I am finding this rather bizarre. This weekend pretty much every major news daily is filled with complimentary stories about the departure of the Chief Of Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier. No one is asking the obvious: Why is he leaving?
General Hillier has been at this job just three years. he is credited with rebuilding the savaged morale of the Canadian Military, rallying the troops, and instilling pride in the Canadian public for the defence forces. The job of the army in Afghanistan is nowhere near finished. He may have kicked-off rebuilding and reorganizing the military, but neither is completed.
The answer to my puzzled question is: He wasn't asked to stay! Wait....that raises the next obvious query. Why not? Well, normally the term of the Chief of Defence Staff is three years, the position rotates amongst the three military services. Ray Henault from the Air Force last time; General Hillier from the Army this time; the Naval Command starting July 1st....er...well, No! Another Army guy: General Walter Natynczyk (I had to check the spelling twice). You see the War in Afghanistan isn't over, it's an Army War...Blah, blah, blah. My point exactly!
Me thinks that General Hillier was dealt a couple of Jokers to his Ace because he was appointed by the Liberal Government of Paul Martin, and much too outspoken and charismatic for the real General in Charge of all of Canada. That would be the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.
In spite of the criticism; including John Manley's, Mr. Harper's hawkish friend on Afghanistan, if it was hard getting the truth about the war before: I fear we ain't seen nothing yet. This may be one of those rare moments when we can be thankful to our allies south of the border.
Just this weekend a new Pentagon Report offers a pretty dim view of any progress in the seven year old Afghan war. In fact the report states clearly that "The Taliban has regrouped after its initial fall from power...and the pace of attacks is likely to increase this year." Gee, that doesn't quite sound like the pablum we're being spoon fed in the frozen north about the mounting success of Canada's involvement.
Refreshingly clear, yet sad for Canada's involvement, the Pentagon's assessment is bluntly pessimistic in describing efforts by Canada and others to train the Afghan army and a national police force: "Development of the Afghan police is taking longer and has been hindered by corruption, insufficient...trainers and advisers, and a lack of unity of effort within the international community," the U.S. report says.
As of Friday, 837 coalition force members have died in the Afghanistan debacle. More than 10 percent (85) are Canadian soldiers in addition to one of our diplomats. On this Canada Day weekend, I grieve for their families.