Many roles to fill

Three years ago I attended a briefing in Ottawa prior to Canada sending troops to Afghanistan. At the National Defense Headquarters, we listened as specialists told the newspaper group of the risks that Canada’s troops would be facing in Afghanistan.
They did predict that Canada would lose soldiers in combat. They predicted that the mission would be long, conditions would be horrid, and our troops would find themselves in dangerous situations.
Other specialists in foreign affairs talked of the nation-building that would have to take place within that country so that it would become a stable society. People in foreign affairs predicted that stabilizing Afghanistan would take more than a decade. And they predicted that it would take several decades for Afghanistan to catch up with other countries in the region.
As Western nations have discovered now in Afghanistan and Iraq, winning the battle and forcing despots out of government does not translate into new stable government. Creating that stable government, the people of the nation must have confidence in their government, a confidence that provides health care, schooling, good social services and prosperity to the people.
People must be moved beyond just surviving. And in Afghanistan, the people have to make a choice of choosing a new way of life or maintaining their existing life. The battle pits regional warlords and the Taliban against modernization.
It is not surprising that those warlords and the Taliban now attack newly-created schools and hospitals being created by nations like Canada.
As part of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, our troops are out to provide security to that country’s nation builders.
With the death of Cpl. Anthony Boneca from Thunder Bay, a member of the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment militia, the fury and the horror of war are reaching closer to the people of our area. And with that death, the discussion of Canada’s military role in Afghanistan has been heightened.
Policing and battling warlords and the Taliban is only one part of our mission. The other parts are providing education opportunities, medical care and helping the new government learn to govern. That is something that Canada is very good at.
We also have to protect the people who wish to take advantage of those new services and facilities.
History will record whether or not Canada will be successful in Afghanistan.