Bowing perhaps to the obvious, the U.S. military has decided to stop training government-backed militias and local security forces in Afghanistan. In case you've forgotten — oh that we all could — the current "strategy" in the country is to train sufficient Afghan forces in cutting-edge policing techniques so they can provide their own security, security being a slippery notion in a country best described as tribal, medieval and thoroughly corrupt.
The U.S. took this unusual move because, well, they'd trained the current forces so well that their trainees have killed 45 international troops — the ones there to train them and help them achieve a stable, peaceful country — since the beginning of the year. Perhaps they were just practicing on the nearest available target. This, of course, means the international troops, finding themselves in a hostile country where they don't know for sure who their enemy is, now have to wonder whether anyone is on their side or has their backs.
This strategic retreat actually marks a significant milestone in the Afghan misadventure. It is the first time any military force has done anything that makes any sense.
Which is probably why Canadian forces have chosen to continue to train the Afghan National Security Force and the National Police. Canada's fighting men and women do this training under the auspices of NATO, the U.S. effort being their own misguided initiative.
The government of Canada estimates the total cost of our Afghan mission will exceed $25 billion. Okay, so it's not enough to wipe out the national debt, but it would make a really good dent in the annual budget deficit. More importantly, it doesn't pass the sniff test.
Both Canada and the U.S. plan to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Here's what's likely to happen when they do. The Taliban will take over again. The government, and I use the word loosely, of Hamid Karzai will loot whatever they haven't already looted from the national treasury and hightail it out of the country, never to be heard from again. The tribal warlords will welcome the Taliban like long lost brothers. More heroin poppies will be planted. The country will segue back into the barbaric, medieval cesspool that seems to be its natural habitat. Women will be horribly oppressed; non-believers will be stoned and beheaded while people watch on approvingly. Everyone here will be left wondering why we bothered and some politician will say we've learned our lessons and we'll never do anything like that again.
In the meantime, we'll continue to have too many northern communities living in squalid, mouldy houses with no potable running water. We'll have a new, ice-free coastline in the north we can't significantly defend our claims of sovereignty over. We'll have ever-crumbling infrastructure and our laughable, third world national highway system. And we'll throw the maritime pursuits of British Columbia to the wolves as the federal government guts the Coast Guard, all to save a couple of bucks.