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Harper's new exit strategy

The Manley Report on Canada’s future in Afghanistan came out this week. It quietly absolves Harper of any responsibility for…

By Leslie Young , in 21st Century State-Building Blogs , on January 25, 2008

The Manley Report on Canada’s future in Afghanistan came out this week. It quietly absolves Harper of any responsibility for the final decision on pulling out in 2009.

The report itself is a doozy, weighing in at a hefty 90 pages, including several appendices. So, I’m going to focus on its recommendations.

It says that Canada should “continue with its responsibility for security in Kandahar,” including its combat role, past February 2009, the date the current mandate ends. It also recommends emphasizing development.

This is a little contradictory, but should please everyone. It also quite nicely supports the Conservatives’ historic support for longer mandates.

But, if we want to stay past 2009, says the report, we will need a few things first:

  • Medium-lift helicopters
  • More Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)
  • Another 1000 soldiers from other NATO countries

Helicopters and UAVs, like all military equipment, take a very long time to build or buy. We can always rent if we really have to. It’s a little undignified, but we’ve done it before.

Unfortunately for us though, we can’t make NATO countries send more soldiers. Support for the Afghan mission is just as spotty everywhere else as it is in Canada. Nobody wants to volunteer their soldiers for it, now that it’s been proved how dangerous Kandahar really is.

This is a very common problem for any multinational force: everybody agrees that they should do something, but nobody will risk their army and national public opinion to do it.

By making Canada’s involvement dependent on factors outside its control, the report gives Harper an easy way out of Afghanistan, if he wants to take it.

No helicopters? Too bad.

No new battle group of 1000 highly-trained European or American soldiers? I guess it’s time to pack it in.

A Maclean’s blog post has a great set of links about the report. Take a look for more information.

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