Military analyst Gwynne Dyer in a speech to Ryerson students at the Rogers Communications Centre Thursday, November 8. Rating: NNNNN
Even if the Northern Alliance takes Kabul, as soon as they head south they're in alien territory. It's uphill sledding all the way.
Within a month the Americans are going to despair of this. It won't work, or it won't work fast enough to get them off the hook. That leaves them with the option they've been avoiding all along: going in and doing the job themselves.
It could be done, and theoretically it could be done quickly. The Americans have enough airlift to get three divisions in there. They'll take casualties in the hundreds, but the U.S. public would sit still for about a thousand dead.
They'll drive the Taliban up into the hills and then put in a post-Taliban Afghan government as quickly as they can.
They could be out of there in six months, leaving the new government to chase down remnants of the Taliban and, eventually, to get bin Laden.
It could work. Will it work? There's an old military saying: "No plan survives contact with the enemy." They're reasonably competent soldiers, the Americans. But if they do go down this road, I think they'll be back to ask for more troops (from Canada and other NATO countries).
I think this time they'll want ground troops, not because they couldn't do without us, but because they need the political cover. It will look a whole lot better. Sniffing around Ottawa recently, I met nobody in a position to make this decision who would say no.
The reasons are manyfold. The Canadian public would support it, and there is an argument that we have a legal obligation under NATO. But most of all, we can't afford to annoy the Americans on this one. They are very angry right now.
If we refused to send ground troops, the retribution would be extremely painful. There are ways America could hurt us without ever admitting they meant to. Imagine, for example, the Americans, in the interest of heightened border security, deciding to examine trucks a little more thoroughly at the border. The Canadian economy begins to tank. You're looking at a disaster.
Ottawa will not take that risk. We will send troops if we're asked, and that means the significant possibility of Canadians dying.
There's also a significant possibility that we could lose people here. I don't think anyone would attempt anything like the World Trade Center.
But car bombs, assassinations are not to be excluded, including here. I'm not painting a pretty picture, am I?on the record