20 décembre 2019 | Local, Autre défense

Canadian Forces had valuable ‘insights’ in Afghanistan, defence minister says following damning U.S. report

By Charlie Pinkerton.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says Canadian Forces deployed to Afghanistan contributed useful insights to American forces, whose past military operations in the country have drawn new scrutiny following The Washington Post's publication of the so-called Afghanistan Papers.

The documents obtained and published by the Post are the product of hundreds of interviews carried out by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR). SIGAR was mandated to complete a series of reports exploring the effectiveness of its nearly two-decade, close to trillion-dollar mission that it began as a retaliation against al-Qaeda for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The documents fought for in court by the Post include notes, transcripts and audio recordings that the subjects had been promised would not be made public by the government. They provide a thorough look at the frustrations and concerns of top U.S. brass and a lack of understanding of the conflict by the American military and its government.

One of the revelations of the Afghanistan Papers is the that as the conflict continued, top American military officials considered it an unwinnable conflict.

Sajjan completed three Afghanistan tours, where he worked in intelligence before working directly with top American troops as an adviser.

In giving his take on how the Canadian perspective compared to that of the Americans during the mission, Sajjan said the Canadian Armed Forces had a better understanding of the realities of the conflict than its closest allies.

READ MORE: A year-end Q&A with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan

“I would say the insights the Canadians provided were actually very useful. That's one point that I'm trying to get across here, and I appreciate the Americans coming out and talking about this now,” Sajjan said. “Canadians were providing a very good perspective, very early on, to have a much more, I would say, accurate account of what is happening,”

One passage the Post highlighted from the thousands of pages of documents to underscore the discontent with the conflict by U.S. officials was an interview with Douglas Lute, a former top army general who became an adviser on the Afghan war in the White House.

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn't know what we were doing,” Lute said. “What are we trying to do here? We didn't have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

Sajjan said good decisions were made only with an “accurate” and “good understanding” of the Afghanistan conflict.

From 2001 to 2014, 40,000 Canadians served in Afghanistan. There were 158 Canadian soldiers killed. On top of its military effort, Canada has provided more than $3 billion in international assistance to Afghanistan since 2001.

In talking about Canada's operations in Afghanistan, Sajjan also defended well-known Canadian-led aspects of the mission, such as the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT, but known colloquially as omelette) and its stabilization-focused whole-of-government approach to the conflict.

“What I'm trying to say here is that the work that Canada did there was highly valued and I appreciate other allies coming out with different perspectives,” Sajjan said.


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