As Obama did not alter the calendar [more here], Canada’s current and near-term plans for Afghanistan will not change. The second of four eight-month rotations of Canadian military trainers began about six weeks ago. About 910 troops mostly drawn from the Royal Canadian Regiment battalion in New Brunswick have replaced a group that was built around a Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry battalion from Alberta.
The number of trainers, who are mostly in Kabul but also in the relatively quiet western cities of Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif [Mazar’s actually in north], will almost certainly shrink by several hundred soldiers when the Royal 22nd Regiment — the Van Doos — take over from the Royals just before Christmas. NATO’s International Security Assistance Force needs far fewer of them going forward because the Afghan security forces are already bigger than they are going to be post-2014.
The Harper government set a ceiling of 950 soldiers for the training mission, when it was suddenly announced half a year before the combat mission in Canada ended last summer. What has not been worked out yet is whether a few of the Canadian trainers whose jobs will disappear this fall might be replaced by other Canadian soldiers with specific skill sets such as special forces.
Parliament has been greatly concerned lately about reports that soldiers from Joint Task Force Two (JTF2) or the Canadian Special Operations Regiment may be deployed to Afghanistan when Canada’s trainers return home in 2014. The loud opposition that this likely mission has provoked is curious. Having angrily predicted 16 months ago that the training mission would be extremely hazardous and therefore must not go ahead, the opposition — and the media, for that matter — have shown virtually no interest whatsoever in what the trainers are actually doing over there. Nor has there been interest in what Canada has been doing diplomatically in Afghanistan, although it remains by far Ottawa’s most expensive foreign policy initiative.
What has also been ignored in the furor over a possible Canadian military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 is that the actual number of special forces operators that might end up there is tiny — somewhere between a handful of soldiers and a couple of hundred, tops. Admitting that the numbers would be small would, of course, undermine all the righteous outrage [well, not necessarily–the NDP want us out of Afghanistan, now, period–and I doubt the Liberals could stomach any combat role]…
Afghanistan: A SOF Landing for Canada? [also notes some troop rotation]
Another forgotten war that actually turned out well in the end.
Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger
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