We must not abandon the Afghan people....
They need out help. While most of our combat troops should leave in mid-2011, some can stay and do some vital training....
There is anger and disappointment, mixed with a sense of disbelief, among western supporters in Afghanistan’s second largest city over Canada’s decision to bring its troops home next summer.Canadians are very well-respected in Afghanistan. We cannot abandon these people and let the Taliban take over. They need to have the confidence that the West will be there for them.
"People are very upset about this. Why leave us?" said Jalani Hamayoun, the former deputy governor of Kandahar and a candidate in parliamentary elections in September.
"It is important for western countries not to repeat the problems of the past. You left us in 1990 and we ended up giving our problems to the world. If you leave Afghanistan, and especially Kandahar, again, there will be more problems for us and for the world."
What is particularly galling some in Kandahar is that Canadian political leaders had repeatedly said Canada had come to help, before unilaterally deciding to leave without consultation of any kind or at any level.
"Nobody from Canada asked anyone in Kandahar City or in the remote areas about what Canada should do next year," Hamayoun said. "The only ones who decided this were Canadians. Yet the ones most affected by this decision are Afghans."
Ali Raee, from the Shia minority and the owner of a small business selling soft drinks at Kandahar Airfield, was more blunt.
"If Canada had asked the question, our government and most of our people would have said, ‘Yes, you should stay,’ " Raee said. "That is why Canada didn’t ask us. That was not the answer they wanted to hear."
Ahmad Akbar, 26, who worked at one time for the Canadian and U.S. armies as an interpreter, said, "Of course the Canadians should have asked us. They came with this promise to rebuild Afghanistan and to bring security. None of those jobs is finished yet."
Perhaps nobody in the south has worked as closely with the Canadians as Brig.-Gen. Abdul Basir Salehzai, who commands the Kandahar-based 1st Brigade, 205 Corps of the Afghan National Army.
The general, a genial bear of a man who was educated in Russia, was visibly pained when asked several months ago what he thought of Canada’s impending departure.
"We have had bad days together, but there are so many good days that we have had together," mused Basir, who has worked alongside several Canadian colonels for long periods of time since 2006.
"The Soviets came here to try to reach the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. I am sure that Canadians have no political agenda or hidden motives. They are here because they want to bring peace and in reaction to the presence of al-Qaida and other terrorists."
Asked directly if Canada’s troops should stay, Basir replied: "It all depends on the Canadian people. But as an Afghan army officer, I would say that it would not be easy for us if the Canadians leave. With everything going so smoothly with the Canadians, why would I want to interrupt this?
"I think that (it) is too early for them to leave. Afghanistan needs at least 10 more years of international forces."
While some Afghans fret over the departure of Dutch troops next month, of the Canadians next year, and of U.S. President Barack Obama’s stated desire to start withdrawing his nation’s forces in 2011 and what all this may portend for NATO’s mission here, the Taliban have gloated over these developments and reminded wavering Afghans that they are far more likely to stay the course than the West is. Implicit in their propaganda is that when NATO is gone, there will be a violent reckoning for those who have sided with the enemy.
Like many Afghans who support NATO’s presence, Ali Raee made no secret of his preference for having Canadian rather than U.S. troops in Kandahar.
"The Canadian-Afghan relationship works better than the American-Afghan relationship," Raee said, explaining that "in my experience, Canadians are more educated than Americans. They don’t swear as much. They are more calm."
The would-be parliamentarian, Jalani Hamayoun, said it was "good news that more American soldiers are coming," but the Canadians were hard to replace because they had come to "know Kandahar well. They know our culture."