Four Canadian soldiers, part of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry operating in Afghanistan, were killed by a suicide bomber on a bicycle. A number of civilians were also killed. (CTV.CA) Damien Penny has commentary. A UN envoy called the incident "a crime against humanity." But Canadian officials are now defending against criticism of the Afghan deployment. (Cnews)
As Michael Yon has pointed out, the per capita losses to the force deployed in Afghanistan are the same as Iraq. Moreover, Afghanistan has certain characteristics which may make it potentially a harder mission. First, Afghanistan is divided into tribal factions not all of whom are satisfied with Karzai's government. Second, the country's reliance on the opium crop, which the Taliban (belying its "religious" nature) supports and which the government is trying to discourage. Third, its proximity to the sanctuaries of Pakistan and Iran, not to mention its border with former Soviet Central Asia. Lastly, there is the history and geography of Afghanistan, all of which are hostile to the establishment of peace and order.
This time most liberals can't be accused of muddying the waters. Compared to Iraq, Afghanistan has been treated by Democratic critics and the Press as the "Good War". Yet, despite real gains, Afghanistan illustrates how neither "multilateralism", "the legitimacy of the UN", nor the substantive absence of hostile press coverage can completely alter the fact that the West is still learning to fight this war effectively. Of course, despite Afghanistan's political advantages, its difficulties are now attracting liberal attention, which has started, albeit in low key, the campaign in Canada, to "cut and run". Yet if the West can "cut and run" in Afghanistan, which by multilateral assent is a justified campaign, then where will it be determined to stand? As the remarks over Papal remarks illustrates, it is probably not willing to stand anywhere, for as long as sacrifices or determination are required. The bottom line is that there is no substitute for the development of new and better ways to combine force, diplomacy, intelligence and culture in one effective campaign.
Parenthetically, the recent experiences in Afghanistan should put event in Iraq in some perspective. In Afghanistan, we are watching multilateral NATO in action against a much weaker force than is to be found in Iraq. My prediction is that in a few months, many people will realize the commanders in Iraq weren't as stupid as the press made them out to be.