Afghanistan: Toward counterinsurgency by other means

Tasneem Jamal

Briefing 06-1

Ernie Regehr

Is Canada going to Afghanistan to help protect vulnerable people and create security conditions conducive to humanitarian and reconstruction efforts, or are we entering the fight on one side of a civil war?

At issue is the military-centred counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan. The Americans lead it under Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) but are anxious to hand it off to the UN-mandated and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Until now, ISAF has been careful not to get into a direct war with the insurgents, and as a British spokesman for ISAF recently told the Washington Post, ISAF will continue its focus on security patrols and protection functions rather than on pursuing and attacking insurgents.

Canada acquired an obligation to the people of Afghanistan when it imprudently decided to join the United States in its 2001-2002 war to unseat the Afghan Government. Part of Canada’s current role in Kandahar is to facilitate the transition from OEF to ISAF. That should not simply mean the transfer of a military-centric counterinsurgency war from one operation to the other. The transition must also mean a review of strategy and focus —away from the self-defeating attempts to crush the insurgency, and toward enabling multi-dimensional peacebuilding efforts to deny it oxygen.

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