Canadian Report Says NATO Bred Mistrust in Afghanistan

A report released by two Canadian military historians, Jack Granatstein and David Bercuson, says that Canada should think long and hard before entering another coalition, similar to NATO.  The report says that NATO bred mistrust in Afghanistan.  Part of the problem was the caveats placed on troops of other nations.  These restrictions, according to the report, hampered decisions by commanders on the ground.

The report lays much of the blame due to the mission not being clearly communicated.  As far as the authors of the report are concerned, this caused unnecessary casualties.

“This greatly affected Canadian commanders and soldiers in Kandahar, inflicted unnecessary casualties and forced them to rely on U.S. resources, the only military resources that could be counted on, for succour.”

“Less constrained military commitments and greater political will from NATO members will be essential if Canada should ever again wish to place its soldiers and treasure into a major long-lasting NATO operation.  Anything less must call into question Canada’s membership in the alliance.”

There is no question that Canada did more than its lion’s share in Afghanistan, considering the size of Canada’s military.  For years Canada requested other NATO members to step up to the plate with one battalion sized group to reinforce its forces in Kandahar province.

The report also blames bureaucrats and politicians for bureaucratic infighting, since no clear directions were given by politicians on who was in charge of advising the Afghan government.   As a result other government departments were trying to remove the military from this task.

Therein lies the problem, politicians make decisions and the military ends up executing them.  Without clear direction when several government departments are involved, there are a lot of blurry gray areas.

“The political nature of the mission became even more unclear even as the military nature became more focused.  Canada was handicapped in its goal of fitting the mission to the circumstances of a high intensity insurgency because both NATO and the United States did not clearly define a new strategy for Afghanistan until 2009,” the report said.   The report goes on to say that Canada had no impact on decisions made by the U.S. on Afghanistan even when they  directly impacted Canadian troops.

Canadian troops were deployed to Afghanistan starting in January 2002.  The initial deployment was a battalion sized battle group operating from Kandahar Airfield.  Comprised of light infantry, the battalion was highly trained in mountain, airborne and heliborne operations.  Patrolling was also a mainstay.  In 2004 Canada took on the responsibility of Kandahar province (Task Force Kanadahar)  with a brigade sized force of 2800.  In July the force was reduced to approximately 1000 and the combat mission ended.  Canada now trains Afghan Security Forces.  157 Canadian soldiers have paid the ultimate price in Afghanistan.


About the Author

Karl Gotthardt - Politisite Managing Editor Maj. Gotthardt is a Retired Military Officer with 35 years service in the Canadian Armed Forces. He spent most of his time in the Military in Infantry Battalions. Karl took part in training for Afghanistan as an Operator Analyst with the Canadian Maneouvre Training Centre. Karl is a qualified military parachutist and military free fall parachutist. He earned his U.S. Master Jump Wings in Fort Benning, Georgia. Karl enjoys working with horses for the last 24 year. He owns six. He has experience in breeding, training and of course riding.Karl was born in Germany and is fluent in both English and German and he speaks enough French to "get in trouble". Karl has written or writes at NowPublic, All Voices, Tek Journalism and many others.

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