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Friday, May 19, 2017

Will the CAF Return to Afghanistan?

By: David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen

Canada will be asked to consider sending troops to Afghanistan once again to deal with the Taliban resurgence in that country.

The request will be on the agenda May 25 at the NATO summit in Brussels to be attended by U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trump is looking at up to 5,000 more troops. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has already confirmed he has already received a request from NATO for more troops. Germany has rejected the request already.

NATO wants the soldiers to help shore up Afghan forces who are struggling to deal with a Taliban resurgence.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said a request has been received from alliance commanders in Afghanistan for several thousand more soldiers. Additional soldiers would be used for training and advising.

Canada ended its military involvement in Afghanistan in March 2014. Canada’s Afghan war cost the lives of 158 soldiers. In addition, a Canadian diplomat, two civilian contractors and a journalist were also killed. More than 2,000 soldiers were injured.

There are currently a handful of Canadian military personnel currently in the country to provide security at the Canadian embassy in Kabul.

NATO has up to 13,000 personnel, the bulk of those U.S. troops, involved mainly in training. Another 1,500 U.S. special forces are operating in the country as well, conducting combat missions against the Taliban as well as those aligned with the Islamic State.

There is not a lot of interest in the Trudeau government about sending troops to Afghanistan, considering there probably wouldn’t be much support for such a mission among the Canadian public (the attitude seems to be, “Been there, done that, it didn’t work).

There could, however, be a role to play for Canadian special forces.

NATO’s Stoltenberg specifically mentioned the need for special forces training teams. CANSOFCOM has done that role before. A small SOF team might satisfy NATO and Trump and be just enough of a low profile footprint to be acceptable to the public and Liberal government supporters.