Was It Worth It?
Canadian troops ended combat operations in Kandahar this week and turned over command to US forces. Today CBC Radio hosted a public discussion asking Canadians, “Canada’s combat role in Afghanistan, was it worth it? Have five years of blood, sweat and sacrifice made an important difference?”
As a member of the Canadian Forces, I’m not at liberty to share my personal opinion in response to this question. I can, however, share some of my stories and I have and will continue to do that when the opportunity arises. My 8 ‘short’ months in the country, living within some of the smallest villages of Kandahar Province were ones that I will never forget and, in some ways, changed my life forever. The first couple of callers on CBC radio expressed the opinions of how they think that our time in a combat role in Afghanistan was useless and that the lives lost there were lost in vain. Listening to these people speak made me very sad and turned my thoughts towards soldiers under my command who didn’t return to Canada to enjoy the pleasures of our fantastic and free country. Some soldiers from my team returned with a different lens through which to see life. He may not be fully aware of the impact that he left during his time in Afghanistan, but long after he was sent home for recovery, people from the village we operated in and soldiers from the Afghan National Army working with us continued to ask about their friend ‘B’. Many Afghans thanked us for the security that we provided while there. Of course there were negative experiences. What conflict doesn’t have two sides to observe?
After the first couple of callers to CBC, the majority of the people who expressed their opinions surprisingly stated that they thought that Canada’s presence as a combat force in Afghanistan WAS worth it and that soldiers from Canada fought there for a higher ideal and in an attempt to make the world a better place for all of us. After hearing so many opinions about how we should leave Afghanistan and use our money in other ways, it was quite refreshing to observe a balance of opinions.
I will say that as an advocate of education, I believe that Afghanistan (and other countries and societies including even our own for that matter) is better off with education. I do believe that change is possible and education is a tool that helps build change. It is very difficult to bring that opportunity to a country with the dynamic of conflict that Afghanistan has without being able to fight to get it there. Some food for thought.