Thursday, October 25, 2007

Out of Afghanistan in 2011 or 2017?

Ah, the perils of having such an outspoken General in one's midst. Harper's chosen date of 2011 in the throne speech for a vaguely described end to the Afghan mission has come into conflict with current public statements made by Rick Hillier and the head of NATO on that point. The upshot:
The Conservative government was accused Thursday of painting a misleadingly rosy portrait of the situation in Afghanistan that contradicts the view of its own military experts.

The Tories say Afghanistan should be stable enough to handle its own security by 2011 - a view reiterated late Thursday by a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

But opposition parties pounced on far less cheerful assessments of the situation from two leading authorities: Canada's top soldier and the head of NATO.

Gen. Rick Hillier declared it will probably take "10 years or so" for the Afghan army to meet its security demands - and NATO's secretary-general suggested it could take far longer than that.

The opposition accused Harper of ignoring his own military experts and allies because the truth makes him politically uncomfortable.
Harper says 2011, Hillier and NATO saying a decade or more, and we have a panel working in the background that will make yet another recommendation. Absolutely no clarity on the end to this mission. And unsurprisingly, the appointment of that panel is proving to be the Conservatives' convenient excuse not to answer questions on the Afghan file. It started today.
When asked about the apparent discrepancy, the government initially dodged by pointing to a commission it's hired to examine Canada's options.

Skeptics have warned that the commission, whose recommendations are non-binding, will serve only one purpose: helping the government avoid questions on Afghanistan for a few months.

On Thursday, that warning appeared prophetic.

"This government has established an independent commission to study the issue and provide advice to this government," Tory House leader Peter Van Loan replied when pressed on the matter.

"It's headed up by the former deputy prime minister John Manley. We anticipate a report to this House which will give the House an opportunity to vote on the best course forward."
The Conservatives' instinct to hide prevails once again.

Nevertheless, questions will continue to be asked and the government is free to continue on in ignoring them and hiding behind the panel. Just as Bush hid behind the Baker commission for months before ignoring it in the end. People will judge them accordingly. Tough act to pull off though as the facts on the ground over there develop unpredictably day by day.

The answers just do not come from this government, on any issue in the House of Commons...