Friday, August 8, 2008


Down in Arlington, Virginia, the independent "Think-Tank", the Rand Corporation in its recent report: "Time For Re-Evaluation" says a mix of approaches to counter terrorism is the best strategy, while a strict military approach is only "one tool."

That suggestion speaks well for Canada's initial intentions in our Afghanistan efforts which included utilizing a combination of resources: Military intervention, police training, and assistance projects both from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and private non-governmental organizations (NGO's).

In preparing the report the Rand Corporation researchers analyzed efforts to combat 648 terrorist groups worldwide between 1968 and 2006. In only 19% of those cases was military force the primary factor in defeating a terrorist group. And, in most of those cases it happened through the military effort of the country directly affected. The report concludes that..."military force was rarely the primary reason a terrorist group ended during the nearly 40-year time frame studied..."

It appears though that rather than pursue the mixed approach first envisioned for Canada's Afghan involvement back in February of 2004, our mission now turns on the much more definitive military aspects. Contrasting with the Rand Corporation conclusions.

No surprise then in the announcements by the Minister of Defence, Peter MacKay that the military is about to spend billions to equip our forces in Afghanistan with helicopter lift capabilities. From the perspective of Canada's NATO Afghan partners, I am sure they'll be delighted no longer to have to carry our "hitch-hiking" troops on their aircraft. It seems to me though that it may move us that much further away from the ultimate goal of pacifying the region and leaving.

Meanwhile the injection of aid money which the government tries to cast in glowing terms in the funding of hundreds of reconstruction and training projects suffers from the most basic managerial oversight and accountability. To wit: In order to win hearts and minds; for a couple of million dollars we launched a newspaper in Kabul to educate women about politics and other issues. It failed because more than 80% of Afghan women can't read.

From about as far away as one can get from Afghanistan...Kingston, Ontario for heaven's sake!...Canada is operating RANA-FM, a Kandahar rock music radio station. The transmitting tower is inside the Kandahar military compound so it doesn't get blown-up. The brainiac hired to set-up the place: David F. Bailey, the British pirate broadcaster (Radio Jackie) from the 1960's. Mr. Bailey moved-out of his Kingston apartment last month apparently on his way to Bosnia...Go figure!

And just opened this week: ZHARI-911. A call centre for locals in the Zhari District of Kandahar to call to warn troops about suspected improvised explosive devises. An interpreter relays the information to Canadian troops who dispatch forces to investigate. Lest I digress: On site interpreters are called "Terps". They're paid $1,200 a month by Canada, 30 times the average monthly Afghan wage. In the villages some call them by many other names...most of those names are not flattering. I haven't been to Afghanistan...seems to me though from what I've seen on TV there don't appear to be too many telephone equipped huts and shacks there. Oh well!

The Rand Corporation report offers compelling arguments for re-evaluating a strategy that from all appearances is failing to sustain any progress against terrorism. It says that because of the group's objectives a negotiated settlement with Al-Qaida is remote. But the report also insists that ultimately there is no battlefield solution to terrorism.

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