an election if for no other reason than to watch you puff yourself purple in outrage even more than usual about all the obvious sins of the Tory government that 80% of Canadians simply fail to get worked up about either way.

  • You’re darn right we’ve done our share. It’s time for all these other NATO countries to do their part. I for one do not accept being blackmailed by NATO into staying in the south of Afghanistan indefinitely simply because they can’t prod other countries into sharing the burden.

    You sound like a typical neo-conservative from the US, Aaron. "Stay in Iraq for 100 years" from John McCain sounds like your preferred position. The Canadian people don’t and won’t support  indefinite and "never-ending war". 

    You know what, Aaron, if I were the Conservatives, I’d have mentioned in my motion that they would demand of the Afghanistan government hard benchmarks to show signs of progress, and if those werent being met, we’d then withdraw if it was shown that Karzai had no intention of doing anything but using NATO and Canadian troops as a prop for his government rather then improve the lot and situation of his people and his country.

    THAT might have been a winner for them.. because I’d foresee a lot of people supporting that.

    In any event, campaign on this all you want, Aaron, if it comes to that. I’m hardly scared of the Cons. position on that… and when I combine that with your Party’s  failures on the environment and your massive political partisan interference in the civil service, among other things,  I believe it will be a defeat for your side, and not a moment too soon.

  • ALW

    Scott, most of these would-be Liberal amendments are hardly controversial: "freer flow of information", "progress reports", a "special envoy" etc.. That’s all fine and well, and no one is going to rise up in loud protest against such procedural niceties. The real reason that I, and anyone who supports the Afghanistan mission in its current incarnation, could never support the Liberal proposal is because it’s setting hard deadlines!
    You might argue that we need deadlines in order to avoid a "never ending mission", but there’s a big difference between setting benchmarks where you assess how things are going, versus putting an expiry date on the mission itself. Despite repeated requests on your blog and others, no one has yet been able to explain to me the logic of putting deadline on armed conflicts.
    In my view, the primary problem with the NDP, Bloc and Liberal positions is that they emphasize the minimization of risk to our troops at the expense of progress in the field. Suppose that the only way to actually defeat the Taliban involved more fighting, not less? Do you think for one second that any of the opposition parties would then support more fighting? Of course not. So you can dance around the issue all you want, but the bottom line is, that if this is the tack the Liberal Party wants to take, you’ve thrown your lot in with the NDP. That’s your prerogative, but don’t be surprised when the public fails to see the nuances of the Liberal position. And you can bet your behind that people like myself are going to repeatedly draw as much attention as we can to the fact that however you want to dress it up, the Liberal Party believes that (a) it’s not worth fighting past 2009, no matter what and (b) they don’t really care what happens in Afghanistan after 2011 because it’s not Canada’s problem anymore.
    After all, we’ve "done our share".

  • I, of course, support a total withdraw of our troops from Afghanistan, immediately.  I also know that no party supports this position, not even the NDP.

    That being said, give the polls on Afghanistan, this strategy looks to be a winner politically and proposing it as an amendment to the Conservatives motion makes the Liberals look like they are being accommodating and looking for solutions, rather than being angry and confrontational. It shows nuanced leadership from Dion as well.

    So, yeah, I too think its a winner, even though don’t support it. I know enough about politics to at least admit that. Harper and his brain trust must be crapping a brick now that the Liberals haven’t been suckered in by their bully boy confrontational tactics.

  • Not sure whether NATO agrees or not is even relevent. Of course there will be pressure, but atthe end of the day it’s Canadian troops and Canada decides whether to put them in harm’s way or not – just as Germany, Italy and a host of other so-called allies have been doing for 6 years now.
    Personally I like this approach and I think it will be well-accepted by the electorate.

  • MississaugaJoan

    Sounds reasonable. Unfortunately NATO will not agree with it so Harper will not be able to agree with it either.

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