Time to end the war in Afghanistan, for the entire region’s sake

Maybe it’s just me, my bookish predilections, and the fact that I’m reading a lot of Greg Mortenson’s work right about now (I just finished re-reading Three Cups of Tea, and have now begun Stones Into Schools). Maybe it’s the fact that people in need are the same everywhere. But if you needed more evidence that war really IS stupid, read this:

While millions of Pakistanis in internal refugee camps struggle with shattered lives in the aftermath of last month’s floods that destroyed farms, crops and livelihoods, Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team appears to be stuck on the launch pad.

The reasons could have to do with the realities of Canada’s war in Afghanistan — and the fact that, to put it mildly, our military may not be a popular item in many parts of Pakistan.

Certainly, there’s widespread sentiment here that DART’s 200 soldiers should already be on the ground in the flooded areas doing useful things like ramping up water purification systems and rebuilding damaged infrastructure like bridges, roads and electrical systems.

In disaster relief, says Walter Dorn, a professor at Canadian Forces College, “the big advantage of the military is rapid deployment. We haven’t seen much of that [by Canada], and it is disappointing.”

It’s not clear what the holdup is, since Foreign Affairs is keeping its cards close to its chest on the matter, but some observers believe the sticky issue is Pakistan’s demand that Canuck troops go unarmed.

Despite a late August press report that Pakistan is about to issue a formal request for DART, Canadian Foreign Affairs spokesperson Dana Cryderman denies that is the case, saying that only “informal discussions” with Islamabad on the subject are happening at the moment.

“In general, should a decision be made to deploy Canadian civilian or military personnel, a thorough analysis of the security situation would be conducted to determine requirements for the safety and security of government of Canada personnel,” she tells this reporter.

Given the level of fighting in Afghanistan and the near civil war in Pakistan, you can see the problem.

Dorn points out that Canadians are dying in Afghanistan while fighting a Pashtun-based insurgency that has roots in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. At the same time, terrorist attacks have occurred in all regions of Pakistan, not just in the Pashtun northwest border areas.

Some locals will see Canadian DART soldiers “as enemies in their homeland,” he says. “There may be people living in Pakistan who are making plans to kill Canadians in Afghanistan. I think Canadians in Pakistan offer themselves as a target. There is a segment of the population that is virulently anti-American,” and by extension, he says, anti-NATO.

Nine years ago, right about this time, the US declared war against Afghanistan, and dragged the rest of NATO into it. I knew right away that it would be disastrous, and it gives me no satisfaction to see how right I was. NATO is a Cold War relic that should have been demolished at the same time the Berlin Wall fell, and instead, here it is, being made the handmaiden of “western”–really, just US–imperialism yet again. And it’s all because no one in any western government had the guts and the vision to say something like “Enough of this crap, it’s time to work for peace! Let’s abolish this organization and act in good faith for a change.”

Meanwhile, innocent people in Pakistan and Afghanistan are paying for our collective folly with their lives. War, war is stupid…yes, yes indeedy.

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