Le­gion pres­i­dent vis­its Afghanistan

Stanstead Journal - - FORUM - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Stanstead East

Re­tiredBri­gadier-Gen­eral Robin Gagnon, who is also the pres­i­dent of the Ayer’s Cliff Le­gion Branch 128, spent eight days in Afghanistan, in Jan­uary, on his first over­seas mis­sion as Canada’s Colonel Com­man­dant of the In­fantry. “I vis­ited the troops in Kan­da­har and ‘went out of the wire’. It was out­stand­ing. But what I found was a dis­crep­ancy be­tween what’s said at the House of Com­mons and what is hap­pen­ing on the ground.”

Ac­cord­ing to Brig.-Gen. Gagnon, rather than be­ing in­volved in of­fen­sive mis­sions, the Cana­dian troops are cur­rently train­ing and sup­port­ing the Afghani mil­i­tary who plan and con­duct their own of­fen­sive op­er­a­tions against the Tal­iban. “This is not well-ad­ver­tised and that is the as­pect that was most strik­ing to me. They fail to ac­knowl­edge the progress that has been made; the Cana­dian troops are no longer chas­ing the Tal­iban.” When asked if that meant the Cana­dian troops were safer, he an­swered: “It’s not re­ally safer. There is al­ways a risk, all of the time. Most of the loss of life has been caused by IED’s.”

Dur­ing the eight-day mis­sion, he also learnt how chal­leng­ing it was for mil­i­tary per­son­nel to com­mu­ni­cate with Afghani women. They will only speak with mil­i­tary women who usu­ally must use an in­ter­preter, some­times a man who is apart from the group and us­ing a walki­etalkie.

“I found the mem­bers of the Cana­dian army to be in high spir­its. They see progress be­ing made ev­ery day and that’s re­ward­ing for them. What’s ironic is that they are al­ready do­ing the sup­port work which is our exit

strat­egy: for the Afghani army and po­lice to main­tain law and or­der within their own borders. At the end of the day, the Tal­iban are just crim­i­nals.”

Brig.-Gen. Gagnon wanted to share his per­spec­tive about why the Cana­dian mil­i­tary was in Afghanistan: “Some say we went to Afghanistan to please the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion but that is a short-sighted view. That may have been a part but a small part. Our best ally is the Amer­i­cans and main­tain­ing good re­la­tions with them is of vi­tal in­ter­est to Cana­di­ans.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mr. Gagnon, there are sev­eral rea­sons for the Cana­dian Mis­sion in Afghanistan, be­sides the fact that it is a NATO led op­er­a­tion and Canada is one of the twelve found­ing mem­bers of NATO. “In Afghanistan, girls are for­bid­den to at­tend schools and teach­ers who teach girls are killed. This goes deeply against our val­ues. In sit­u­a­tions like this we can ei­ther pre­tend it does not ex­ist or choose to be there.” The Afghanistan mis­sion is un­der a United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil man­date which gives it the “high­est de­gree of le­git­i­macy.” Fur­ther­more, Canada has “multi-lat­er­al­ism run­ning through its diplo­matic blood. The multi-lat­eral ap­proach is very im­por­tant to us and we are there with many other na­tions.”

There are presently 3000 Cana­dian troops in Afghanistan. That num­ber will go down to 1000, this July, when the mis­sion changes to solely fo­cussing on men­tor­ing the Afghan army.

Brig.-Gen. Gagnon was also re­cently in Mali, on the African con­ti­nent, to teach a two-week course in peace-keep­ing and mis­sion plan­ning to mil­i­tary of­fi­cials from over a dozen African coun­tries, a pro­ject that is spon­sored by For­eign Af­fairs Canada and the Pearson Peace­keep­ing Cen­tre. “We teach within the frame­work of democ­racy and hu­man rights val­ues. It is one stage in a nation-build­ing plan.”

photo pro­vided by Robin Gagnon

Brig.-Gen. (ret’d) Robin Gagnon vis­ited Cana­dian troops in Afghanistan, ear­lier this year, in his po­si­tion as Canada’s hon­orary Colonel Com­man­dant of the In­fantry.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.