Afghan National Army – US Troops – Canadian Forces
– Kandahar City – March 2010
Coming Campaign for Kandahar
– Troops from Canada, the US and the ANA will mount an all-out push to take and
hold key areas
Edited excerpts from article published by the CBC News, 24 February
This winter ... two new elements
have had a galvanizing effect
the international Afghan mission.
The first was President
Obama's decision to triple the number of
troops on the ground
in Afghanistan – a
that is prodding the main allies ...
the war more vigorously.
( In Helmand province, the
offensive in eight years is now
underway.) The second
a palpable sense of time urgency –
next six to ten months must produce a turning point for the counter-insurgency
against the Taliban.
The current military leadership is convinced that it must
absolutely throw the Taliban decisively onto the defensive during 2010 in order to reverse the
tide of the war. Everywhere our small group of visiting journalists went, senior Canadian and
American officers impressed upon us the all-out, win-or-lose effort that they are embarking
"This is just like we're in the last inning of the last game of the World Series," one Canadian said.
And there is much evidence around of a ramped-up war effort to back such eve-of-battle rhetoric. Airstrips are
crowded with fighter jets, helicopters, and heavy-lift transport planes.
Above all, American troops – many battle-hardened in Iraq –
are pouring into the restive Afghan South. Nearly 9,000 US Marines are leading the current
hard-slogging offensive in Helmand province, while another 20,000 [ US Army troops ] are
moving with full offensive equipment into neighbouring Kandahar to link up with Canada's 2,800-member battle
Kandahar, long under-resourced by the earlier NATO/ISAF command, is now front and centre for the crucial battles
to come, and Canada had better be braced. The largest offensive since 2002 will take place within
Canada's zone of responsibility over the next three to four months.
Think the current, weeks-long fighting around Marjah in Helmand province is a
hard slog ? This is just a dry run for the far larger operations now being planned for the more
populated areas of Kandahar, the Taliban heartland. That includes Kandahar city,
population 500,000, which has always been a primary object of the insurgents.
What's more, this combined allied counterattack is to be undertaken by Canadian, American, and Afghan troops in
the notorious heat of a Kandahar summer and on a scale far larger than what is currently going on in Helmand.
American soldiers will take the lead, but expect a huge Canadian effort alongside. The US has even taken the
extremely rare move of putting four of its battalion-sized units under the Canadian Joint Command
That gives Canadian Brigadier-General Daniel Ménard the comparative luxury of 5,200 troops to direct,
instead of the usual 2,800. His expanded group will fight alongside 20,000 US troops now pouring in for the
The Canadian military, meanwhile, appears to have squeezed every
able body it can get
from its reserves and regular forces to maintain the endless rotations of
soldiers and support personnel to Kandahar. Whether you are for or against Canada's involvement here, it is hard
not to admire the extraordinary professionalism and commitment that so many Canadians are putting forward, and
under such extremely demanding and often dangerous circumstances.
Equally remarkable is that, in reality, the Canadian military is being asked to gear up for two
contrasting missions at the same time.
First it must launch its largest military offensive of the war this summer, likely a costly one, to chase
out the Taliban. Then, officers must reverse course 180 degrees to pull off the complete withdrawal of all Canadian
troops from the combat zone in less than a year, in accordance with Parliament's decree.
Our officers and diplomats smile, shrug, and change the subject when
Canada's July 2011 withdrawal date comes up. But they do know it bothers,
even angers, those key allies who have been in the thick of the southern struggle with Canada and who
plan to stay on despite their own casualties [ like the UK ].
One senior NATO official we encountered was bitingly crisp when asked about the planned
Canadian pullout: "An absolute disaster, unless we can fill in the lost [ Canadian ] experience and
that's bloody unlikely. It's bad campaign work, and it's bad alliance work."
That view is not being publicly expressed. But ... it is making the
rounds among our most important allies. It is also more than a little disconcerting
to find that we are already being judged so critically on our final act, the exit, while the
key drama still lies ahead – the coming campaign for Kandahar.
 Article written by Brian Stewart for
CBC News, 24 February 2010.