Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan officially ends this month. It began in 2001 with the dispatch of a small number of special operations troops to oust the Taliban and punish al-Qaeda militants in wake of the 9/11 attacks, and grew to include the deployment of a battle group to secure the southern province of Kandahar between 2006 and 2011. At its peak, the Kandahar deployment numbered over 3,000 Canadian soldiers. Of these, 158 died, in addition to one Canadian diplomat, and thousands more suffered physical or psychiatric injuries.
In visits to Kandahar in 2008 and 2010, I saw Canadian soldiers and government officials performing with professionalism and courage under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. To suggest that their sacrifices may have been in vain seems like wretched recompense.
Yet anything short of an honest assessment of the mission’s legacy would do a greater disservice to the military and civilian veterans of the Afghan operation, as well as to the soldiers and diplomats who may be sent to risk their lives elsewhere in the future. Canadians deserve nothing less than an unvarnished presentation of the operation’s balance sheet, even if the bottom line is written in red, not black…
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