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Sometimes It Gets Worse Before It Gets Worse

From August 27, 2008

Some feel that Canada should not have entered Afghanistan at all, that the civilians there did not deserve retribution for something they did not do. Others argue that Canada was right to seek order and justice in Afghanistan, to rout out al Qaeda, in support of our allies. The opinions of many more Canadians fall somewhere in between. There is one thing with which all should agree, whether the mission is righteous or misguided - the situation in Afghanistan is getting worse, and Harper's government doesn't seem to have a plan to handle it.

In the first five months of this year, 62% more civilians were killed in Afghanistan than during the same period last year. As civilian deaths mount, anger in the region rises. A US aerial bombing on July 1, 2008, killed 47 people as they travelled to a wedding. Among the dead were 39 women and children, including the bride. On July 27, 2008, Canadian soldiers fired on a vehicle rapidly approaching their checkpoint, killing two young children inside. As of August 26, at least 705 Afghan civilians were killed by coalition or insurgent attacks in 2008.

Says Jawed Hamim, a newspaper editor in Afghanistan, "We are hearing that if a family is killed, definitely a brother or another person of their family will join Taliban because they were killed by foreign forces. [They think] air strikes are killing people and they should be brought to justice, they should be punished."

The Taliban gets stronger with each civilian killed, but the Conservative government doesn't seem to recognize this, and is unable to articulate what the mission in Afghanistan is. There is no time table or end game, just extension after extension.

The best hope for Afghan civilians is complete withdrawal, or an immediate shift to a narrowed peace-keeping mission. Or doing just about anything else. But the Harper government is only willing to maintain the status quo, with no thought on alternatives, which will leave Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan indefinitely.