From the Desk of RCAF Lt. Col. (Ret’d.) Harold Wright

Canadian Defence Associations draws
end-of-year focus on Afghanistan, NATO

CDA urges Ottawa to foster free flow of information so that Canadians can have more informed opinions on Afghanistan

The Conference of Defence Associations wishes readers a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season. It will return in the New Year with more updates. We hope that you will spend some time during the holidays to keep informed about Canada's mission in Afghanistan — while we may have holidays, our soldiers in Afghanistan will continue as before. Please write to them — they would appreciate a note of support from back home.

By Alain Pellerin, Colonel (Ret'd)
Executive Director, CDA-CDAI

The Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) would like to provide its readers with one more "Dear Colleagues" before the Christmas and New Year holiday season. In this edition, we focus on:

- Canadian policy towards the mission in Afghanistan.
- Events on the ground in Afghanistan.
- Policy developments within NATO and our allies.

The CDA is also pleased to announce the launch of its new discussion forum, available online at:

The board is open to anyone interested in security and defence issues. Please feel free to register and to discuss any topic that interests you - for instance, the mission in Afghanistan.


The CDA would like to draw your attention to a moving segment by the CBC's The National on Canadian soldiers who have been killed in Afghanistan in 2007, "Fallen Soldiers":

The CDA reminds you that it is possible to send holiday greetings and regular messages to Canadian troops anywhere in the world:



Janine Zacharia for the International Herald Tribune (see link below) gives a useful summary of the current debate in Canada over its mission in Afghanistan.

Michael Byers in the Ottawa Citizen (see link below) writes that he refused to appear in front of the Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan for several reasons. One was the "partisan" nature of the panel; second was the "inevitability" of its eventual decision; third was its members' "close ties" to the United States and defence corporations; fourth, its lack of sufficient time to address the question of Canada's future role in Afghanistan and its restricted mandate.

The article has drawn several responses. Margaux Carson in the Ottawa Citizen (see link below) writes that Afghans "deserve better from Michael Byers," who should recognize the good work being done by Canadians in Afghanistan and the broad multilateral support enjoyed by the mission.

Michael Hart in the Ottawa Citizen (see link below) writes that Byers' arguments are those of a "smug academic" who slandered five "solidly credentialed and experienced public servants."

Elinor Sloan in the Ottawa Citizen (see link below) rebuts Byers' arguments against going in front of the panel, and concludes, "His arguments for doing so were misguided. What Canada needs is not ideological grandstanding, but constructive ideas and recommendations."

Murray Brewster for the Canadian Press and Dominique Price for the Ottawa Citizen (see links below) write on the briefing given to journalists by senior CIDA officials on their agency's work in Kandahar and Afghanistan.

Scott Taylor writes (see link below) on the acquisition by the CF of battle tanks such as the Leopard 2: "From our experience in Kandahar, the combination of armoured protection and heavy firepower has proven that  main battle tanks still have a place on the modern counter-insurgency battlefield. That being said, it is imperative that Canada develops some form of long-term plan to upgrade and maintain our hastily acquired new tanks."

Barry Cooper in the Calgary Herald (see link below) reviews the books, "Unexpected War: Canada in Kandahar" by Eugene Lang and Janice Stein, and "Fifteen Days" by Christie Blatchford. The CDA recommends that both be on your holiday reading list.

Jeff Davis in Embassy (see link below) writes on the Chief of the Defence Staff General Rick Hillier's efforts to communicate with the public about the CF's efforts in Afghanistan. This has come into some controversy, with the government's move to monitor more centrally messages to the media from the Department of National Defence. The CDA would like to reiterate that it is best if the government fosters a free flow of information so that Canadians can have more informed opinions on the mission.


Janine Zacharia. "Canada reconsiders its role in Afghanistan."
International Herald Tribune, 18 December 2007.

Michael Byers. "Why I said no to Manley." Ottawa Citizen, 13 December

Margaux Carson. "Manley panel deserves better than this public attack."
Ottawa Citizen, 15 December 2007.

Michael Hart. "Low standards." Ottawa Citizen, 17 December 2007.

Elinor Sloan. "A better Afghanistan policy." Ottawa Citizen, 18 December 2007.

Murray Brewster. "CIDA talks up Afghan progress." Canadian Press, 14 December 2007.

Dominique Price. "NATO takes stock of good, bad in Afghanistan." Ottawa Citizen, 19 December 2007.

Scott Taylor. "Afghans damage Leopard tank 'beyond repair'." 17 December 2007.

Barry Cooper. "Disgrace at top, honour on the ground." Calgary Herald, 19 December 2007.

Jeff Davis. "'I can't afford to be worried about my back.'" Embassy, 19
December 2007.


A lengthy article in the Economist (see link below) provides a useful overview of the foreign mission in Afghanistan, focusing on progress and difficulties in military, political, social, economic, and coalition issues.

In that same vein, Nipa Banerjee in Embassy (see link below) writes that the Afghan government must do more to connect with its people: "While international armed presence is required in Afghanistan, more troops, more aid supply and shorter-term relief will not necessarily result in incremental gains in security. What is required as a first priority is the government's planned and honest overtures to the people: root out corruption, reform the police and the justice system, check poppy cultivation and trafficking, push forward economic and social development, and lay down a realistic time-line for delivery in these areas to win people's understanding and support. The international community's role should be to help the government to develop a strategy to this end and implement it."

Graeme Smith for the Globe and Mail (see link below) reports on a recent successful raid by combined Canadian, Afghan and British forces in Kandahar province. The article also notes the perseverance and staying power of the Taliban. Betsy Pisik in the Washington Times and a piece from Radio-Canada (see links below) also report on the raid.

Mitch Potter for the Toronto Star (see link below) writes on his return to Kandahar City after a year's absence, and reports on his impressions on progress and challenges there. He focuses on police corruption and tribal issues.

Syed Saleem Shahzad in the Asia Times (see link below) writes that the British move to recapture Musa Qala in Helmand province may turn out to be a "pyrrhic victory," with the Taliban fortifying their positions elsewhere to strike back. He further writes that the local population in Helmand has grown wary of foreign forces not delivering promised aid and development.

Ann Marlowe for Fox News (see link below) writes on the difficulties faced by American PRT commanders in maintaining security and fostering development projects when Afghans do not aid coalition troops by informing on insurgent activities.

Saeed Shah in the Globe and Mail (see link below) reports on the alliance between insurgent and militant forces along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and how this bodes ill for Canadian forces in Afghanistan.

A short analysis piece from the Library of Parliament (see link below) examines the rise of the Taliban, their worldview, their political and military structures, and the possibility of negotiating with them.


Economist. "Policing a whirlwind." 13 December 2007.

Nipa Banerjee. ""Afghan Government Needs to Connect with its Citizens to Keep the Insurgents at Bay." Embassy, 19 December 2007.

Graeme Smith. "Raid shows winter no deterrent for Taliban." Globe and Mail, 18 December 2007. BNStory/Afghanistan/

Betsy Pisik. "Canadian military calls raid 'successful'." Washington
Times, 18 December 2007.

Radio-Canada. "La coalition gagne du terrain." 17 December 2007.

Mitch Potter. "Kandahar: Inside and Out." Toronto Star, 15 December 2007.

Syeed Saleem Shahzad. "British 'success' under siege in Afghanistan." Asia Times, 15 December 2007.

Ann Marlowe. "Amid Real Progress, an Afghan Failure to Take
Responsibility." Fox News, 16 December 2007.,2933,316998,00.html

Saeed Shah. "Pakistani insurgents join forces on Afghan border." Globe and Mail, 17 December 2007.

Library of Parliament. "Afghanistan: The Taliban." 5 December 2007.


CTV reports (see link below) on a recent meeting between NATO defence and foreign ministers in Scotland on the future of the mission in Afghanistan.

Thom Shanker and Steven Lee Myers in the New York Times (see link below) report on the "top to bottom review" of the Afghan mission by the US government, Commander CENTCOM, and NATO, in acknowledgement of the greater need to coordinate counter-insurgency, political/economic development, and
anti-drugs policy. This push also involves getting certain NATO members to contribute more to the Afghan effort.

For your information, Admiral William Fallon, Commander of US Central Command and one of the leaders in this review, has been invited to speak  at the CDA Institute's annual seminar on 21 February 2008:

An editorial in the International Herald Tribune (see link below) supports this move to review the strategy of the mission and to have more NATO countries contribute to the effort, instead of merely focusing on blame and recrimination.

Michael Ambramowitz and Peter Baker in the Washington Post (see link below) report on rumblings within the US administration to draw-down forces in Iraq and focus on tougher counter-insurgency efforts in Afghanistan. This would avoid having Afghanistan "slip out of the headlines," which would be a "mistake."

James Travers in the Toronto Star (see link below) comments on the push for greater resources and efforts in Afghanistan, noting that decisions on this front must be made quickly.

In a report on CNN (see link below), Australia's new defence minister is quoted as saying that more needs to be done in Afghanistan by the US and its allies, without which the effort there would risk being lost. A piece by Patrick Walters in the Australian (see link below) reports on the concurrent remarks of new Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd.

Competing articles in the UK Sunday Times by Rory Stewart, a former British diplomat, and Sherard Cowper-Coles, the current British Ambassador to Kabul, take opposing stances on the question, "Is Afghanistan our [UK] mission impossible?" (see link below).

Amid rumours that Lord Ashdown may take up a position of "high representative" to Afghanistan, Daniel Korski writes in the UK Guardian  (see link below) on the lessons that could be taken from Ashdown's time as High Representative in Bosnia to Afghanistan.

Alexander Szandar and Susanne Koelbl in Der Spiegel (see link below) explore at length the military predicament faced by German forces in Afghanistan, with Taliban forces advancing against them from two directions. They also explore the Dutch debate over their deployment in Afghanistan, as well as the larger NATO deployment.


CTV. "Afghanistan mission won't end soon: NATO." 14 December 2007.

Thom Shanker and Steven Lee Myers. "Afghan Mission is Reviewed as Concerns Rise." New York Times, 16 December 2007.

Editorial. "Plenty of blame for Afghanistan." International Herald
Tribune, 16 December 2007.

Michael Abramowitz and Peter Baker. "Bush Faces Pressure to Shift War Priorities." Washington Post, 17 December 2007.

James Travers. "Time short for Afghan answers." Toronto Star, 18 December 2007.

CNN. "Australian defense chief warns allies over Afghanistan war." 17 December 2007.

Patrick Walters. "NATO must lift game in Afghanistan: PM." Australian, 17 December 2007.,25197,22934596-601,00.html

Rory Stewart and Sherard Cowper-Coles. "Is rebuilding Afghanistan our mission impossible?" Sunday Times, 16 December 2007.

Daniel Korski. "From Bosnia to Afghanistan?" Guardian, 17 December 2007.

Alexander Szandar and Susanne Koelbl. "Germany faces Taliban pincer in Afghanistan." Der Spiegel, 17 December 2007.,1518,523805,00.html


Please write to our soldiers in Aghanistan — they would appreciate a word of support from back home.