Friday, November 02, 2007

Grumblings on Afghanistan from unnamed officials

The Globe has a report today on a conference held in London on Afghanistan, organized by our government. The report points to divisions among NATO countries in Afghanistan in terms of the lack of a coherent strategy and quotes attendees as saying a more coordinated and better resourced mission, in troops and money, will be the only way to succeed going forward. So what's new here? A few anonymous comments, it appears, from unnamed Canadian officials who might feel freed up a little while overseas to speak on the matter:
Canadian officials, in off-the-record interviews, acknowledged that the nation-building and aid efforts run by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the military efforts led by General Rick Hillier are poorly co-ordinated and that top officials are increasingly at odds with one another.

Gen. Hillier was criticized by officials from the office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday for saying it will be at least a decade before Afghanistan is able to field a military capable of managing its security on its own.

But most officials say privately that, at current troop and funding levels, there is little chance of any lasting progress in the conflict-ridden south of Afghanistan, where Canada's 2,500 soldiers are headquartered. (emphasis added)
I'm sure a few higher ups in the Harper crowd will be furious with the breach of the almighty code that thou shalt not speak without vetting by the PMO. It's not just infighting among NATO members that these officials indicate is going on. It sounds like there's a real sense of pessimism and frustration that's set in among Canadian officials as well on the future of the mission. Not exactly the positive picture of progress the Harper government likes to present.

And also of note from NATO attendees and of particular consequence to our troops in the south are such comments:
In private conversations, NATO commanders generally agree that the number of troops are inadequate for the task of stabilizing the south enough to bring in effective governance, as is the amount of aid funding, which is less than that devoted to the much smaller nation of Bosnia during the war there in the early 1990s.
The report quotes one individual as saying that a doubling of troops is required in order to stabilize the mission. And we all know that ain't happening. The message to be taken away from this conference is certainly not a good one. And the comments from these Canadian officials are pretty notable. Could be the Manley panel operating in the background that's got people talking.