Vietnam haunts Canadian mission in Afghanistan

Carlito Pablo provides an excellent analysis of the dismal odds facing Canadian and other NATO troops in the counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan [“NATO faces a bloody future in Afghanistan”, Jan. 4-11]. He should be congratulated for examining military factors largely ignored by mainstream media.

As Pablo’s sources explain, sanctuary for the Taliban in Pakistan, whether in remote tribal areas like Waziristan or large cities like Quetta, will continue to undermine NATO’s strategy. Ultimately, it may not matter much whether any given NATO campaign, like the current Operation Falcon, is successful. Bases in Pakistan will simply resupply the insurgents and the war will grind on into the future.

If we want Canadian soldiers to risk life and limb—like the 44 Canadians who have already died—then their mission should stand a reasonable chance of success, rather than being set up to fail, as in Vietnam. We owe them that much.

Canada and NATO need to pursue all alternatives, including negotiations, for ending the Afghan civil war quickly.

> James Young / Vancouver


The prognosis of the article on Afghanistan will prove accurate, but it places too much emphasis on the harmful role of outsiders like Pakistan and other external supporters of the insurgency. The reality is that NATO itself is an outsider. NATO’s presence in Afghanistan is, essentially, a colonial presence. It consists of a group of rich, powerful, Western, Christian countries imposing its collective will on a poor, weak, Asian, Muslim country. Colonialism has not worked since the last quarter of the 20th century, and there is no reason to believe it will succeed in the 21st. Once a significant part of the local population has rejected the foreign presence, as they did in Algeria and Vietnam and are doing in Iraq, the foreigners are doomed. Given the lessons of Afghan history, in which every foreign invader was repelled, the same is inevitable here.

> Terry Greenberg / North Vancouver


Carlito Pablo may want to check his notes. The Vietcong did not use China as a sanctuary during the Vietnam War. Geographically and historically, this does not make sense.

Rather, the Ho Chi Minh Trail was used to infiltrate insurgents and North Vietnamese Army regulars into South Vietnam. The HCMT skirted the South’s border through Laos and Cambodia. It was because of the sanctuaries in Cambodia that Richard Nixon bombed and invaded that country.

> Rick Green / Vancouver