TRU prof says Afghan mission a success
Time will tell what happens in Afghanistan after Canada withdraws its troops in 2014, but a Thompson Rivers University professor says the effort has been a success for the Canadian military.
“I think it’s been a success in that we’ve upgraded our ability to intervene effectively,” Nick Gammer, a political-sciences professor at TRU, told KTW.
Gammer, who earlier this month presented a paper on Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan at a conference at Ball State University in Indiana, said what happens in the future will be up to Afghans.
“I think, like a lot of foreign events we participate in, we had little choice but to participate in this kind of multi-lateral intervention,” he said.
“As for what will be left on the ground in Afghanistan, I think you will see a stalemated situation for quite some time.”
Canadian troops have been in Afghanistan since late 2001. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced there would be no more Canadian boots on the ground there after 2014.
“But, this is part of a diplomatic game the international community plays — they get in, they get out,” Gammer said.
“Maybe the raw truth is people need to find their own path.
“Maybe that tells us something about how we should approach future interventions.
“I think, militarily, we’ll probably be better prepared operationally . . . and politically.”
As for what the next Canadian-involved military intervention might look like, Gammer pointed to Africa — a continent he called a political “hinterland” where lawlessness prevails.
“I think there’s a lot of signs saying that extremists and al-Qaeda are pushing into that area,” he said.
“A good example of that is the trouble with piracy.”
Gammer’s latest paper on Afghanistan, which he spent three years putting together, is titled Canada’s Afghanistan Mission and New Directions in Managing Foreign Policy.
“I was really interested about the politics behind how we got ourselves into Afghanistan,” he said.
“That led me to do a number of interviews with cabinet ministers and high-ranking military people.”
A lot of those interviews, Gammer said, were not for attribution. That has presented some challenges in terms of writing an academic paper.
“The difficulty with this kind of work is that there aren’t a bank and body of conventional recognized references and you’re relying very heavily on off-the-record interviews,” he said.
“You talk to people and form tentative conclusions, but you have to be very careful with how you phrase those conclusions.”
Gammer said the war in Afghanistan — he called the term “stabilization mission” a “beautifully sanitized phrase” — is far from black and white.
“I think the NATO people have been trying desperately to make it work,” he said.
“They accomplished what they were assigned to do with their limited resources.”