NATO support for Afghanistan
In agreeing to provide substantial, ongoing help to Afghanistan after the last NATO-led forces, including our own, leave at the end of 2014, Julia Gillard is on the right track.
Her pledge of $300 million to the $4.1 billion fund U.S. President Barack Obama is creating for the Afghan National Army after the allies withdraw is among the largest from any of the countries fighting in Afghanistan.
It also provides a timely signal that, though we are on our way out of the country, we remain committed to doing whatever we can to ensure it never again becomes a haven for terrorism. The sacrifice of the 33 Australians killed in Afghanistan, as well as the 200 who have been wounded, demands no less.
That said, there is a need for caution and realism about what lies ahead.
For all the hope surrounding the 2014 deadline and the ability of Afghans to fight their own war, the prospects remain challenging. They would be transformed if peace talks with the Taliban were able to make progress. But hopes for them are bedevilled by the situation in Pakistan, whose government continues to allow the insurgents a virtual free rein and seeks to exploit for its own ends the vital supply routes from the port of Karachi needed to service NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Much has been achieved in Afghanistan. But much remains to be done. And the need to do whatever is needed to ensure the country does not again become a base for international terrorism will be as vital to Australia’s national interests after 2014 as it is now.
The Australian, Sydney
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was once accused by the Liberals of improvising the war in Afghanistan, as if one could script a decade-long war ahead of time. He has now announced an end to the Canadian military mission as of March 31, 2014. It is the right thing to do, at the right time.
Enough is enough — until the next one.
The fatigue in this country with the loss of life of Canadian soldiers, the intermittent progress, the government corruption, the obstacles that never seem to diminish, such as Pakistan playing both sides, and the enormous financial burden, is overwhelming.
Both Canada and Afghanistan benefited in many ways from this country’s military efforts.
Afghanistan did not revert to being a refuge for the terrorists of al-Qaida — the primary reason for the war. Millions of girls went to school who otherwise would not have, and women assumed roles in the Afghan parliament. But girls and women are still being jailed for such “moral crimes” as fleeing rape, abuse or underage marriage. And the Afghan National Army is far from ready to keep the country secure from the violent zealotry of the Taliban.
Canada did its part with impressive resolve in an unwinnable counterinsurgency war, gaining valuable military expertise but losing 158 soldiers.
The day is coming when Afghanistan will be in the lead role when its faces its enemies. That day could not be put off forever.
The Globe and Mail, Toronto