Editor’s note: At The True North Times, we like to laugh with our news. But war is no joking matter. What follows is a sombre look at the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.
Last Sunday, thousands of hands shook in unison. The sound of people patting each other on the back measured on the Richter scale. And somewhere there was probably even some champagne bubbling over.
Because it was over, finally the war in Afghanistan had been concluded to the roarious applause and thanks of millions around the world. After 12 years, 12 billion dollars, and 158 lives of Canadian soldiers, two civilian contractors, and a journalist, we had done it. Mission accomplished. Queue the streamers.
But as the Canadian flag was lowered inch by inch at the NATO headquarters in Kabul, there was hardly a celebration. Not everyone seemed to share in the revelry spirit. Instead, reporters weren’t allowed to comment on the event due to operational security risks, armed patrols around the building were on high alert, and everyone seemed touched by unease – their eyes lost and blinded by the sun, shifting left and right as the brief, dusty ceremony went on.
This is the legacy that has been left. It is a story that has been stopped midsentence, a book that was closed too soon, and dissatisfaction is what remains.
There is no certainty that the goals, whatever they were, were accomplished. Looking at Kabul, the opposite seems true. While civil construction has occurred and infrastructure has improved in some places of Afghanistan, the city is still very much a battleground. Resentment of occupation has led to greater resentment, which fueled more terrorism. Two months ago, a roadside bomb killed 21 in a restaurant. A Swedish journalist was murdered on Sunday.
This is despite the streets being clogged by checkpoint after checkpoint, barbed wire after barbed wire. Giant concrete blocks pepper the streets. Military personnel pepper whatever is left. It is a prison closed and sealed with the wardens moving out one by one by one.
Canadians are among the many to already leave. But their departure is not like a dog scurrying with its tail between its legs. It is like a snail leaving a shoe that it tried to use as a shell. The shoe was too clunky, unfit and dangerous to say the least, and the snail was a few slides away from being squished like a bug.
Of course, Canadians were hardly an infestation. Story after story reveals soldiers acting valiantly and heroically while others would balk at the odds. Yet, questions remain. Were they needed to display such courage in the first place? And if so, then in leaving now, have we truly succeeded? Or is the mission left completely unfulfilled, like a toilet that has been clogged with no one to clean it up?
No answers present themselves in this Sisyphean debate. There is only uncertainty, gnawing approximations, and large doubts in Afghanistan. Worse yet is that these worries are exacerbated in our absence.
With the Canadian flag stored and collecting dust, we can only bite our nails while waiting for the shit to hit the fan.
It may not happen, and the joke may be on us. Twelve years may have fixed everything. Canadian lives may have not been lost in vain. And we might pop champagne after all, laughing about how great and benevolent and necessary our presence in Afghanistan really was.