Excerpted from a speech in Parliament by NDP defence critic Dawn Black (New Westminster-Coquitlam) May 17 explaining why the New Democrats voted against extending the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.
Military force is a blunt, dangerous and expensive instrument. Is this mission necessary? Is it a mission that can succeed? Are we doing everything possible to ensure the safety and well-being of our soldiers? Are we doing everything possible to adhere to international standards concerning the protection of civilians, the choice and the use of weapons and the treatment of detainees?
For four years the U.S. military, the most powerful military in the world, has tried to stabilize southern Afghanistan through a forward-leaning counter-insurgency approach.
The U.S. military has failed in that effort. The situation has become more, not less, dangerous. Osama bin Laden remains at large. Heroin production has skyrocketed. The insurgents are becoming ever more adept at building and deploying sophisticated roadside bombs.
Today the United States wants to draw down its forces in Afghanistan and it wants its allies to pick up the slack. Most of those allies, most of NATO, have been dragging their heels. Canada, however, has rushed into this gap. The NDP shares the concerns of many of Canada's allies that the counter-insurgency approach cannot succeed, and if it cannot succeed, why are we there?
Is it simply because the United States has asked us to be there because it wants out? Or is it simply because we do not have the imagination or wherewithal to devise a better approach?
The NDP unequivocally supports the maintenance of a sizable Canadian reconstruction presence in Afghanistan. However, the NDP believes that the extension of the counter-insurgency mission is not the best use that could be made of Canada's small but highly skilled professional army.
The motion before us states that Canada's commitment in Afghanistan is an important contribution, with that of more than 30 other countries, to international efforts under the auspices of the United Nations and NATO. But where is NATO?
When the current mission was decided upon last summer, the Liberals told us that Canadian Forces would be transferred to NATO operational control by this spring, by February. The transfer has been delayed not once but several times. Today we read newspaper reports that Canada might well end up leading the NATO mission, presumably because no other NATO country wants the job.
It is a misleading motion before us. Our current commitment is under the auspices of neither the United Nations nor NATO. It is under Operation Enduring Freedom. In this situation, facing this uncertainty, the NDP cannot in good conscience vote for it.