Pubdate: Wed, 12 Aug 2009
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2009 Winnipeg Free Press
Bookmark: (Poppy)


The commander of NATO and American forces in Afghanistan, United
States Gen. Stanley McChrystal, promised this week that he would
commit thousands of American troops to fighting the Taliban in
Kandahar, Afghanistan's most dangerous province, to back up Canadian
troops fighting there.

The Canadian military's response is officially one of relief.
Unofficially it might well be "It's about time," although it may also
be tempered by doubts about the occasional recklessness of American
tactics and the possibility of civilian casualties.

Canada has special responsibility for Kandahar province and Kandahar
city which, being the place of the Taliban's birth, is almost a holy
place to them.

The fighting there has been fierce and the death toll among
undermanned and often under-equipped Canadian soldiers has been
disproportionately higher over the years than the tolls of its
coalition partners.

Since the war began in 2001, NATO has failed to see the symbolic
importance of Kandahar to the Taliban -- if they lose that, they lose
a lot of prestige and perhaps a lot of support among the Afghan
people. As the Afghan election nears -- it is set for Aug. 20 -- the
Taliban have increased the level of violence across the country, but
especially in Kandahar.

Canadian commanders say that while the war is, at the moment, not
being lost, neither is it being won -- there are not enough soldiers
or resources to root the Taliban out of the provincial capital or
track them down in the countryside and the threat of Improvised
Explosive Devices and car bombs increases. Unfortunately, the
reinforcements will not arrive before election day, which many fear
will be marred by violence, especially in Kandahar.

The surge of troops promised by U.S. President Barack Obama continues
to build and Gen. McChrystal has adopted new tactics for American
forces -- as evidenced by his promise to reinforce the Canadians.

The Americans pledged for Kandahar will come from Hellman province
where most of the U.S. troops are, and they have apparently been
engaged in a war against the opium trade.

If the war on drugs in North America has taught us anything, it is
that more police, guards or soldiers are not the solution. Neither, it
seems, are they likely to be the answer in Afghanistan, where the
opium farms flourish. The war's priority should be to destroy the
Taliban first -- the poppies can wait for those more reasonable days
when the terrorists are no longer around to trade with or intimidate
the poppy farmers. Perhaps the Americans have finally got that right.
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