Revisiting the “third way” in Afghanistan

The “third way” posting on Afghanistan (October 17) describes the polarized debate on the question of Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan:

“The Prime Minister leads the charge for staying the course. Canada is at war, he says, and we don’t cut and run – we will stay in this war until the job is done. NDP Leader Jack Layton leads the call for withdrawal. It is the wrong mission for Canada; it is a war with unclear objectives and it can’t be won.”

The posting goes on to look at some recent proposals and arguments that point to a third option or approach:

“So here are the main elements of an emerging third option: pull out of the south; redeploy to the north in support of training and provincial reconstruction teams; substantially increase non-military aid; review the strategy, objectives, and tactics used by the NATO-led ISAF; and re-open the political process in pursuit of a more inclusive and representative political order for the entire country.”

Since then, an October 27 letter sent out by Mr. Layton elaborates a position for the NDP that looks a lot like the “third way”:

  • “Give notice that Canada will withdraw from the search-and-kill combat mission in Kandahar.”
  • “Work with NATO partners, the Afghan government, and other affected parties to find a political solution through capacity building and a comprehensive peace process.
  • “Focus Canada’s role in Afghanistan on humanitarian aid, reconstruction and development, with appropriate security measures.”

A focus on humanitarian aid, reconstruction, and development, assisted by appropriate security is elaborated in a recent press kit prepared by Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (available along with other excellent resources at www.w4wafghan.ca ), a Calgary-based NGO that has been working with Afghan women since 1996:

“Afghanistan needs an international security force, adhering to internationally recognized human rights standards, for a period of at least ten years. This force should have the following main objectives:

  • To provide security and stability for all Afghans;
  • To facilitate safe provision of basic services such as education, clean water, and healthcare;
  • To create an environment where Afghans can take on reconstruction and development activities on their own terms; and,
  • To ensure the security needs of women and girls are met, which include protection from sexual violence, trafficking, rape, and other security threats commonly face by Afghan women.”
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