Stay in Afghanistan: Senate committee

arvn_civil_guard_trainingThe Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence has recommended that Canada remain in Afghanistan following the scheduled end of the mission in Kandahar (“Senate committee endorses continued military training mission in Afghanistan,” Canadian Press, 22 June 2010).

The committee, chaired by Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin and composed entirely of Conservative and Liberal Senators (there are no Senators from the other parties), recommended in a report tabled on Tuesday that Canada continue training Afghan soldiers and police after 2011 and that Parliament give “careful consideration” to future role(s) of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan:

Based upon the evidence, testimony, and suggestions we have heard; upon our deliberations; and given our concern for our nation’s standing among its allies, this Committee believes and recommends that Canada’s important and highly-valued contribution to the development of the leadership, training and mentoring of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police must continue beyond 2011, and that Parliament should, at its earliest opportunity, give careful consideration to the question of the role of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan after 2011.

The committee remarked in its report that “If there is a recurring theme to what witnesses have told us, it is that the job in Afghanistan is not done and that Canadian troops should stay in some capacity.”

The fact that Wallin and her colleagues heard testimony only from supporters of the war–13 current or former members of the Canadian Forces, the Defence Minister, a former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan, a board member of the DND-funded Conference of Defence Associations, a representative of the pro-intervention Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee, and the Afghan ambassador to Canada–makes this apparent unanimity about as surprising as the outcome of the last presidential election in Afghanistan, of course.

Hearing from a range of opinions is generally considered a good thing when conducting such studies, assuming that you haven’t already written the final report in your head. A wider selection of witnesses might have provided the committee with someone who knew what Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty really means, for example. Hint: It doesn’t mean that all NATO members are required to take such actions as are “collectively deemed necessary”. Ask NATO.

More importantly, consulting a wider range of opinion–even if restricted to insiders such as a certain former Deputy Minister of National Defence–might have exposed the committee to at least one representative of the 60 percent of Canadians who oppose any extension of Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan.

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