Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/6/2010 (4138 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In a refreshing display of principle and insight, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has come out in favour of a continuing role for Canada in Afghanistan after the military's combat role comes to an end in 2011.
It's time now for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to end his silence and develop a plan on how Canada can meet its moral obligations in the wartorn country. Mr. Harper has merely stated he is bound by the parliamentary resolution that will bring Canada's troops home in 2011.
That has been his curt refrain for the past two years, but Mr. Ignatieff has now opened the door for the government to do the right thing and revaluate its options. It's hard to understand Mr. Harper's motive for insisting every one of Canada's troops pack their bags and come home next year, but as time goes on, it will be reasonable to postulate he is motivated by budgetary restrictions, or by the fear the public will not support a post-combat role for Canada.
Either way, it's an abandonment of principle, not to mention our allies and the Afghan people, for short-term political considerations.
Mr. Ignatieff is proposing that Canadian troops remain in Afghanistan to help train the country's troops and police forces, while civilian aid workers would build up its educational, justice and governing capacity. This is the very role suggested by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said Canada's abrupt departure would be a blow to the effort to stabilize the country.
Mr. Ignatieff has staked out a bold position and one that is not without risk, considering Canadians in general have grown weary of the conflict. It does, however, provide one of the first clear delineations between him and Mr. Harper. In fact, it almost seems like a reversal of roles, with the Liberals adopting a more activist foreign policy, while the Conservatives seem somewhat bored with world affairs.
There is no easy or cheap way forward, but it is a responsibility Canada assumed when it joined the coalition to oust the Taliban eight years ago. Since then, Canadians have performed admirably in both the military and civilian spheres, but the job is not done.
Mr. Ignatieff plans to promote his Afghan plan and other aspects of his foreign policy across Canada this summer, which may be his first opportunity to look like a leader. For his part, Mr. Harper needs to dust off his briefing books and develop a plan that will ensure Canada meets its obligations to its allies and the people of the Afghanistan.