Monday, September 18, 2006

On guard in Afghanistan: The Canadians at the tip of the spear 

It has been easy to complain about Canada, which greatly vexed American hawks (including me) during 2002 and 2003, and which still seethes with anti-Americanism, at least according to the press coverage. We owe Canada a great debt, though, for her important contributions in Afghanistan. Four more Canadians died there today, this time to a suicide bomber that slaughtered almost thirty civilians. By my count, 37 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan since the invasion in 2002.

The Canadians are not only fully engaged with the enemy, they are leading the fight. Avoiding for a moment the tiresome boilerplate that every death is tragic, 37 does not seem like a lot of dead soldiers. Canada, however, is a small country. Proportionate to its population, Canada has contributed more in the blood of its fine soldiers than the United States has.

Canada is suffering these casualties because it is out in front. Relative to the size of its expeditionary force Canada is suffering huge casualties compared to other NATO countries, including the United States.

The study written by researchers Bill Robinson and Steven Staples found a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan is six times more likely to die than a U.S. soldier fighting in Iraq.

Robinson said he was surprised by the figures since Iraq is generally viewed as the more serious conflict. ''It's pretty clear the Taliban's capabilities have expanded significantly over the last year,'' he said. ''So very clearly (Afghanistan) is a serious war.''

The report echoes a British study released earlier this month by Sheila Bird, vice-president of the Royal Statistical Society. Her report found that the level of fighting in Afghanistan is much greater than during the period of major combat in Iraq in 2003.

Bird noted that the fatality rate among Canadian and British troops in Afghanistan from May 1, 2006 to Aug. 12, 2006 was higher than Britain's fatality rate in Iraq during the 2003 invasion and its immediate aftermath. That combined British-Canada casualty rate is six times the British fatality rate in Iraq for that 2003 period, according to the professor's study.

The Canadian study came from a left-leaning group, which seems to be positioning it as evidence that Canada is shouldering a disproportionate share of the combat in Afghanistan, and in opposition to the Harper government's decision to increase the Canadian commitment. That is all the more reason that Americans should be grateful.

MORE: The Torch is a blog devoted to the Canadian military.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Sep 18, 02:37:00 PM:

Without appearing to denigrate in any way the tragic losses of canadian lives, I think a study of Israeli lives lost, military and civilian, not only shows in absolute numbers the massive proportion that these numbers bare to the Israeli population in Israel, but it also illustrates vividly the change in tactics following the death of that serial terrorist arafat and his suicide bombers, with the advent of rocketry from iran in recent years.

I cannot believe that ANY nation could stand idly by while carnage of its population, in these percentages is going on.
Remember these atrocities were commited by arabs sustained by UN/EU funds, under UN sponsored peace agreements, which required UN disarmament of the savages, and UN prevention of arms smuggling.
Quite why the west has tolerated this situation, whilst castigating Israel for attempting to enforce rules that after all UN forces refuse to enforce, totally eludes me  

By Blogger allen, at Mon Sep 18, 02:50:00 PM:

How well armed are the Canadians? Not that long ago, there was something of a scandal about the Canadian lack of airlift. Without some context, what do the Canadian losses indicate?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Sep 18, 03:21:00 PM:

Logistics aside, it indicates the Canadians are our good friends, and are carrying the fight to the enemy.  

By Blogger Jack, at Mon Sep 18, 04:06:00 PM:

We need to begin expecting more out of our friends. Low expectations lead to low results.

As of a few years ago, Canada spent the lowest about of money on defense of any country in NATO besides Luxembourg.  

By Blogger GreenmanTim, at Mon Sep 18, 04:49:00 PM:

The Canadian Forces are configured with peacekeeping and global police missions in mind. They routinely contribute combat units and equipment to UN missions and as TH notes take significant casualties.

Still, they are not immune to some misplaced self critiques. Check out this news report http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2006/09/09/1818762-cp.html documenting a Canadian Defense study of how the armed forces may contribute to the introduction of invasive species on the boots and equipment of combat units returning from Afganistan.

" The Defence Department report concludes the military is too lax about preventing foreign insects and weeds from hitching rides to Canada on vehicles, ships and equipment returning from missions abroad.

Afghanistan in particular harbours at least 28 troublesome species that have already invaded that war-torn country and could threaten Canada if inadvertently carried back home in a soldier's backpack or in the mud caked on a Jeep chassis.

"Were any of these species to be returned to Canada, the associated problems might well be as bad or worse as they have been in Afghanistan," says the report, obtained under the Access to Information Act.

"Worse yet, Afghanistan may harbour native species that could become IASs (invasive alien species) in Canada," with autumn olive and Himalayan knotweed cited as two potential threats. "

Absolute rubbish - and yes, for the record it is GreenmanTim the invasive species guru of the Litchfield Hills who just said that about invasive species prevention in this case. The report was authorized by a civilian agronomist in charge of invasive alien species management at Canadian National Defence, and even he states that "I think any threat from Afghanistan is very minor when you take a look at (commercial) traffic from around the world that comes into Canadian ports."

Well of course! As if Russian Olive were not a million times more likely to be introduced to Canada in nursery material than as hitchhikers on ammo pallets from the Khyber Pass. Early detection and rapid response to invasive pests, pathogens and plant material is sound policy, but this seems to be one of the least essential vectors of their spread to focus time and money on. Sounds like bureaucracy as usual, though.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Sep 18, 04:51:00 PM:

Told you!
Allen, the Canadian troops in Afghanistan are well-armed and supported by US and British air. Very shortly we will be moving a squadron of tanks there to support our battle group. Canda lacks a heavy airlift capability, however, which the Harper government is in the process of remedying.
Cutler, you're right about our lame defence spending. The new Harper government recognizes this and is increasing our spending significantly.
Tigerhawk, Canada does not seethe with anti-Americanism. We do, however, have a very noisy left wing, which does seethe with anti-Americanism. But there's a big difference. And you should note that our socialist political party, the noisiest of the left wing America haters, gets around 17% of the vote, when they're lucky.  

By Blogger Paul_B, at Mon Sep 18, 05:33:00 PM:

For those who don't think that Canada has pulled it's weight read this:


I tired of hearing we don't spend enough on military hardware and therefore are deadbeats. Where has everyone else been when Canada stood up?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Sep 18, 05:44:00 PM:

Oh! And I forgot to say thank you for highlighting our contribution.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Mon Sep 18, 08:06:00 PM:

Canada is ideally placed to be a special-forces, psy-ops military.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Mon Sep 18, 08:10:00 PM:

Screetus, thank you for the nuance there on Canadian anti-Americanism.  

By Blogger Scott, at Mon Sep 18, 08:32:00 PM:

The Canadians, Dutch and the British have ably stepped up to the plate in Southern Afganistan and deserve out utmost thanks. The Poles will be joining them in Febuary and will be a welcome addition also. I apologise before time if I left anyone out. My heartfelt thanks to all of our friends.  

By Blogger allen, at Mon Sep 18, 08:34:00 PM:


No disrespect was intended and I hope none seemed implied. My question went the reliability of government statistics absent context. Occasionally, we here in the states find politicians to be self-serving.

Thank you for the info and thank Canada for the help.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Tue Sep 19, 08:24:00 PM:

And the Romanians...  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Sep 28, 12:57:00 AM:

Canada has traditionally played a role of peace-keepers in global missions, and many canadians are not proud or supportive of our current role as an invading occupant force in Afghanistan. We should all ask ourselves why are we really at war? Apart from the fact that no nation has the right to invade another nation and impose its views and ideas on political (or any other) changes, is there any jusAnd let's not kid ourselves that this invtification for this war, or any war?  

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