“The terrorist organization believes that it is entrusted with an eternal mission: to lead the world into apocalypse”, thus as Bin Laden said, “After me, the world of the infidels will never again live in peace”. (Soherwordi,  Ashraf, and Khattak 2012, 357). Today, people in all over the world see Taliban as the representation of Islamic terrorists who are primitive, repressive with very little respect for individual rights especially women abuses. The aftermath of terrorist attacks on New York City on September 11, 2001 led to the change in Canadian foreign policy from peacekeeping – participating in multilateral international force for improving human security, fighting Islamic terrorism and protecting human rights in Afghanistan. 

This paper will argue that Canada should not stay committed as a peacekeeper or military fighter in Afghanistan to sacrifice more lives and money for an extremely difficult task of bringing democracy and peace to Afghanistan. 

The Road to Afghanistan War

It is necessary to look at Afghan historical background in order to understand the real reason why Canada has been involved and presented as a peacekeeper to ensure security and establish a democracy in Afghanistan. Historically, Afghanistan is considered as the land of extremes. It was one of the most peaceful countries in Asia from 1929 until 1978 (Maley 2009, 2). During the Second World War, Afghanistan still maintained its peace to avoid internal war as well as external war even with its neighbours. However, in 1978, the Marxist coup that turned this peaceful land into the land of upheaval, intrigue and revolt, and this tribal culture was overwhelmed with all kinds of ideologies. In 1979, the Soviet Union, a communist country invaded Afghanistan that made  a war between Soviet forces against multinational insurgent groups of anti-communist Afghan fighters – the Mujahideed (Maley 2009, 19). In 1989, the Soviet troop had to withdraw from Afghanistan which led to the fall of the Afghan Communist government in 1992 (Maley 2009, 47). 

After the collapse of the communist regime, all of Afghan political parties were united and agreed on a power sharing with the Peshawar Accord. In fact, this agreement faced a number of challenges and created a lot of disputes with various political ideologies for Afghan future. There came the civil war in prolonging the Afghan conflict from wider regional rivalries that were supported by their neighbouring states. The end of Afghan civil war came suddenly in 1996; the Taliban with military support by Pakistan and financial support by Saudi Arabia ultimately seized the power and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Maley 2009, 164). The Taliban dominance rolled Afghanistan into a new turning point where Islamic movement of Taliban has become troubled relation with the wider world (Maley 2009, 182).

The Rise and Rule of the Taliban


The Characteristics Traits of Taliban

The Taliban took over power in Afghanistan and set up their rules by a strict form of Islamic law in order to establish their supremacy. Afghanistan has entered a civil strife and “warlordism” in which the country was divided into many “autonomous mini-states” (Sohorwordi, Ashraf and Khattak  2012, 347). Likely, the Taliban was a military force, but formed from a complex mixture of social and political distinct groups, they were overwhelm by Sunni Pushtun group – a fiercely hostile to Afghanistan’s ethnic and Shiite minorities (Sohorwordi, Ashraf and Khattak  2012, 347). The religious schools or madrassas education considerably influenced the Taliban movement. Most of young students who joined the Taliban were war orphans. They were being raised to hate and to fight in the “spirit of Jihad, a “holy war” that they believed would be restore Afghanistan to its people. Religion played an extremely important role and deeply influenced culture, norms and everyday practices and the Taliban strongly believe that Afghanistan’s foreign and domestic policies should follow the interpretation of Islam.

The Taliban and rule

Taking power in Afghanistan, the Taliban immediately demanded recognition and a seat in the UN General Assembly as the government of Afghanistan. So far, the Taliban were granted recognition by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, but they tried to seek for more supporters (Maley 2009, 204). The Taliban refused to comply with the demands of the international community which has the standard for a member who wants to join the club have to abide the rules through a fair judicial system and fair trade. Moreover, Taliban restrictions on women’s right to education and health care is a betrayal of international human rights standards as well as of the female population of Afghanistan (Maley 2009, 205). The UN as a vision of the world found the Taliban extraordinarily difficult to deal with because its own characteristic traits which deeply rooted in Koran, “the word of God”.  The Taliban was not recognized as a legitimate government but they were desperately intense to secure international status, so they seek for more other supporters (Maley 2009, 203). However, the Taliban received significant strong support from Al-Qaeda which was the reason to persist in aiding Bin Laden and they both were radically anti-Western modernist movement. In contrast, their strongest supporters became detractors that eventually led to the demise of the Taliban regime.  

The Fall of the Taliban

The attack of September 11 to the World Trade Center in New York was one of the most momentous events in Afghanistan history. Maley (2009, 211) stated that the Saudi extremist Osama Bin Laden was the catalyst for change in Afghanistan and the Taliban made a fatal mistake to provide hospitality to this leader. Osama Bin Laden was the founder of al-Qaeda, the militant Islamist organization. He was named by US officials as a prime suspect in number of mass casualty attacks against civilian and military targets (Gohari 2002, 134). Bin Laden’s organizations were placed as the most dangerous threatening the Western powers and their allies in the Islamic war. Terrorism is a deadly threat which designed to make political change by instilling fear in the public to achieve political goals (MacLean and Wood 2010, 316). Therefore, the presence of the terrorist leader in Afghanistan must have been one of the most causes to the fall of the Taliban. Right after the 9/11 attack, the US quickly operated against the Taliban government of Afghanistan that had sheltered Al Qaeda and its leader Osama Bin Laden.

Canada’s Role in Afghanistan

Canada’s mission

Canada’s response to the events of September 11 created a great controversial issue which has become the top of the agenda for foreign policy. Pressuring by all war parties for an immediate ceasefire, as a NATO alliance, Canada involved in the international military engagement in Afghanistan (MacLean and Wood 2010, 321). Canada has traditional role as peacekeeping who make conflict management and resolution in a globalized world. The United Nation defined peacekeeper is the deployment of international and civilian personnel to a conflict area in order to stop hostilities or supervise the carrying out a peace agreement (MacLean and Wood 2010, 321). Canada has proudly played a role as peacekeeper to bring positive change to Afghanistan; however, this has also caused fellow Canadians to suffer a great loss of human lives and exponential financial deficits

The human loss

Canada understood the mission of providing assistance to Afghanistan, helping them create a peaceful and democratic society would be the risks for the cost to massive budgetary increases and lives when soldiers and diplomats and aid workers might be killed or injured. As of January 2010, 139 members of the Canadian armed forces and four civilians (one diplomat, one journalist and two aid workers) died contributing to the international efforts in Afghanistan, while over 300 military personnel have been wounded in action (Boucher 2010, 246). The loss of lives is not only a painful part that Canadians suffer by participation in combat operations in Afghanistan.

The financial cost 

The full cost of Afghanistan war must be considered in several components. It included the cost the spending by The Departments of National Defence, Veteran’s Affairs Canada and the Canadian International Development Agency. These budgets spending make up the costs to the federal government for the Afghanistan campaign (Kowaluk and Staples 2009, 121). There are private costs of killed and injured soldiers which are created by them, their families and communities. These private costs are parts of payment of Veteran’s Affairs Canada who is responsible for both healthcare and disability benefits for veterans. The payment is not only for the deaths it also includes the treatment cost for common battle injuries, and the lifetime cost of a soldier’s injury or disability veterans. The cost of many young men and women being killed or disabled is significant when the private cost has reached $4.1 billion (Kowaluk and Stables 2009, 129). The full economic cost is combined all types of costs that make up the total cost in which Canada’s military role alone from 2001 to 2011 mission would bring to $17.8 billion. The full economic cost of that mission to the Canadian Taxpayers is expected to top $28.4 billion (Boucher 2010, 231).  When Canadian forces suffered more and more human losses and the massive aid budgetary increasing, the popular support raised further concerns to withdraw the troop and have changes in foreign policy.

Due to the lack of security, violence in Afghanistan substantially increased, the new US president, Barack Obama intend to transfer another 30,000 soldiers to face the War on Terror rather than the fight to establish a democracy (Kowaluk and Staples 2009, 33). By doing so, the US made pressure to extend the schedule for Canadian withdrawal in 2011 and that consequently would shift the role of Canadian peacekeeper to the war-fighting role. However, the Prime Minister was unable to commit Canada to the mission without a debate in Parliament. The parliament voted to extend the war in Afghanistan that has sparked a new debate on the cost of the war (Kowaluk and Staples 2009, 125). In more than 50 years of serving with the United Nation, 114 Canadians have died in peacekeeping in missions around the world (Boucher 2010, 255). Compare to three years in Afghanistan, the causalities (139) suffered by Canadian Forces had a significant impact on the attrition of public support for the mission (Boucher 2010, 237).

Canada’s population did not have to pay for the heavy human costs of the Afghanistan intervention that created a general concern among political leaders. Canadian Cabinet ministers directly involve with Afghanistan file, the prime minister, the minister of national defense and the minister of foreign affairs acknowledged the tragic reality of Canada’s mission (Boucher 2010, 240). All of Canadians are paying the heavy burden for our presence in Afghanistan. Canada were on the mission of supporting  and enhancing Afghan culture with human rights, civil liberties through a fair judicial system by engaging building a democracy and security. It is definitely a challenging mission.

The Challenging Task

Big Change in Afghanistan

Attending as a member of NATO and acting as an important economic and political partner, Canada became involved in the war which the US declared “a war without end on terrorism” (Kowaluk and Staples 2009, 277). It was quite a difficult task for Canadian arm force that came to make peace in Afghanistan where there is ‘no peace agreement” (Kowaluk and Staples 2009, 277). Inevitably, Canada has had to face with a wide spread of Afghanistan conflicts, particularly from the religious regional perspective. One of the goals for international engagement in Afghanistan is the “regime change” which was defined as setting “democratic” governments based on certain American values in politics as well as economic realm such as human rights, human development and peace (Kowaluk and Staples 2009, 285). Canada’s major international involvement is to bring peace and to help Afghanistan become a stable democratic and self-sustaining state. Canada has provided Afghanistan with the means to develop, liberate women, educate girls, and simultaneously they have sought retribution for the attacks of 9/11. Since 2001, Afghanistan established the elected government with a new constitution which recognizes human rights and equality for women before the law (Kowaluk and Staples 2009, 289). The government believes that it can be best to maintain the autonomy as an independent Islamic state of Afghanistan by adapting modern Western ways to achieve political goals. However, the modern Westerners are not accustomed to religion which is considered as a political power in Muslim culture (Kowaluk and Staples 2009, 289).

Democracy in Afghanistan 

Establishing democracy in Afghanistan is extremely difficult because Afghanistan has always been a poor country with scarce resources, a land of disorder and revolt. Furthermore, the Afghan war of governments is rooted in authoritarianism which requires absolute obedience to a supreme power (Maley 2009, 3). It is a tribal culture that overwhelms with all kind of ideologies from “warlords”. Therefore, it may take Afghanistan decades to establish a democracy. The main challenge for Afghanistan is the political transition to inaugurate a completely different “regime”- a democracy that is allowed to interact freely with tribal culture. (Mazhar, Khan, and Goraya  2013, 77).  Canada contributed money and expertise to support Afghanistan and enable them to build democratic governance through electoral process. Afghanistan is relatively centralized, has democratic capacity to formulate a democracy with institutions which descend from central level to the provincial and local level (Mazhar, Khan, and Goraya 2013, 77).

According to the human development index of the United Nation development Program, Afghanistan is classified as 169th of 174th countries in the world in which 60% of its population lives on less than a dollar a day, 70-80 % of the population is illiterate and has communication that is driven by radio and broadcast media (Kowaluk and Staples 2009, 289). Under the World Bank and several UN organizations, the international community have a huge reconstruction project of more than $10 billion for current aid programs include security, governance, law and human rights, and economic and social development; Canada contributed more than $100 million a year. It is Canada’s largest aid program (Kowaluk and Staples 2009, 290). Canada proudly supports the Afghans to build peaceful, democratic country that respect human rights, but fighting to preserve peace and to reconstruct in troubled regions is not an easy mission. Of particular concern is the fact that Afghans face deadly threat in daily activities; most of them are violent attacked by Taliban or extremists.

Facing with the Past

The world viewed the Taliban as authorization that governed by rules of an evolving international society by the word of God. While in power, the Taliban strictly enforced the interpretation of Islamic law which led Muslims to radial ideological and political goals for their own benefits (Maley 2009, 187). The domestic policies have put pressure on political issue of gender that led in criticising the Taliban for human rights violation from the worldwide. Moreover, they do not hesitate to massacre those whose were considered as enemies or infidels such as the genocidal massacres of Hazara, minority Shiite Muslims who live in North Afghanistan in 1997 in order to wield Taliban’s supreme power (Maley 2009, 201). The Taliban were criticised for their strictness toward those who disobeyed their imposed rules. Since the defeat of the Taliban, Afghanistan has begun to be a transition where all prospects may seek peace, justice and human rights to build up a democracy. However, the fight between the two absolute different school of thought, authoritarianism and liberal democracy will be never end. As a peacekeeper, Canada involved in Afghanistan crisis where there is no peace to keep in daily life (Kowaluk and Staples 2009, 302).

The Daily Deadly Threat

Since 2001, the everyday lives of many civilians have been faced with the threat of violence that posed by insurgents who wanted to deny the central government who is controlling of Afghanistan (Maley 2009, 245). The kind of threats that they posed have come in different forms such as suicide attacks, warlords, and drug trafficking. The rise of suicide attacks has become the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda’s tactics which remains as an organized threat with global influence. The Afghan warlords, who once assisted the US to provide security and defeat the Taliban in 2001, now has created threats by committing crimes such as land seizures, assault, rape, murder and engaging in drug production and distribution (Holland 2009, 45). The Taliban are reliant on drug money, the drug trafficking from Afghanistan could be possible hack into the societal, financial and political structure of Afghanistan (Holland 2009, 45) The current Afghan government has had to face the real challenge to bring the warlords to justice and to disband their militias which threaten the daily safety of Afghans (Holland 2009, 45). In such circumstances, the Afghans would never live in peace and security and Canadian peacekeepers would share the same problematic situation. 

The Alternative Argument

Canadian military engaged in the most difficult and dangerous violent region- Kandahar province, a prolonged counter insurgency conflict that may raise the question why Canada suffered the heavy loss of lives. Despite heavy human and financial costs, the advocators especially public opinions in Alberta consistently carry on that Canada should stay committed in Afghanistan. These supporters may have strong humanitarian desires to rebuild the country, but mixed with fears that unstable Afghanistan would continue to generate security problems for the rest of the world (Roi and Smolynec, 298). They were afraid of the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Thus, they declared “we can’t cut and run until the job is done” or “we can’t let the terrorists win” (Kowaluk and Staples 2009, 21). In fact, the Canada’s mission in Afghanistan is complicated and multi-faceted that included aid and assistance work, political relations, policing, training and military operations. Consequently, undertaking military alone would not accomplish the mission (MacLean and Wood 2010, 325).

Ultimately, Canada has proudly taken a part in the international effort to bring positive change to Afghanistan. In the report to Parliament in 2008, the Honorable John Manley provided a number of positive results of Canada’s contributions to Afghanistan security, governance and development. He significantly marked six priorities and outlined three signature projects that illustrate Canada’s contribution to Afghanistan (Government of Canada 2008, 16). When Afghanistan is better governed, more peaceful and more secure, Canada should leave Afghanistan to the Afghans. In the long run, Afghans must protect themselves and fight against any conflicts to maintain their freedom, security and liberal democracy. Manley also stated that “progress in Afghanistan is difficult, and the difficulties have not ended” (Government of Canada 2008, 3). Canadians have recognized the mission that remains to be done but in peaceful way to avoid the massive human and financial costs and we will never forget our loss in this fight (Government of Canada 2008, 3). Highlighting those developmental challenges that Canada has faced in Afghanistan, Canadian governments included the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, bureaucratic deliberations, officials at the Department of National Defense and Foreign Affairs in Ottawa are concerned about Canadian public opinion and tried to make the best decision in foreign policy. Canada has brought about many positive changes in Afghanistan, however due to the loss of Canadian lives and extensive financial outlay; this is no longer a viable option for the Canadian government.  The Afghan now need to take control and solve their internal disputes.


This paper has shown that Canada should not stay committed as a peacekeeper or military soldier in Afghanistan, because this would sacrifice more lives and escalate financial losses in order to accomplish the extremely difficult task of bringing democracy and peace to Afghanistan. 

Gio ViVu


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