NATO must stay in Afghanistan

Lately, the newswire has become hot with the topic of fraud in the Afghanistan elections. With the legitimacy of the elections at issue, NATO’s (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)role as a result has also been pulled into question.

Currently, NATO’s role is heavily weighted in combat operations and extremely under-focused in the importance of development and diplomacy. The country needs a long-term plan of humanitarian aid and reconstruction, not a simple fix of constant military presence and an ongoing war against fundamentalism. There will likely always be fundamentalists in Afghanistan, and we have no right to think we can revolutionize a set of cultural values because they are unlike our own.

NATO saw Afghanistan’s problem as simply the Taliban: a radical fundamentalist group imposing its will upon the country, instilling a deliberate imbalance between religion and state. They saw this problem through the lens of security. With military victories on the battlefield the problem would in theory be closer to a resolution.

This is clearly not the case. Many Canadian lives have been given to this cause and yet Afghanistan is still in unstable condition with no end in sight. The war is, in fact, the longest in Canadian and American history. Could it be that NATO is wrong? Maybe the success can be had by not only securing Afghan cities through military might, but in restoring faith in their institutions and in their country.

Now, don’t get me wrong; a continued small military presence in Afghanistan will be necessary to ensure NATO’s mission be deemed a success. The unrest will prevent any large changes from occurring, as well as continue to impede on the Afghan National Army from establishing the country’s independence.

But in order for that change to occur, the entire ideology of the operation has to evolve. We need to change our focus away from primarily military operations and support the Afghan citizens in their continued independence from the Taliban by fostering economic opportunity through aid and reconstruction.

Canada and the rest of NATO has delved into their world in the interest to help these people and we cannot simply just leave without establishing and reconstructing that which we have broken apart. NATO has a responsibility to Afghanistan. Now that we have spent years fighting the Taliban insurgents we need to let them fight for themselves.

For Canada, there is still a lot to be done post-2011 when the Canadian mission in Afghanistan is set to “expire”.

Democracy, by definition, must be decided by citizens, not politicians. The Afghan people have long been denied the opportunity of representation and participation in government. With the absence of western democratic principles in Islamic culture, establishing a traditional western democracy with a leadership chosen by NATO would be useless and even inconsiderate to the Afghan people.

Without the people of Afghanistan fully (without Taliban interference) participating in an election and in the process of government, the entire mission would be a failure. This is why we cannot interfere, and simply should be caretakers or watchdogs to help the people of Afghanistan participate in something we Canadians take for granted: freedom.

There needs to be a complete paradigm shift for there to be a success for both NATO and the people of Afghanistan. By changing the focus to redevelopment and humanitarian aid work in the country, rather than continuing to combat in the volatile southern provinces; by helping rebuild and reinstate a government rather than fighting a drug war we will help give Afghanis their freedom.