Decemberof 2002, Canadian troops are sent to Afghanistan to aid the Afghan governmentin resisting the Taliban (a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement) aswell as Al-Queda (a terrorist group), thus beginning Canada’s involvement inthe war in Afghanistan, and lasted until 2014. Canada’s presence in Afghanistanhad made a huge impact on Canada, making it the nation it is today. Politically,Canada was seen as weak and without value when it came to warfare purposes dueto lack of machinery and men in the country’s military, but after itsperformance in Afghanistan, other countries and the NATO board began to see another,ambitious side of Canada. Socially, officers who operated in Afghanistanstarted a new trend in having respect for their troops and viewing soldiers andpeople of every nationality or rank as an equal.
Lastly, being in Afghanistanchanged the way the Canadian military carries themselves; what started with theCAF acting as peacekeepers, ended with Canadian soldiers going into battles tofight for the victory and security of a country. Compared to the world wars,the War in Afghanistan can be seen as irrelevant, especially since the troops werepulled due to failure of their missions. One could make a point though, that itis one of the most relevant events in Canada’s history due to not only theeffects it had on Afghanistan, but also on Canada. Canada’s presence inAfghanistan assisted in molding Canada into what it is today.
Canadawas a country with little say on world issues that involve warfare at the NATOtable. Then, when Afghanistan broke out in a civil crisis, and it was Canada’scall to step up. The country’s military forces were small compared to largerGerman and Italian contingents, but that meant nothing when it came to pushingweight around during meetings about Afghan operations (pg.9, para. 1, The Afghanistan Papers NO.10, Stephen M.Saideman).
Whereas Italy and Germany spent most of their time creating excusesand finding fault in every plan before sending troops, Canada took actionimmediately. CAFs were sent to help remove the insurgent group and help rebuildAfghanistan to be a self-sufficient country. This changed how NATO looked atCanadian forces, “So,the first lesson is that influence now comes to those that do, not to those whoare just present.
It was no accident that the Libyan mission was commanded by aCanadian after the country’s performance in Afghanistan,” (pg. 9, para. 2, The Afghanistan Papers NO.10, Stephen M.Siademan). Having sent a large number ofCanadian officers to Afghanistan, it is likely that many will have adapted tochanges that were made when serving, and will carry on their previous commander’sbeliefs. For example, Rick Hillier, Commander of the Canadian Army and Commanderof the NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces in Kabul, was a man thatsoldiers looked up to.
Hillierdid not only change the way countries including Canada thought about the CAF,but he was a commander that changed the way minority soldiers were treated. He wascalled ‘Uncle Rick’ by his troops due to the way he interacted with hissoldiers. “Hillierwould regularly sit and eat with the troops in the mess; this at a time whenmost Generals insisted they be given their own mess separate from the others.
At briefings, Hillier asked every person what they thought about a situation athand – regardless of their rank, language, or nationality” (Why troopsso loved Gen. Hillier, Edmonton Journal, 2008). Hillier retired in 2008,and not much has changed since he left. Many officers who experienced his wayof collaboration and having seen his results continue to attempt walking in hisfootsteps.
(The Afghanistan Papers NO.10,Stephen M Saidmen). Many officers whoserved in Afghanistan will not think twice about race or place of birth, butwill look at the man or woman beside them and treat them with respect. Not onlydid this change the way soldiers viewed other soldiers but would have an impacton the minority movement for people of different nationalities back home inCanada. Beginning in Afghanistan with Hillier, down to the soldiers, and backhome, a train of new social views was on its way through Canada. Hillier had madea contribution the social movement for minorities in Canadian society. Missions in Afghanistan were originally focusedon the peacekeeping and security of the country but like all things, it came toan end; Canadian soldiers were no longer there to maintain peace. Canadiandiplomat Glyn Berry was killed by a suicide bomber in Kandahar, Afghanistan on January15, 2006.
Finally, the eyes of the nation were opened and Canadians were readyto fight. “Then Berry was killed and an almostdaily count of Canadian casualties began. Canadians are now in theprocess of waking up to what soldiers do. Soldiers fight wars and prepare tofight wars–big wars, small wars, asymmetric wars, wars against terror, warsagainst tyranny. Soldier is not a synonym for peacekeeper,” (David J. Bercuson,para.
12-13, Canada’s Changing Role inAfghanistan, 2006). Canadians had become mad with a desire for revenge onthe Taliban for the murders of their troops. Canadian forces were no longerfocused on things like providing fresh drinking water or building schools. Beginningin February 2006, missions in Kabul consisted of protecting President HamidKarzai, as for southern Afghanistan, they were sent to fight and annihilate theTaliban. The CAF slowly left peacekeeping in its past and began to plunge deeperinto the battlefield. Today, Canada is no longer involved any U.
N peacekeepingmissions. Whendiscussing the main objective of the missions in Afghanistan and the tragicfailures that resulted, it could seem as though Canada had no benefit frombeing there. When Canada’s main focus was on peacekeeping, the tasks theycompleted barely helped citizens of Afghanistan, so what was the point? “Schoolshave been built. But in many cases, families are too afraid to send theirchildren to them,” (Thomas Walkom, para. 6, AfghanWar was a Waste of Canadian Lives, 2011.
) Later on, when the forces movedto Kandahar, the CAF was able to deconstruct the Taliban permanently, or sothey thought. They began rebuilding Kandahar and attempting to remove the greatdeal of war devastation. What Canadian troops failed to realizewas the Taliban had been reconstructing itself in Pakistan, and were slowlyfiltering fighters into Kandahar (Roland Paris, para.
9, HowCanada Failed in Afghanistan, 2014). The Taliban took into account theywould have the element of surprise and successfully attacked the CAF andAfghanistan government forces. Thus, leading to another list of Canadiancasualties. If all Canadians seemed to do were fail, why is Canada’s presencein the Afghanistan war relevant in the nation’s history? Although Canadautterly failed to obtain their main goal in Afghanistan, Canada’s presencethere had major effects on not only Afghanistan but back home as well. Forexample, Glyn Berry’s death acted as a trigger for the nation of Canada, makingthe country have a desire for blood more than peace; resulting in abandoning Kabulto fight in Kandahar and southern Afghanistan and withdrawal from U.Npeacekeeping missions as well as pulling Canadian troops out of other missionsthat were directed towards peacekeeping around the world. Today, Canada’sreputation with the world has changed significantly due to the attitude shifttowards war, it is now a country that will fight.
Though, after fighting for somany years, the anger has mixed with fear. Families today now more than everare trying to avoid unnecessary wars due to the amount of men sacrificed andwasted by the Canadian Forces during Aghan missions. Afghanistan was also thelongest war (2001-2014) and first significant engagement since the Korean War. Canadiantroops that survived Afghanistan are now home safe and the nation is not readyto let their soldiers return to war. Overall, Canada’s militarywas changed and Canadian politics as well as social movements were affected dueto the experience in Afghanistan. NATO as well as other countries now view Canadaas a more get-up-and-go country when a crisis has appeared at their doorstep,thanks to their initiative and eagerness to act in Afghanistan. Having sent amass number officers to Afghanistan, and Hillier influencing the social viewsof soldiers around him, the new social trend of acceptance towards all ethnicitieswould carry on through the soldiers who held true to Hillier’s beliefs. Later troopsreturning home with a respect for everyone began influencing the citizens of Canadacontinuing the path of respect and acceptance, and largely affecting the socialmovements among the Canadian people.
Lastly, Canadians experienced major changein military operations focusing more on elimination of threats and less onkeeping peace within countries; losing the Canadian reputation of ‘thepeacekeepers of the world’. There are points to be made about the failure ofAfghan missions leading one to think the events that occurred have zerosignificance to Canada and ought to be left in the past, but the lessons thatcan be drawn from the experiences and mistakes made in Afghanistan are veryimportant and have widely impacted Canada. Canada today is now seen as arespected country, with an accepting society, and a military who is willing toget their hands dirty for justice and revenge, all because of the nation’spresence in Afghanistan.