Afghanistan: Canada's Operation 'Keeping Goodwill'

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Operation Keeping Goodwill
by C. L. Cook
Two Canadian soldiers are reported today wounded during a new offensive in southern Afghanistan. The Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) says hundreds of Canadian troops are taking part in Operation Khar Khowhai, translated as Keeping Goodwill.

It's a presumptive title at best, as there has been little evidence of a goodwill towards International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) to keep in Afghanistan, whether at bayonet point, or among the largely illusory beneficiaries of Canada's much touted Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT).


 
The two Canadians reportedly received "minor" injuries when a Leopard tank pushing a steamroller designed to detonate land mines they were following was hit by a roadside bomb. Canadian military spokesperson Captain Josee Bilodeau said the two were struck by shrapnel from the bomb; noting the tank was slightly damaged.

This latest "offensive" is reported to include nearly all of Canada's in-country combat troops. Canada currently admits to roughly 2500 military personnel and support operating in Afghanistan, most of those in the Kandahar City area. Canadians deployed to Afghanistan following the American bombing and invasion of the country early in 2002. Seventy Canadian soldiers have been killed, hundreds more wounded since that time.

Canada's contribution to "The Mission," as the government and Canadian media have dubbed the nation's multi-year entanglement, has never enjoyed popular support.
 
Many in Canada opposed the initial bombing and invasion America undertook in the aftermath of the untested theory Osama bin Laden, an Arab fugitive from U.S. justice, purportedly provided sanctuary by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
 
Now, the intransigence of the situation there has swayed many more who once supported Canada's involvement.
 
Today, more than seventy percent of Canadians polled say their armed forces should pull out entirely, before or at the February 2009 deadline set by the Harper government last year.

Harper's Conservative minority government is looking towards a possible vote of confidence when the Parliament reconvenes in October. Until now, the Tories have ruled with an authority more suggestive of a majority with a strongly endorsed platform, this despite its paltry support nation wide.
 
The occupation of Afghanistan will be the biggest test for Harper, who so far has taken political cover behind the opposition Liberal party's support of Canada's continued involvement in the project they initiated while in power, and have continued to support under the Conservatives.

Public opinion was tested this past weekend (Sept. 8, 2007) in Victoria, capital city of the western-most Canadian province of British Columbia. Saturday, hundreds of Victorians showed up to protest the presence of a gathering of NATO generals at the tony, Grand Pacific Hotel, over-looking the city's picturesque inner harbour.
 
The protesters expressed a view, obvious to those involved in the recently redesigned Canadian Forces, NATO's once defensive nature has transformed, most markedly since the destruction of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia, into an agent of an aggressive, even imperial, conquest of nations for lucrative reconstruction contracts and valuable natural resources.

Most prominent among the placards though were pictures of horribly disfigured infants, victims of genetic damage, presumably created as a by-product of the chemical weapons and radioactive ammunition used, and other civilian victims of both the Afghanistan "mission" and the Iraq invasion and occupation.
 
Canada's number one at NATO, and the organization's current chairman of the 26 member-state alliance Military Committee, General Ray Henault, (RCAF) told reporters there NATO's commitments were many, but Afghanistan is primary, saying;

"NATO has a lot of work to do. NATO has operations also underway in Kosovo, Iraq and Darfur, but Afghanistan is NATO's job one, this is our number-one op. priority."

Speaking for the protest, organizer Phil Lyons charged NATO has lost moral justification for its actions, calling for the organization's disbandment, saying;

"NATO is now a weapon of American Imperialists."
 
"NATO is a war tool the West uses to intimidate other nations into submission," commented fellow organizer, Randy Carvaggio.

One man was arrested for riding his bicycle nude in protest. The unidentified protester's bike, trailer, and a pair of Scottish Terriers were taken into custody. The Victoria City Police reported no other incidents.

A Canadian Forces spokesperson called the 36 hour Operation Goodwill a success in furthering the goal of reasserting control over the "volatile region."
 
Even if true, it remains an opinion a majority of Canadians do not share for the mission as a whole, and that will prove to be the prime minister's biggest concern if Canada is, as many speculate, headed for a Fall election.
 

[click here for Pacific Free Press audio report from the protest. - lex]
 
 

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