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February 16, 2007

Canadians in Afghanistan, via The Economist

A positive — one might even say warm-fuzzy — post on the Canadian contribution to the fight against the Taliban, from The Economist:

The deployment in Afghanistan is a much bigger deal for Canada than it is for the Americans or the Brits. The Canadians stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, but for most of the past 50 years they turned themselves into the ultimate "soft" power, deploying their soldiers mainly for peacekeeping.

In Kandahar they have gone back to being a fighting force, and have lost more than 40 lives in the process.

If the Brits have been having a hard time in Helmand, it is the Canadians in Kandahar province who fought the decisive battle of Nato's war so far, leading a brigade-sized assault on Taliban positions in the Panjwayi valley last autumn.

The Canadians are the first contingent to bring main battle tanks to Afghanistan. The French-speaking men of the Vandoos regiment in Panjwayi look even bigger and meaner than the Royal Marines in Kajaki.

The operation is hugely controversial at home. A Canadian Senate report this month said: "Anyone expecting to see the emergence in Afghanistan within the next several decades of a recognisable modern democracy capable of delivering justice and amenities to its people is dreaming in Technicolor."

Yet among the soldiers there is a sense of relief at getting rid of the blue helmets and white paint from their armoured vehicles. There is even some macho mocking of the Dutch in the neighbouring province of Uruzgan: "Wooden shoes, wouldn't shoot," they quip.

Posted by Nicholas at February 16, 2007 06:41 PM

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