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Quiet end to Afghan mission

Posted on March 19, 2014 by Lethbridge Sun Times

How many Canadians were aware our nation still had soldiers working in Afghanistan?

According to a recent survey, 42 per cent of us were unaware of that fact, as Wednesday marked the official end to Canada’s Afghan mission. It was a quiet end to the 12-year campaign, which was also marked in the city with a few events.

The last of our 100 Canadian Forces in the country have witnessed their mission formally conclude, as a ceremonial flag-lowering event in Kabul at the Canadian embassy brought an end to Canada’s three-year-old training mission for Afghan security forces. That followed up on our five-year combat mission in Kandahar, a mission that wrapped up in 2011.

But things kicked off for Canada in late 2001, as special forces from our country arrived in the war-torn country. It was the start of a mission which would witness the loss of 158 Canadian soldiers, one diplomat, one journalist and two civilian contractors. In Kandahar, Canada suffered its heaviest casualties in conflict since the Korean War.

In a country where support for our military is sometimes muted, especially compared to our neighbours to the south, it is disappointing to witness the number of Canadians who seem to know very little out our involvement in Afghanistan.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima telephone survey of 1,051 respondents conducted in February, showed most in the nation were undecided about how effective Canada’s Afghan mission actually was, in the grand scheme of things. Two-thirds of the respondents mentioned it was too soon to make that assessment, which, of course, will depend on the progress the country makes in the coming years.

Survey respondents also said they would prefer Canada to undertake peacekeeping missions in the future, as opposed to “military engagement.” Canada has a long history of peacekeeping, in various locations throughout the world, and has built up quite the reputation. It is too bad, however, that reputation appears to have been lost on a good portion of people in this country.

There is no doubt Canadians have done good work across the globe for decades upon decades, no matter what the public sentiment might be on their home soil. Canadian Forces soldiers faced extremely difficult situations in Afghanistan, as did military personnel from a number of other nations, and deserve praise for their efforts.

Debate can rage as to whether military intervention was the right call in the first place, with the benefit of 12 years of hindsight, but the job Canadians did a world away from home should be remembered and recognized here.

The hope is Canadians will respect that contribution in the years to come, and that Afghanistan has been left in a better state due in part to our efforts.

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