Sunday, September 7, 2008

Canadian Death Toll in Afghanistan Nearing 100 as Federal Election Looms

Today, the 97th Canadian solider was killed in Afghanistan. This would otherwise be top news on most Canadian news sites, if it had not been for the fact that the writ dropped this morning, launching the Canadian political scene into a federal election.

With 2,500 Canadian troops in Afghanistan right now, Canada’s role in the occupation of Afghanistan should be a major theme in the October 14 Federal election. But be sure that both the Liberals and the Conservatives will do everything possible to keep this issue out of the media. The Liberals slyly committed Canadian troops to the NATO-led occupation of Afghanistan after tens of thousands of Canadians demonstrated vigorously to keep Canada out of Iraq. By 2006, under the Conservatives, Canadian troops were leading offensive operations in Southern Afghanistan where some of the fiercest fighting was taking place.

To put Canada’s role in perspective consider the following numbers. It costs Canadians on average $1.3 million per day to keep soldiers and military equipment fighting in Afghanistan. By February 2009, the planned end of the mission, it is estimated that the bill will reach about $4.3 billion. This includes over $1 million spent in funeral services.

Despite these numbers, the continued unpopularity of Harper’s direction in Afghanistan and the growing Canadian anti-war lobby, it is expected that a Conservative government will keep troops there beyond the planned pull-out date. In fact, they are getting help from Former Liberal Cabinet Minister John Manley, whose panel looking into the matter, not only called for an extension to Canada’s involvement in the war, but for the troop commitment to increase by another 50% and for more high-tech equipment to be committed.

With the Americans planning to play an increased role in the Afghanistan war, insiders are bracing for the situation to become much more “nasty”. It is highly likely that the number of troops dead will reach 100 before Canadians go to the polls on October 14. The only real uncertainty is what kind of backlash the Conservatives and Liberals will face in the federal election for getting Canada into this situation.

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