Why Things Are Seen¹: A Story of Blunders, Bombs, Broken Teeth and Bad Ideas

January 1, 2014 by Adam Day
PPCLI in Panjwaii, Kandahar Province, 2009. [PHOTO: ADAM DAY]

PPCLI in Panjwaii, Kandahar Province, 2009.
PHOTO: ADAM DAY

¹ As a part of their fieldcraft training, soldiers are taught about camouflage. They’re given a checklist of basic principles to use in order to stay hidden from the enemy—things like avoiding silhouetting yourself, shadows, spacing, shininess, etc. The list is entitled: “Why Things Are Seen.” For many Canadian soldiers—particularly the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry—the phrase has become a part of the common language, used to point out the basic reason why something is screwed up. If an outpost runs out of batteries, for example, and none can be sourced and so all sorts of crucial things stop working, a soldier hearing of the situation might quip: “Why things are seen.” It is a synonym for a blunder.

In August 2010, I discovered my limit for enduring the war in Afghanistan. On Friday I was in Ottawa drinking beer on Elgin Street and just a few days later I was lying in the dirt in Panjwaii with bullets zipping overhead, having just watched two Canadians get blown up.

Later that week I went along on a risky operation to kill some insurgents and by a stroke of solid misfortune ended up being in the part of the patrol sent into the open to draw out the enemy gunman and satisfy the absurd “Canadians in imminent danger” requirements of the rules of engagement.

And that was that. I wanted no more part of anything. It wasn’t a choice, it just was. I spent the next week playing race-car video games with some engineers on the FOB (Forward Operating Base), avoiding patrols and scheming ways to get a helicopter taxi ride directly back to Kandahar Airfield so I wouldn’t have to risk any more IED bullshit.

There was a firefight that week right outside the base. The enemy attacked an Afghan National Army (ANA) outpost just outside the wire. I didn’t leave the front porch of my tent. All the soldiers were looking at me funny, evidently wondering why there was a reporter here who didn’t seem interested in the war.

Anyway, there would be no helicopter ride—sandstorms had grounded all flights for the interminable future. So I would be going home via a convoy through bomb country.

The convoy got hit before it went more than a kilometre. The vehicle a few feet in front of us struck an IED and somehow I jacked my head into the steel ceiling, which was very disappointing to my spine and four of my teeth broke. The air was hazy from all the dust being kicked up. We all just sat in the back of the LAV and looked at each other. The radio was screaming panic.

I think the Afghan in the jeep in front of me lost some of his lower body. Their Hummer was blasted good. That’s what a soldier told me, anyway. I wasn’t allowed to get out of the LAV, so I don’t really know. Even if I was allowed to get out, I don’t think I would have.

At night I still have long, long and intricate dreams about being in a small base in Panjwaii—soldiers readying the defences for an attack, then the attack, being overrun, everyone trying to survive. I don’t mind the dreams so much but they have a wearying effect.

I was talking to a soldier once after a few beers. “I think maybe I died in Afghanistan and no one told me, no one else knows,” he said. “And I’m just somebody else now, living somebody else’s life.”

I nodded and told him I sometimes have bad dreams. “That sounds nice,” he said.

PPCLI Sergeant Dwayne MacDougall in Salavat, 2009. [PHOTO: ADAM DAY]

PPCLI Sergeant Dwayne MacDougall in Salavat, 2009.
PHOTO: ADAM DAY

A Visit To Kabul, March 2013 

The best time to visit Afghanistan is in the early spring. It’s cool and calm and the insurgents haven’t yet achieved their full malevolence; the mountain passes they use to transit from their Pakistani bases are still mostly frozen.

That might not be true.

I think the bombers pretty much just drive in on the highway these days, but still, the frozen-passes thing is something people often say to explain the phenomenon of Afghanistan’s Fighting Season—which is like a summer sports league except it’s super violent and all sorts of people die.

Anyway, the point is that in the spring the mayhem is only sporadic instead of sustained, and consequently everyone harbours the dream that this year finally might be more peaceful. Statistically each year is almost always worse than the last, but that’s not a big deal because it’s the optimism itself that seems most important at this point.

Now, more than a decade into the war, Kabul has become a beautiful, exotic city. The streets are teeming with people, perpetually traffic-jammed and relentlessly busy. So much so that it feels unnatural. Everybody just shouldn’t be this amped.

The people-watching is otherworldly. There are slick dudes in full Bollywood style—tight shiny pants, gelled hair and a disco swagger—mixed in with schoolgirls and bearded wild-eyed throwbacks from the provinces. And everywhere you look, the people you can’t see even though they’re right there, the people who want to kill you.

I’d made several promises that I was done visiting the country, but here I was in Afghanistan once again, engaged on a quixotic mission, seeking answers to some vast and unusually stupid questions. Afghanistan is Canada’s longest war, but it’s hard to say what actually happened. Was it a just war? Why did we do it? Why does the Canadian public seem so confused as to what the purpose was? What was Canada’s strategy in Afghanistan? What did it all mean? Was it worth it?

It’s now clear to me those questions are not entirely answerable. But I didn’t realize that at the time I asked them because I was in a meeting in Ottawa. If there’s an easy thing to be learned about complex foreign wars like Afghanistan, it’s that the greater your distance from them, the greater your arrogance about understanding them. Perhaps not coincidentally, most of the war’s planning—what planning there actually was—also took place very far from the sound of the bombs.

It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.
— Douglas MacArthur

Victory existed mainly in the minds of people far away from the battlefield. And it became something strangely hard to kill no matter what kind of evidence you brought in from the battlefield itself. It was an illusion sustained by massaged metrics and the kind of spin so heavy that it’s just barely this side of a lie. The reality was this: We weren’t losing but we weren’t winning either. Unfortunately that meant we were losing, because we were going to run out of time.²

² That’s an old saying about war and counter-insurgencies. I’m pretty sure I didn’t make it up but I can’t find out who did.

As you read this, time is up; the troops are coming home. According to the current plan at least, the last soldiers will be out by March, but even those will be the stragglers. Most are out now.

Weird as it might be, most of the soldiers I know are going to miss the combat, or already do. But I don’t think they’ll miss the war, if that makes sense.

It was a war fought in a distant and fractious land for reasons only dimly known by the people on whose behalf it was fought, and supported only partially by those same people. As a reporter who regularly travelled back and forth between Canada and Afghanistan, it was apparent to me that there was a significant gap between the public’s perception of the war and what was actually happening on the ground. In Afghanistan, the mission was ostensibly clear: the Canadian Forces were to go into Kandahar province—birthplace of the Taliban, epicentre of the Pashtun’s legendary xenophobia and nationalism—and create security so the nation could rebuild. But even that is a euphemism. And, largely, a falsehood. The reality was that Canadians—infidels—were going to attempt to disassemble a fanatic, grassroots, stone-age theocracy using primarily promises and heavy weapons, which meant lots of combat.

At home, over the years, the mission’s purpose drifted according to political exigency. The government ran a series of focus groups to determine which message about the war was most acceptable to Canadians, and then said the war was about that.

Initially, in 2005 and 2006, the mission in Kandahar was portrayed as primarily an issue of national security. The effort to stabilize Afghanistan was a necessary precondition for security in Canada.

“These are detestable murderers and scumbags. I’ll tell you that right up front,” said former chief of defence staff General Rick Hillier in an interview from July 2005. “It doesn’t matter whether we are in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world. They want to break our society. I actually believe that…they detest our freedoms. They detest our society. They detest our liberties.”

The mission, then, had a strategic purpose. The general strategic idea, right or wrong, was based on an old military concept of ‘forward engagement,’ which is when expeditionary forces go abroad—forward—to fight an enemy in order to prevent them from coming here to fight on Canadian soil.

In June 2006, Hillier’s message about the war in Afghanistan was both strategic and aggressive, two words that go a long way to describing his personal style. Afghanistan, he said, was a “Petri dish” where terrorists incubated, a kind of infectious international disease, and as such they were “detestable,” and that’s why Canada was fighting in Panjwaii, to prevent the spread of this infectious disorder.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, seeking political top-cover from the ramifications of this violence, sought Parliamentary approval for the war in May 2006. His speech that night was to be the clearest ever enunciation of the mission’s justification and purpose—if you are looking to understand how Canada ended up in Afghanistan in 2002, and why the government persisted in the combat mission from 2006 to 2010, this is it:

“The events of September 11, 2001, were a wake-up call,” Harper told Parliament. “Not just to Americans but to all people in free and democratic nations. Two dozen Canadians were killed as a result of the attacks on the twin towers—our ordinary fellow citizens—people with stories, with families and with dreams. And the attacks in New York and Washington were followed by others in Madrid, Bali, London, Turkey, Egypt and elsewhere.

“Mr. Speaker, we need to be clear: Canada is not immune to such attacks.

“And we will never be immune as long as we are a society that defends freedom, democracy and human rights. Not surprisingly, al-Qaida has singled out Canada along with a number of other nations for attack. The same al-Qaida that, together with the Taliban, took an undemocratic Afghanistan and made it a safe haven from which to plan terrorist attacks worldwide.

“Mr. Speaker, we just cannot let the Taliban, backed by al-Qaida, or similar extremist elements, return to power in Afghanistan. It can’t be allowed to happen.”

When Harper addressed the United Nations four months later he re-framed it as a humanitarian mission. He spoke of how Canada was rebuilding girls’ schools that had been torn down by a frenzied and hateful Taliban. He talked about rebuilding a shattered society, of Afghan women in politics, of five million children enrolled in schools.

“Let us be realistic,” Harper told the UN on Sept. 20, 2006, just a few months after he had cast the war in such a stark light during that speech in Parliament. “The challenges facing Afghanistan are enormous. There will be no quick fixes. Moreover, success cannot be assured by military means alone…that is why Canada is engaged in work like the rebuilding of girls’ schools, ripped down and destroyed by the Taliban in their frenzy of hate.”

The infamous White School under attack during Operation Medusa, September 3, 2006. [PHOTO: ADAM DAY]

The infamous White School under attack during Operation Medusa, September 3, 2006.
PHOTO: ADAM DAY

Meanwhile, on the ground, the Canadian Forces were in their most intense sustained period of combat since Korea. While a truly tragic number of Canadians and Afghans would die in this series of battles—dubbed Operation Medusa—it was ironic that much of the fighting was centred on a schoolhouse built just a few years before but since taken over by the Taliban. In total during the period of Aug. 3 to Sept. 20, at least 8 Canadians would die in the fight to retake the infamous white school.

By the end of September, the white school was reduced to rubble. So when Harper implied to the UN that Canadians were focused on schools in Afghanistan, he was partly telling the truth.

Except we were bombing them, not building them.

From then on, the mission was cast in a new light. It was no longer an issue of national security, now it was being depicted as a humanitarian mission—a broad effort to attain human rights in Afghanistan. More troublingly, it was being sold to Canadians as a mission to export Canadian values. The war was now about women and schools, about gender equality and early childhood education. But that war didn’t really exist.

In 2009, during one of Hillier’s last interviews, he spoke with Maclean’s magazine on the issue of negotiating with the Taliban and the possibility that they could be granted political control of Kandahar Province. In this interview, Hillier almost made a parody of the ‘humanitarian’ talking points.

“It’s inevitable that some people from the Taliban will become engaged and get involved in the political process, just as happened in Northern Ireland. But I don’t think it’s inevitable that you’d cede a part of the country to the Taliban. Do you say, ‘This part of Afghanistan is free and equal, but in Kandahar province you’re allowed to whip women because they have fingernail polish on, or their shoes make a clicking noise on the cobblestones?’ I fail to see how we, as a nation that’s a leader, could support something like that.”

Not only are cobblestones rare-to-non-existent in Kandahar, but the idea that we could or should fight a military conflict in order that Afghan women can wear nail polish and heeled shoes is the real question. While a war on those grounds may be more easily grasped and supported by some sections of the public, it would not make strategic sense to launch military campaigns on those grounds.

Whatever the war is about, it certainly is not about schools or gender equality in Panjwaii or women’s rights or even human rights. The war is and was about NATO’s collective defence pact and the UN Security Council resolution that sent the largest coalition in human history tumbling into a war against international terrorism and the lawless country, Afghanistan, in which this disorder was currently based. The war is about national security. And it’s about the government of Afghanistan becoming an adherent to international law.

There was never going to be a war in Afghanistan to defend women’s rights; there is not now a war in Afghanistan to defend women’s rights.

A New Strategy In A New Land

Colonel Ian Hope is standing by the side of Jalalabad road and it’s 4 a.m. and it’s absolutely freezing in Kabul. It’s March 2013 and the war goes on in Afghanistan even if it doesn’t make the headlines in Canada anymore.

Colonel Hope is about as close at it comes to being Canada’s man in Afghanistan. In one way or another, he’s been involved in the conflict from the very beginning and, most notably, commanded the first battlegroup sent into Kandahar in 2006.

He might be cold right now, but he’s not showing it. Hope’s smiling and smoking a cigar as roughly $17 million in American trucks and armoured vehicles carries a whole battalion of rapidly trained Afghan recruits off into the dark to fight the war.

That’s Hope’s job here on this tour—to take a bunch of Afghan recruits and turn them into a military unit. Equip them. Make sure they have all the basics down. Then send them out.

Hope is the commander of the Consolidated Fielding Centre, which is the last and most vital piece of the NATO training mission in Afghanistan, which is itself the last best chance there is to pull something like victory off in Afghanistan.

Hope is a Canadian military legend. That’s my opinion. To describe him as a forceful character is to underestimate the situation. He’s an officer in the most hard-charging mode possible, with the kind of lightning intelligence that seems to gain energy and power when it encounters conflict.

Hope’s office in Afghanistan is in one of those portable buildings ubiquitous in war zones—little white metal cubes sitting in a sea of gravel, full of mismatched chairs and linoleum.

Hope can talk about the mission in Afghanistan with an expertise and experience that is frankly amazing. I came all the way from Canada to Kabul just to hear what he could tell me about the war. If there was anyone who could answer my big unanswerable questions, I guessed it was him.

But the answers I got weren’t the ones I thought I’d get.

 PPCLI near Zangabad, 2008. [PHOTO: ADAM DAY]

PPCLI near Zangabad, 2008.
PHOTO: ADAM DAY

An Interview With Colonel Hope

In essence, Hope argues that Canada had no consistent strategic direction on the ground in Afghanistan. But that is not to say there was no strategy. Going to Afghanistan, participating in the mission and doing our part as allies to the Americans and in NATO, that in itself was the strategy—national security did not rest on what happened in Panjwaii, what mattered was simply being there.

“Canadians, in my mind, have never really totally been engaged in the war, because we had the luxury of having a discretionary attitude to this, officially and unofficially. We could choose, as a country, to participate or not. There is nothing vital about our participation for national survival. Nothing’s at stake, so we contribute to the mission, and contribute to the Western allied efforts and international efforts here, strictly on benevolence. There’s nothing demanded of us, except an enduring commitment to the NATO alliance and an enduring commitment to strong bilateral relationship with the U.S.,” said Hope. “Because it’s not mandated, the average Canadian doesn’t have to be engaged.

“What I do know though is that this fight is a war. Regardless of how it’s branded in Ottawa, when you get here you’re in war. That does not mean Canada’s at war, it means that the Canadian Forces, primarily the Canadian Army, are engaged in war.”

Hope notes that this odd situation, of being an army at war in a nation that isn’t, does bring up certain challenges. The lack of strategy meant that tactics on the ground lacked the kind of decisiveness and focus necessary for success.

“There was no tactical infrastructure pattern around Kandahar that I thought was important at all. There was no ground that I thought was of any real value. There was no local populace I thought needed to be protected more than any other populace. Our mission was to find Taliban groups wherever they were and fucking kill them. Capture them or kill them. Capture or kill them. That was our job. And the way we went about that was not to wait until somebody popped up, it was to keep moving and doing things to make them react. And when they reacted, to bring overwhelming force on them,” said Hope. “We either captured, killed them or they disappeared off that area. And we did operation after operation after operation for the sole effect of seizing and maintaining the initiative, capturing and killing the enemy for the effect of local confidence building, and to buy time. And I had this discussion once with [a journalist] who was distraught after the tour that men were dying in the same places they died a month before, two months before, and I said this is not about land, this has nothing to do with a grid square of turf, or the people who live there, this is all about buying time. If we want to beat this enemy we got to buy enough time for the Afghans to have something to replace us.”

According to Hope, our basic plan to develop Kandahar with big projects—building roads and hospitals and dams and schools—was never structured correctly.

“Our operational concept was on whole-of-governance, signature projects, model villages, ring of steel around Kandahar city, all of which have no place for finding and destroying the enemy for the purposes of buying time, so that institutions can get built,” said Hope. “Development can’t lead. You need to deal with governance institutions that are credible before you can have any development that’s worthwhile. And the development needs to be Afghan, not Western, because Western development is a target to the insurgents. So as soon as we build a well, the insurgent will destroy it and the locals will do nothing about it because it’s not an Afghan well. But if a local builds a well, the insurgent will think twice about destroying the well.”

It was UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) that built the famous White School in Pashmul, which the enemy turned into a base and which at least eight Canadians died trying to capture. That school is destroyed now, as are many of the other schools UNESCO built in Kandahar.

“This is all business, there’s no glory about it. It’s nothing to do with protecting the population in Kandahar. It had nothing to do with reinforcing the current Afghan government legitimacy at the time in the public eye in Kandahar because they didn’t care. It had everything to do with buying time, that’s all it was about. And I was willing to sacrifice myself and soldiers lives, and I was willing to tell the Canadian public a positive spin on the mission, not a lie, but a positive spin on the mission, for the effect of buying time. If I could buy six more months, if I could buy one year so that somebody else could build an institution that could take over this fight, then we’ve contributed. And if it all goes wrong and fails, at least I did what I thought was right. Retaking the white school has nothing to do with the white school, nor the kids in Pashmul, it has everything to do with once again finding, capturing, killing a Taliban group for the purposes of buying one more month.”

What Hope is saying here is really the untold story of Canada’s Afghan war.

“There was an avoidance of a reality that we need to deal with at a strategic level, which impacted how we did things at a tactical level… We tried a tactical main effort of stabilizing, no strategy, we existed in the absence of strategy,” Hope pointed out. “There has been no coherent strategy for our contribution in Afghanistan from 2002 until 2009.”

The idea now—which is a strategy: to build an Afghan army that can take care of Afghan problems—started in 2009 when the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan (NTMA) stood up.

“We switched missions at the right time,” said Hope, “from Kandahar to here, to ride the wave of NTMA’s efforts in creating this army. Now this is good strategy, it’s about time; there was no strategy before that.”

While the dream is clear, I’m wondering if it’s possible that the Afghan security forces are going be able to secure far-flung districts against Taliban encroachment when we ourselves, at a peak of nearly 100,000 Western troops, couldn’t do it. I ask Hope this.

“It’s a good question,” said Hope. “We couldn’t do it because we’re part of the problem. We’re sitting in a district, we are foreigners in a district, and we become the target. So we’re part of the problem of district security. Our presence is part of the problem. In the absence of anything else we had to do it, because we had to buy time for the institutions that could do it to be formed. We bought that time for NTMA to stand up and work the issue.”

Whether or not the Afghan security forces will live up to their responsibility to maintain order is a question that, as of now, must only have hypothetical answers.

“I don’t prescribe to the inevitability of a civil war here, no. And I do not subscribe to the Taliban taking this country over again,” said Hope. “No, the way that the [ANA] would disband overnight is if the government falls apart overnight. You know the decisive point of this fight that I can foresee into the future has nothing to do with districts and battlefields and ANA fighting Taliban, it has everything to do with the transference of power from [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai to his successor peaceably, and his successor being legitimate in the eyes of the people. If that can occur, and he can transfer that through an election and after an election to a recognizably legitimate successor, the ANA will stay, and the ANA will be a force to be reckoned with.”

Colonel Ian Hope watches a newly trained Afghan battalion deploy, March 2013. [PHOTO: ADAM DAY]

Colonel Ian Hope watches a newly trained Afghan battalion deploy, March 2013.
PHOTO: ADAM DAY

While Hope certainly sees reasons for optimism when he looks at Afghanistan’s future, he does recognize that Canada’s involvement in the country comes with some troubling question marks.

“Strategically we need to engage where we’re expected to engage as part of an alliance. Strategically we need to engage, we’re expected to engage as part of a bilateral neighbourhood. Don’t mistake that need for engagement—that need for participation—with tactics and success on the ground. This is where I have to be careful. Why is it that we assume that every single thing we did in Kandahar was brilliant and correct? How is it that we’re the only army in the world to go through so much without making a mistake? I’m here to tell you that I made mistakes, my commanders reporting to me made mistakes. Our mistakes killed Canadians, and wounded Canadians. We learned from them but we made mistakes, and if history is going to be accurate—the way historians should write it—it’s going to recognize mistakes that were made.”

One of the key mistakes, it seems, is that the war was never accorded the seriousness it deserved. To send Canadians to war, to lose their lives at war, is the most serious thing a country can do. But instead of real debate about troop levels and strategy and commitment, there was only spin.

“So I found out after the tour that the people I spoke to couldn’t grasp what I was grasping, about the reality of combat, that they weren’t taking it seriously enough,” added Hope. “In my mind, it’s a soldier, a Canadian soldier, on the ground in a foreign country and faced with an enemy who’s trying to kill him and he has a mandate to kill that enemy, then the nation should be piling on, and that soldier deserves everything we can afford to make him successful. I didn’t see that. In some circles I just felt that there was no ability to take it seriously.”

Despite the troubled past, Hope notes that Canadians should still be proud of what their armed forces achieved in Afghanistan.

“There are multiple futures that are possible here, there isn’t one future, there are possible futures, and I think the majority of them are much better than what they had in the past. I’m sure of it. And I’m prepared for the variations of those futures. I’m prepared for that, and I’ll accept that. Even if they all fail and it goes back, I still say we did the right thing intervening in Afghanistan and giving it a try.”

Ultimately, for Hope, the effort in Afghanistan was not unlike Canada’s previous entries into combat—he mentions Vimy Ridge—in that it helped forge a particular kind of Canadian identity.

“What Canada has gained here—and it’s hard to say this, particularly to those who have suffered the loss of a daughter or son—is that our credibility as a nation is a lot higher, the respect for Canada as an ally or trusted partner is a lot more firm than it was 10 years ago. The reputation of our armed forces hasn’t been this way since the Second World War.”

Newly trained Afghan soldiers head off to the war, 2013. [PHOTO: ADAM DAY]

Newly trained Afghan soldiers head off to the war, 2013.
PHOTO: ADAM DAY

The Unpredictable Future

Will the conflict end? The complicated answer is that at this point Afghanistan has many possible futures, some peaceful, some not. The short answer to whether the violence will end is: it’s unlikely.

Consider this quote from a recent U.S. Senate intelligence report: “In addition, Afghanistan’s economy, which has been expanding at a steady rate, is likely to slow after 2014. Kabul has little hope of offsetting the coming drop in Western aid and military spending, which have fuelled growth in the construction and services sectors. Its licit agricultural sector and small businesses have also benefited from development projects and assistance from nongovernmental organizations, but the country faces high rates of poverty, unemployment, food insecurity, and poppy cultivation.”

So the question is, how to interpret that phrase up there: “little hope?”

If there is little hope of offsetting the drop in funding, that means there is little hope the Afghan government will be able to meet its expenses. By far its largest expense is the Afghan National Army.

So: There is little hope that things aren’t going to come apart, to some degree or other.

Search Canada’s military history and the greatest moments invariably involve young men charging headfirst into high-velocity metal. And therein lays the real strategy of Canada’s war in Afghanistan. In the years following the 9/11 attacks, the country’s most pressing national security requirement was to live up to its alliance obligations and do the duty required when your great ally is attacked.

So then why did Canada spend more than $20 billion and suffer more than 2,000 wounded? Why lose 158 lives in this mission? What for?

They died to give Afghanistan a better future. Or, rather, a solid shot at a better future. Maybe.

They died to solidify the NATO alliance and in tribute, essentially, to our southern ally. Maybe.

They died in an attempt to kill the enemy. Yes…that makes sense.

That was always the truth on the ground anyway.

Epilogue—The question of value
(which is a personal question, it has been discovered)

Back in Canada, the remains of war are everywhere, though you can’t see it; a plague of sorrowed hearts and bad heads.

It was all the freaking bombs buried in the dirt. Just a plastic jug filled with fertilizer, with a couple of scraps of metal, some wire and a knock-off Chinese battery. Not exactly the stuff of nightmares. I joke actually. That is exactly the stuff of nightmares.

The war was mystifying and I suspect it will soon become mythical. The way I see it, there wasn’t enough force on the ground to do what was required and no general officer was willing to stand up and say so in a way that made things change. The politicians vacillated and hoped for votes. So instead of doing what was required to clear, hold and build in Kandahar Province, we just told stories to ourselves and hoped for the best. It was soldiers versus bombers, not much more.

I got my teeth fixed last January, they kind of grafted new tops onto them, which is fine. I’m glad Canada’s alliances are stronger, but I get upset if for some reason I remember the feeling of sitting there with my head ringing and my mouth full of broken teeth.

Was it worth it? I have no idea. I hope the Afghans have a nice future.

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  • Adam .

    Solid article, pretty spot on.

  • Francois Robert Bosse

    I liked the article but there was a lot of presumptions. The last one being that Canada’s alliances are stronger. What does the author base this on? Some experts and academics would argue NATO may dissolve in a relatively close future.

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