What he had to say sparked a storm of criticism from Canadians who were rightly angered by his views on our 12-year engagement in the war in Afghanistan and the thousands of Canadians who fought and the 158 Canadians who died there.
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Of course, Navarro is right. Canada has done the United States a service by going to Afghanistan. What he chose not to explain – or doesn’t know – is that the United States asked its northern neighbors for help after Al Qaeda’s deadly attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Once Canadians arrived in Afghanistan, their presence was no longer tied to the favor that had been requested of their country. It was about fighting terrorism and trying to make the country a better place for Afghans to live.
The initial US request was for NATO allies to help them target terrorists in the sanctuaries the Taliban provided to Osama bin Laden’s jihadists in Afghanistan.
Canada’s first initiative was to send half a dozen warships from Nova Scotia and British Columbia to the Middle East. There, under the command of then-Commodore Drew Robertson, and working with warships from several countries, including the United States, they helped cut off arms deliveries to Afghanistan and the movement of the drug from there that was used to fund Al Qaeda and the Taliban. They also chased out al-Qaeda operatives fleeing the fighting in Afghanistan by sea from Karachi, Pakistan.
Statement by the US Secretary of Defense on the country’s objective in the war in Afghanistan
Shortly thereafter, Canadian Joint Task Force II commandos were dispatched to South Asia and a battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry joined the US Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Kandahar. About a year later, after Prime Minister Jean Chrétien decided he wanted nothing to do with the United States’ war in Iraq, he unexpectedly announced that troops would be sent instead. to establish a base at Camp Julien, just outside Kabul.
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When the Kabul mission ended in early 2006, Chrétien’s successor, Prime Minister Paul Martin, dispatched a much larger Canadian battle group to lead a combat mission in Kandahar. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the training missions led for ISAF by Canadian generals began a few years later and finally ended in March 2014.
I have spent several years living with Canadian and American troops in Kabul and Kandahar and have often visited the headquarters of the United States-led International Security Assistance Force in the Afghan capital. The Americans I spent time with in chow halls, war rooms, and in the field were almost uniformly complimentary of their fellow Canadians.
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The best proof of the high esteem the Americans had for Canadians in Afghanistan was that alone among dozens of NATO countries with troops in Afghanistan, Canada was the only one whose generals were given combat troops from the American army. During the last years of Canada’s stay in Kandahar, then Brigadier General. Jon Vance and then-Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner oversaw the combat operations of several American frontline battalions.
It is this close collaboration that Major-General Simon Hetherington, who retired from the Canadian military last year, carried out three staff and command missions in Afghanistan, alluded in a tweet Wednesday. “I spent 4 years in the United States on exchange with the United States Army and as a Canadian Defense Attaché in DC (Washington),” Hetherington wrote. “Never heard of anything other than respect for Canadian service to Afg, especially from those in American uniform, from young NCOs to the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff.
The fact that Americans and Canadians worked closely together was underscored by a meeting I attended in 2010 in Panjwaii and chaired by Vance and NATO’s senior soldier in Afghanistan at the time, the General David Petraeus. Joint secret missions of special forces were discussed in detail. Operations involving the two countries went smoothly. There was absolutely no hint of tension, let alone friction.
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Another four-star American general, Stanley McChrystal, told me a few months earlier that he was so impressed with Canada’s strategic plan, which placed a small number of troops in Afghan villages, which he had ordered American commanders to copy the map of Canada. .
When the United States and Britain needed additional transport to transport assault troops to “hot” landing zones during a major offensive operation in Marjah, Helmand province , Canada was the only other country to respond, providing seven helicopters.
Frankly, the only negative opinion I have ever heard about Canada from the American troops there was the wish for our army to be bigger. They wanted more Canadians to serve alongside them.
Navarro obviously doesn’t know anything about what he’s talking about.