December CAF acting as peacekeepers, ended with Canadian soldiers

December
of 2002, Canadian troops are sent to Afghanistan to aid the Afghan government
in resisting the Taliban (a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement) as
well as Al-Queda (a terrorist group), thus beginning Canada’s involvement in
the war in Afghanistan, and lasted until 2014. Canada’s presence in Afghanistan
had made a huge impact on Canada, making it the nation it is today. Politically,
Canada was seen as weak and without value when it came to warfare purposes due
to lack of machinery and men in the country’s military, but after its
performance in Afghanistan, other countries and the NATO board began to see another,
ambitious side of Canada. Socially, officers who operated in Afghanistan
started a new trend in having respect for their troops and viewing soldiers and
people of every nationality or rank as an equal. Lastly, being in Afghanistan
changed the way the Canadian military carries themselves; what started with the
CAF acting as peacekeepers, ended with Canadian soldiers going into battles to
fight for the victory and security of a country. Compared to the world wars,
the War in Afghanistan can be seen as irrelevant, especially since the troops were
pulled due to failure of their missions. One could make a point though, that it
is one of the most relevant events in Canada’s history due to not only the
effects it had on Afghanistan, but also on Canada. Canada’s presence in
Afghanistan assisted in molding Canada into what it is today.

 

Canada
was a country with little say on world issues that involve warfare at the NATO
table. Then, when Afghanistan broke out in a civil crisis, and it was Canada’s
call to step up. The country’s military forces were small compared to larger
German and Italian contingents, but that meant nothing when it came to pushing
weight around during meetings about Afghan operations (pg.9, para. 1, The Afghanistan Papers NO.10, Stephen M.
Saideman). Whereas Italy and Germany spent most of their time creating excuses
and finding fault in every plan before sending troops, Canada took action
immediately. CAFs were sent to help remove the insurgent group and help rebuild
Afghanistan to be a self-sufficient country. This changed how NATO looked at
Canadian forces, “So,
the first lesson is that influence now comes to those that do, not to those who
are just present. It was no accident that the Libyan mission was commanded by a
Canadian after the country’s performance in Afghanistan,” (pg. 9, para. 2, The Afghanistan Papers NO.10, Stephen M.
Siademan).

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Having sent a large number of
Canadian officers to Afghanistan, it is likely that many will have adapted to
changes that were made when serving, and will carry on their previous commander’s
beliefs. For example, Rick Hillier, Commander of the Canadian Army and Commander
of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces in Kabul, was a man that
soldiers looked up to. Hillier
did not only change the way countries including Canada thought about the CAF,
but he was a commander that changed the way minority soldiers were treated. He was
called ‘Uncle Rick’ by his troops due to the way he interacted with his
soldiers. “Hillier
would regularly sit and eat with the troops in the mess; this at a time when
most Generals insisted they be given their own mess separate from the others.
At briefings, Hillier asked every person what they thought about a situation at
hand – regardless of their rank, language, or nationality” (Why troops
so loved Gen. Hillier, Edmonton Journal, 2008). Hillier retired in 2008,
and not much has changed since he left. Many officers who experienced his way
of collaboration and having seen his results continue to attempt walking in his
footsteps. (The Afghanistan Papers NO.10,
Stephen M Saidmen).  Many officers who
served in Afghanistan will not think twice about race or place of birth, but
will look at the man or woman beside them and treat them with respect. Not only
did this change the way soldiers viewed other soldiers but would have an impact
on the minority movement for people of different nationalities back home in
Canada. Beginning in Afghanistan with Hillier, down to the soldiers, and back
home, a train of new social views was on its way through Canada. Hillier had made
a contribution the social movement for minorities in Canadian society.

 

Missions in Afghanistan were originally focused
on the peacekeeping and security of the country but like all things, it came to
an end; Canadian soldiers were no longer there to maintain peace. Canadian
diplomat Glyn Berry was killed by a suicide bomber in Kandahar, Afghanistan on January
15, 2006. Finally, the eyes of the nation were opened and Canadians were ready
to fight. “Then Berry was killed and an almost
daily count of Canadian casualties began. Canadians are now in the
process of waking up to what soldiers do. Soldiers fight wars and prepare to
fight wars–big wars, small wars, asymmetric wars, wars against terror, wars
against tyranny. Soldier is not a synonym for peacekeeper,” (David J. Bercuson,
para. 12-13, Canada’s Changing Role in
Afghanistan, 2006). Canadians had become mad with a desire for revenge on
the Taliban for the murders of their troops. Canadian forces were no longer
focused on things like providing fresh drinking water or building schools. Beginning
in February 2006, missions in Kabul consisted of protecting President Hamid
Karzai, as for southern Afghanistan, they were sent to fight and annihilate the
Taliban. The CAF slowly left peacekeeping in its past and began to plunge deeper
into the battlefield. Today, Canada is no longer involved any U.N peacekeeping
missions.

 

            When
discussing the main objective of the missions in Afghanistan and the tragic
failures that resulted, it could seem as though Canada had no benefit from
being there. When Canada’s main focus was on peacekeeping, the tasks they
completed barely helped citizens of Afghanistan, so what was the point? “Schools
have been built. But in many cases, families are too afraid to send their
children to them,” (Thomas Walkom, para. 6, Afghan
War was a Waste of Canadian Lives, 2011.) Later on, when the forces moved
to Kandahar, the CAF was able to deconstruct the Taliban permanently, or so
they thought. They began rebuilding Kandahar and attempting to remove the great
deal of war devastation. What Canadian troops failed to realize
was the Taliban had been reconstructing itself in Pakistan, and were slowly
filtering fighters into Kandahar (Roland Paris, para. 9, How
Canada Failed in Afghanistan, 2014). The Taliban took into account they
would have the element of surprise and successfully attacked the CAF and
Afghanistan government forces. Thus, leading to another list of Canadian
casualties. If all Canadians seemed to do were fail, why is Canada’s presence
in the Afghanistan war relevant in the nation’s history?

 

            Although Canada
utterly failed to obtain their main goal in Afghanistan, Canada’s presence
there had major effects on not only Afghanistan but back home as well. For
example, Glyn Berry’s death acted as a trigger for the nation of Canada, making
the country have a desire for blood more than peace; resulting in abandoning Kabul
to fight in Kandahar and southern Afghanistan and withdrawal from U.N
peacekeeping missions as well as pulling Canadian troops out of other missions
that were directed towards peacekeeping around the world. Today, Canada’s
reputation with the world has changed significantly due to the attitude shift
towards war, it is now a country that will fight. Though, after fighting for so
many years, the anger has mixed with fear. Families today now more than ever
are trying to avoid unnecessary wars due to the amount of men sacrificed and
wasted by the Canadian Forces during Aghan missions. Afghanistan was also the
longest war (2001-2014) and first significant engagement since the Korean War. Canadian
troops that survived Afghanistan are now home safe and the nation is not ready
to let their soldiers return to war.

 

Overall, Canada’s military
was changed and Canadian politics as well as social movements were affected due
to the experience in Afghanistan. NATO as well as other countries now view Canada
as a more get-up-and-go country when a crisis has appeared at their doorstep,
thanks to their initiative and eagerness to act in Afghanistan. Having sent a
mass number officers to Afghanistan, and Hillier influencing the social views
of soldiers around him, the new social trend of acceptance towards all ethnicities
would carry on through the soldiers who held true to Hillier’s beliefs. Later troops
returning home with a respect for everyone began influencing the citizens of Canada
continuing the path of respect and acceptance, and largely affecting the social
movements among the Canadian people. Lastly, Canadians experienced major change
in military operations focusing more on elimination of threats and less on
keeping peace within countries; losing the Canadian reputation of ‘the
peacekeepers of the world’. There are points to be made about the failure of
Afghan missions leading one to think the events that occurred have zero
significance to Canada and ought to be left in the past, but the lessons that
can be drawn from the experiences and mistakes made in Afghanistan are very
important and have widely impacted Canada. Canada today is now seen as a
respected country, with an accepting society, and a military who is willing to
get their hands dirty for justice and revenge, all because of the nation’s
presence in Afghanistan.