In its recent throne speech, the Conservative government says Canada should stay involved in Afghanistan until at least 2011.At least two other soldiers interviewed expressed that they would return, one citing that the Afghan mission is the kind of experience they signed up for, that Afghanistan is "the real thing." Whether this consideration is a basis for extending the mission, I think most would say not.
Ankle-deep in the dust of one of Canada's forward operating bases in Kandahar province, a 17-year veteran of the Canadian Forces says he'll leave the army first.
It's not the insufferable heat, the time away from his family back at home or even the danger that has convinced him.
“Things won't change,” says the soldier who has served previously in Bosnia and Haiti. He does not want to be identified.
Citing the corruption in government and the Afghan national police, and the fierce tribal rivalries that divide the country, he believes Afghanistan will fall back into chaos and civil war whether Canada leaves in 18 months, four years or a decade from now.
“I won't come back here,” he says.
His words are echoed at another base on another day by another soldier. This soldier is on his second tour in Afghanistan, having served in Kabul in 2004. With 14 years in the Forces, he, too, served in Bosnia and Haiti.
“It's hard to see the progress,” he says.
He's pleased to hear that fewer women wear the burka in Kabul these days, a marked change from his time there three years ago. But it is not enough.
“It will take generations for things to change here,” he says.
There's an interesting bookend to the story, an American marine who's quoted as well:
“The problem with the Canadians is that they always have to be worried about what people think at home,” he says.Silly Canadians worrying about civilian casualties, hey? Lucky for us we're paired up with such Americans who don't give a rat's ass about them.
“When the Canadians are attacked, they worry about civilian casualties. When we're attacked, we hunt them down and kill them.”