Unfortunately this opportunity was squandered. Once it appeared that the Taliban had been routed and the terrorist training facilities overrun, victory was declared, a sham government was installed and a token number of multinational troops was left behind to enforce the peace. It was a situation that cried out for long-term aid and direct involvement by the parties involved in assisting with the rebuilding of the country.
Unfortunately token involvement was all that was considered necessary and the new government was left to fend for itself in a country that had nothing and was being offered little. It only took a couple of years and the Taliban is now back as strong as ever, with the support and backing of people through out the countryside. Troops that were supposed to be overseeing the rebuilding of a country have all of a sudden found themselves in the midst of a full-scale guerrilla war.
When Canada became part of the multinational force involved with the invasion of Afghanistan it was with the understanding that the services of our troops would be best utilized in support positions. They would see some combat, but most of their work would really begin when the major hostilities were ended.
The training our troops have received for the last quarter century or more has been geared towards peacekeeping missions that involve trying to ensure that cease fires are obeyed and truces kept. It's highly specialized and dangerous work for which they have been recognized the world over as being some of the best men and women to place in those situations.
Canadians have had every reason to be proud of the men and women who have done this difficult work in some of the world's hot spots. The Golan Heights, Cyprus, Beirut, Rwanda, and Bosnia have all seen Canadian troops within the last twenty years in the blue hats of the United Nations. We have come to accept that casualties are part of the deal and we mourn each soldier lost as if they were members of our own family. Perhaps because of the rarity of the event we feel it that much more when one is lost, and their lives are not taken for granted or part of a parade of statistics.
For the first time since the Korean War a Canadian government has placed our troops into a full combat situation in a ground war. No one under the age of sixty or seventy in this country has ever experienced the reality of soldiers dying on a weekly basis, and casualties almost daily. It's not something we were prepared for, if you can ever be prepared for it, and we are not liking it.