26 August 2007

A national disgrace

There are always casualties in wartime, but this is particularly disturbing because it shows our lack of commitment of adequate resources to support our troops in Afghanistan: Canadians dying three times as fast as their allies.

Canadian soldiers are getting killed in Afghanistan at more than three times the rate of troops from other nations, including those from Britain and the United States also in the thick of the fighting against the resurgent Taliban.

The heavy losses – another three soldiers and an Afghan interpreter were killed in two blasts in the past week – come mostly from massive roadside blasts, which now pose the gravest threat to the Canadian mission in strife-torn Kandahar province.

“We have suffered no casualties – wounded or killed – in firefights,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Rob Walker, commander of the Canadian battle group just finishing its six-month tour. “The KIAs [killed in action] we have suffered were almost all from IEDs [improvised explosive devices].”

The threat from improvised explosive devices is heightened by the fact that Canadian troops have yet to receive the latest anti-IED technology and lack helicopters to avoid the perils of land transport. . . .

Like other successful insurgencies in Afghanistan's long and bloody history of driving invaders and occupiers out, the Taliban don't need to defeat foreign troops in firefights. They only need to kill enough Canadians to bleed away public support and sap the political will in Ottawa. . . .

Canada is the only major fighting force in Afghanistan with no helicopters.

Other countries make heavy use of them to transport troops and supplies to and from forward operating bases. Canada must instead rely on regular ground convoys travelling predictable routes. Although efforts are made to vary timings, the regular flow of Canadian military vehicles on some roads makes them easy targets.

Successive governments have been quick to respond when called upon to supply peacekeeping troops in trouble spots around the globe, following the precedent established by Lester Pearson half a century ago. In this way they are anxious to maintain Canada's reputation as a good international citizen. During this same time, however, they have continually cut our military budgets, thereby all but decimating our capacity to field a credible presence in these spots. Our troops are thus scarcely able to protect their own lives, much less the lives of others. One might be forgiven for calling this a national disgrace.

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