Muted commemorations this weekend as the United-States marks the 10th anniversary of the start of hostilities in Afghanistan; a conflict which has cost thousands of lives and more than a trillion dollars. Sadly there is a growing list of experts who fear the country could be sliding back towards the kind of civil war which led to the radical Islamic regime of the Taliban after the Russian pull-out of a similar misadventure signalled the ultimate demise of the Soviet Union two decades ago.
In Providence, Rhode-Island meantime, researchers at Brown University say at least 33,877 people - foreign and Afghan troops, civilians, insurgents and others have died as a result of the conflict. The American Pentagon puts the cost of its own operations at $323.2 billion exclusive of costs borne by its NATO partners including Canada. Our Department of National Defence claims the cost so far has been $11.3 billion. Others have claimed that it's (in fact) closer to $22 billion. Canada engaged in the Afghan conflict in February 2002. It took on battle operations in August of 2003 with Operation Athena. History will show that it was a simplistic effort by the Liberal Government of Jean Chretien to abate American anger at our decision to stay out of President Bush's "coalition of the willing" in Iraq.
Buoyed by the initial success of the American military in routing the Taliban extremists from government in Afghanistan, the Bush Administration lost interest and quickly changed its focus to Iraq; leaving the hapless NATO allies (including Canada) to "clean-up" the Taliban's mess in Afghanistan. The problem is (and it continues to be): That while America's virtual carpet bombing of Kabul, Kandahar and other strategic targets in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks crumbled the Taliban regime - It scattered its supporters and fighters into the hills bordering Pakistan where in the decade since they've transformed from a rag-tag group of guerrilla fighters into a well disciplined and very patient militia. The irony is: That the United-States surreptitiously financed the Taliban insurgency against the Soviets two decades ago, and it continues to support (to the tune of billions of dollars each year) the Pakistani overlords who now protect them.