Friday, May 8, 2009

'Canadian soldiers did not bring peace'

It appears that the mighty spin machine of the Canadian military utterly failed to find an angle on this one:

'Drawback' New Tactic: Military
Brian Hutchinson - National Post

MAY 4 - Canada's military says it has not abandoned villagers in the Taliban-controlled western Panjwaii district, insisting that the "drawback" of troops last week and the dismantling of a Canadian-built police substation are tactical victories.

Tearing down the Mushan substation signals the start of a new strategy that will see Canadian Forces troops move closer to Kandahar city...

The police substation, lately referred to as a strong point, was taken apart and troops were redeployed in a large-scale operation called Munkiredal, the Pashto word for deny.

The name might seem ironic. But Canadian officers say it reflects that the strong point was eliminated and all its equipment removed, thus denying the Taliban any opportunity to claim anything from the site.

In a briefing yesterday with reporters at Kandahar Air Field, officers explained that the 64 Afghan National Army soldiers who were stationed inside the tiny and primitive fortress, along with a rotation of eight Canadian military mentors, had not effectively disrupted insurgent activity in the area. The strongpoint was constantly under siege, according to the military.

Mushan is a hardscrabble agricultural community about 40 kilometres west of Kandahar Air Field. It is now under Taliban control, the officers conceded, as is much of the Panjwaii peninsula...

The strongpoint was built there in 2007 to protect the local population from further Taliban attack, reprisal and recruitment. Two other Canadian-built strong points east of Mushan, in the villages of Talukan and in Zangabad, were dismantled last year. Talukan was the scene of a Taliban-led massacre of civilians in December, 2006.

The entire Panjwaii district area remains an area of Canadian responsibility. The number of Taliban operating there is difficult to determine. Their movements are seasonal, and they concentrate in certain areas. Canadian officers can't say if there are fewer insurgents now compared to three years ago. (link)
So, according to the article, Canadian officers declare the abandonment of Mushan to be a victory because they removed stuff from the outpost before the Taliban could loot it. Classic.

Hutchinson has more, following a discussion with CDS Natynczyk when he accompanied PM Harper on the latter's secret trip to Kandahar recently:
'Taliban hate our guts,' top soldier says
Brian Hutchinson - Canwest News Service

MAY 9 - Villagers in a Taliban-controlled area west of Kandahar City are applauding last week's drawback of Canadian and Afghan troops, saying the presence of coalition forces in their communities had only complicated their lives.

"Canadian and Afghan soldiers did not bring peace into the area where we are living," says one landowner in Mushan village, western Panjwaii district...

Even though insurgents in western Panjwaii are now "walking around freely and with rifles, (residents) are more relaxed than when the fort was here," the man added.

It's not a flattering assessment, but it is one Canada's top soldier accepts.

Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk told Canwest News Service in an interview this week the Mushan strong point did not help clear the area of Taliban.

Instead, the installation drew insurgents to Mushan like moths to a flame...

The landowner added: "We were living in fear when the fort was there. The Taliban would attack it, and of course the Canadian and Afghan army would react. Civilians suffered casualties." ...

Two other Canadian-built strong points just to the east also were built in 2007, in the villages of Zangabad and Talukan. They were dismantled last year.

In a recent briefing, Canadian officers told reporters that all three substations were constantly under siege. The situation was "untenable," one said... (link)
The recent history of Mushan
It is easy to see why the people of Mushan might be fed up with the foreigners' armed presence in their village. A look at the recent history of the town reveals a sordid record:

In December 2006, Mushan was reportedly cleared of a force of 900 Taliban fighters in Operation Baaz Tsuka, courtesy of US, Canadian and British forces, including British special forces. While the Taliban reportedly executed some two dozen locals before their exit, they didn't put up much of a fight against the occupying forces.

In April 2007, an Afghan police unit set up shop in Mushan and the newly-assigned cops got to work extorting locals for food and money. Soon, the commander of the station had rekindled an old feud with an official of the National Directorate for Security, resulting in armed clashes between the police and NDS which killed perhaps a dozen police.

By June of 2007, the Afghan police force had been removed from the area and the Canadian Forces began an embedded training program with the Afghan police, called POMLT. Canadian military officials assured Globe and Mail reporter Graeme Smith that Panjwai had been mostly pacified by then. "[T]he Panjwai area is one of the safer areas in the province," Canadian Brigadier-General Tim Grant said. It was, however, an obvious lie. Locals at the time told Smith that the Taliban controled parts of the district and it is by now a well-known fact that clearing the area of insurgents has done little to deter them for long.

In May of 2008, Canadian forces refused to adequately compensate farmers in Mushan whose poppy crops were destroyed by Canadian troops while they were building a road. While a neighboring wheat farmer received $1500 in compensation, three poppy farmers, whose losses were as great, received only about $100 a piece.

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