Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Afghanistan is now is a democracy

Hamid Karzai officially became Afghanistan's first popularly elected
president Tuesday in a swearing-in ceremony attended by U.S. Vice-President
Dick Cheney and about other 150 foreign dignitaries. (at cbc.ca)

Let us rejoice in what is happening in Afghanistan. For the first time in its ancient history that poor war torn country has a popularly elected governement. Most wonderous phenomena! A few years ago, when the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban was persecuting its own people in the name of religious purity, and providing succour to Osama bin Laden and his ilk, most would not have believed it.

I remember how vocal many folk were that Afghanistan would prove to be a mass American military graveyard, that it was all but impossible to mount a military campaign there in winter, that the local warlords would certainly thwart the establishment of a democratic government (they're still a big problem), and that the Afghani people were not ready for responsible government. People pointed to the ignimonious retreat of the Soviet forces in the 1980s as the comparator.

We should give credit to the "war criminal" George W. Bush and his administration and the US armed forces, the Afghani Northern Alliance (who did much of the original ground fighting) , and the many nations who assisted in the liberation of the Afghani people. Canada has a proud place in this pantheon.

Our troops have served valiantly and well in this mission. Some perished. Up until recently, the Canadian Forces commanded the NATO contingent (under Major-General Leslie), with close to 3,000 soldiers in situ. NATO is tasked with maintaining stability in the capital, and surrounding countryside. Of course, thanks to the federal Liberal government, our degraded military capabilities meant that this level of support was not sustainable.

About a month ago I heard General Leslie talk about how proud our troops were of what they had accomplished. He talked about the many challenges facing Afghanistan, but expressed confidence that they would eventually succeed. As I recall, his basis for that belief was that the Afghani people overwhelmingly want a stable democratic government. He does not think that, in the end, even the warlords will be able to resist the expressed strong will of the people.

Our reduced contingent of some 700 Canadian troops soldiers on at Camp Julien. I understand they have now extended their area of responsibility well beyond the capital of Kabul. I hope their decrepit Iltis jeeps don't completely rust out from under them and the Air Force's Hercules 1960's era C-130 transport aircraft, with their cracked wing spars, don't fall prematurely from the sky during replenishment flights. Per ardua ad astra!

In the words of President Karzai:

We have now left a hard and dark past behind us and today we are opening a new chapter in our history in a spirit of friendship with the international community.

Let us pray that it is so.


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