Transcript: Ten Years in Afghanistan | Mar 30, 2012

An image of a laptop appears. The screen of the laptop shows the website archive.tvo.org.
A male announcer says ARCHIVE.TVO.ORG.
SOMETIMES LIVING IN THE
PAST CAN BE A GOOD THING.

Fast pictures of soldiers at war and in military operations flash by.

A male narrator says CANADA WILL END ITS
MILITARY OPERATIONS IN
AFGHANISTAN THIS SUMMER.
WHEN WE WENT IN, THE PLAN
WAS TO DESTROY THE TALIBAN.

A picture shows a helicopter flying over the desert with the caption “The War on Terror.”

The narrator continues TEN YEARS LATER, THE
TALIBAN IS STILL THERE.
[gunshots]
SO WHAT HAPPENED?

(music plays)
HOW DO YOU END UP IN A
WAR THAT LOOKING BACK
NEVER SEEMED TO
GET BETTER?

Now, a picture shows a war tank with the caption “Think again about Afghanistan” in white capital letter over a red background.

The narrator continues THIS PODCAST IS GOING TO TRY
AND FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED.
WHAT I'VE DONE IS EDITED
TOGETHER A SHORT HISTORY
OF THE WAR BASED
AROUND COMMENTATORS
TALKING ABOUT WINNING
IN AFGHANISTAN.
SINCE NOTHING IS MORE
IMPORTANT IN A WAR
THAN WINNING, THE
ANSWERS SEEM TO TAKE US
RIGHT TO THE HEART
OF WHAT WENT ON.

The title “Think Again” appears in orange capital letters. In the background, fireworks lightening a black sky appear.

The narrator continues THAT'S ON THINK AGAIN,
WHERE WE DECODE THE BIG
QUESTIONS BY REMIXING
THE TVO ARCHIVE.

A picture of New York City skyline appears. The Twin Towers are grayed out.

The narrator continues AFTER 9-11, CANADA COMMITS
ITSELF TO FIGHTING THE WAR
ON TERROR IN AFGHANISTAN.
THE FIRST MISSION, CODE
NAMED OPERATION APOLLO
IS SCHEDULED TO
LAST SIX MONTHS.
IN CANADA, THOUGH,
THE BIG QUESTION
WASN'T IF WE COULD
WIN IN AFGHANISTAN.

A man appears on screen. He’s in his sixties, clean-shaven, with longish white hair. He wears a gray suit, a light blue shirt, a red and gray tie, and glasses. He’s in The Agenda show. A caption reads “Martin Shadwick. York University.”

Martin says CLEARLY, THERE'S A
HUMANITARIAN CASE
TO BE MADE FOR
PARTICIPATING.
JOINING WITH THE COALITION
AND ANTITERRORIST FUNCTION,
ONE CAN MAKE A CASE THERE.
BUT IT'S CLEAR FROM THE
GOVERNMENT'S OWN STATEMENTS
THAT THERE WERE OTHER
CONSIDERATIONS HERE.

Steve says LIKE WHAT?

Martin continues ONE WAS TO MAKE THE
POINT, THE CRITICS
OF THE GOVERNMENT, THAT THE
FORCES WERE ABLE TO DO
THIS SORT OF THING, AND
WERE COMBAT CAPABLE,
AND THAT HAS SILENCED A
LOT OF CRITICISM THAT
THEY WERE PICKING UP
IN RECENT TIMES.
THE OTHER AGENDA ISSUE
IS TO WHAT EXTENT
THIS IS INFLUENCED BY A DESIRE
ON THE GOVERNMENT'S PART
TO IMPRESS AND PLEASE
THE AMERICANS.

The narrator says IN 2003, CANADA LAUNCHES
OPERATION ATHENA.

A map of Afghanistan appears, signalling Kabul with a red star and Kandahar with a black dot.

The narrator continues THE MILITARY IS BASED
IN THE RELATIVELY SAFE
CAPITAL CITY OF KABUL.
A LOT OF THE MILITARY WORK
IS GOING TO BE FOCUSSED
ON DEVELOPMENT.
BUT THE NEW MISSION
IS HARDLY NOTICED.
OUR ATTENTION
IS ON IRAQ.

A flag of Iraq appears on screen.

The narrator continues AND AS THE U.S. PREPARES
FOR THE NEXT INVASION,
THE AFGHAN MISSION
LOOKS NEGLECTED.
HOWEVER, IN EARLY
2003, THE TALIBAN
AREN'T MUCH OF A THREAT.

Now, Steve Paikin interviews 4 guests in his show. He’s in his forties, with short curly brown hair. He wears a black suit, a light blue shirt and a red tie.

Steve says AS IMPERFECT AS AFGHANISTAN
NO DOUBT IS TODAY,
IS IT, IN FACT, A BETTER
PLACE TO LIVE TODAY
THAN IT WAS UNDER
THE TALIBAN?

A male guest answers. He’s in his forties, clean-shaven, with short brown hair. He wears a brown suit, a gray shirt and a yellowish tie.
A caption appears on screen. It reads “John Stackhouse. The Globe and Mail.”

He says OH, ABSOLUTELY.
I DON'T THINK THERE'S
ANY QUESTION OF THAT.
BOTH IN KABUL, WHERE IT IS
MUCH, MUCH, MUCH BETTER,
THAN IT WAS UNDER
THE TALIBAN,
AND IN MOST OF
THE PROVINCES,
WHERE IT'S PROBABLY
ONLY MUCH BETTER
THAN IT WAS UNDER
THE TALIBAN.
THERE'S MUCH
MORE SECURITY.
GIRLS ARE ALLOWED
TO GO TO SCHOOL.
WOMEN ARE ALLOWED TO
PARTICIPATE IN THE ECONOMY.

Night vision footage shows soldiers in a war site, with tanks and trunks in the background, and bombs exploding. A caption reads “But in 2003 the Taliban have rebuilt themselves after being defeated in the 2001 invasion.”

Now, one of the guests of Steve appears. He’s in his sixties, clean-shave, with short white hair. He wears a brown suit, a gray turtleneck t-shirt and glasses.
A caption appears on screen. It reads “Eric Margolis. The Toronto Sun.”

Eric says THERE IS A SPREADING
GUERRILLA WAR NOW AGAINST
THE UNITED STATES
GARRISON FORCES THERE.
WE DON'T HEAR ABOUT IT
IN THE WESTERN PRESS
BECAUSE IT IS TOO LOW
KEY, AND TOO LOW LEVEL.
THE CASUALTIES
ARE STILL TOO LOW.
BUT EVERY DAY NOW THERE
IS GROWING RESISTANCE
AMONG THE AFGHAN PEOPLE TO THE
AMERICAN OCCUPATION FORCES,
AND THIS WAR IS
INTENSIFYING.
CANADIANS ARE GOING TO END
UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS.

(music plays)

A clip shows soldiers walking on mud. A caption reads “2005. Kandahar.”

The narrator says 2005 IS THE BEGINNING
OF OPERATION ARCHER.
WE'VE TAKEN COMMAND OF
THE PROVINCE OF KANDAHAR.

A map of Afghanistan shows a red dotted line that connects Kabul and Kandahar. A red star signals Kandahar and a black dot signals Kabul.

The narrator continues THE TALIBAN ARE
BACK, AND BY 2006,
THE STORIES COMING
OUT OF AFGHANISTAN
ARE OF FALLEN SOLDIERS.
IT'S AT THIS POINT THE
COMMENTATORS START ASKING
REALLY TOUGH QUESTIONS ABOUT
HOW WE'RE GOING TO WIN
THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN.
[gunshots]

A man faces the screen. He’s in his forties, clean-shaven, with short brown hair. He wears a light brown suit, a light blue shirt, and a matching tie.
A caption appears on screen. It reads “Scott Taylor. Esprit De Corps Magazine.”

Scott says CAN WE REALLY
UNITE AFGHANISTAN?
IS IT OUR JOB TO CREATE A
SOCIAL REVOLUTION INSIDE
THIS COUNTRY AND TO
LEAVE IT, YOU KNOW,
BASED ON OUR STANDARDS
AND OUR MORAL VALUES?
IS IT ACHIEVABLE?
THE RUSSIANS
TRIED TO DO IT.
THEY MADE IT A
DECADE-LONG PROJECT,
AND WE KNOW HOW
THAT TURNED OUT.

Steve says WELL, THE RUSSIANS WANTED
TO MAKE THEM COMMUNISTS.
WE'RE APPARENTLY
TRYING TO MAKE THEM
INTO A DEMOCRATIC STATE.
AND I'M INFERRING
FROM YOUR STATEMENT
THAT THE ANSWER IS
NO, NO, AND NO.
IS THAT RIGHT?

Scott says EITHER WAY, IT'S A
MAJOR SOCIAL CHANGE
TO A TRIBAL ENVIRONMENT
WHERE YOU'VE GOT TAJIKS,
UZBEKS, PASHTUNS, PEOPLE THAT
ARE SEPARATED BY GEOGRAPHY,
SEPARATED BY ETHNICITY,
SEPARATED BY LANGUAGE,
IN AN AREA THAT REALLY
WAS, ALMOST ARTIFICIALLY,
CREATED BY ITS BOUNDARY.
SO TO THINK WE CAN PULL
THIS ALL TOGETHER UNDER ONE
DEMOCRATIC, HAPPY FAMILY
IS PROBABLY ABOUT
AS ACHIEVEABLE AS THE RUSSIANS
THOUGHT WE CAN BRING
THIS ALL TOGETHER UNDER
ONE COMMUNIST BANNER,
AND AT LEAST THERE
WILL BE SOCIAL FABRIC.
THEY DIDN'T GO IN THERE
BELIEVING THEMSELVES
TO BE EVIL COMMUNISTS.
THEY WERE INVITED IN BY THE
COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE DAY,
AS WE'VE BEEN SO-CALLED
INVITED IN BY HAMID KARZAI'S
ELECTED GOVERNMENT.

(music plays)

A clip shows vast areas of green land. A caption reads “The Soviet Narrative.”

The narrator says JUST ABOUT ANY DISCUSSION
OF WINNING IN AFGHANISTAN
SEEMS TO MENTION
THE SOVIET UNION.
SO HERE'S THE STORY.
ON DECEMBER 27, 1979, THE
SOVIET ARMY PARACHUTES
INTO KABUL TO STABILIZE A
COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT.
THE INITIAL INVASION
CONSISTS OF FOUR DIVISIONS,
WITH MOSCOW CALLING IT A
LIMITED MILITARY CONTINGENT.
BY 1986, THERE WERE
118,000 SOVIET TROOPS
IN AFGHANISTAN.
AS THE CONFLICT DRAGGED
ON, THE SOVIET-BACKED
GOVERNMENT WAS ABLE TO
MAINTAIN ORDER IN THE CITIES,
BUT COULD NOT CONTROL
THE COUNTRYSIDE.
THE SOVIET UNION ENDED UP
STAYING FOR NINE YEARS,
LOSING ROUGHLY
15,000 SOLDIERS.
BUT THE THING IS,
RIGHT AT THE END,
MOSCOW MIGHT HAVE FOUND A
WAY TO WIN IN AFGHANISTAN.

Now, a man appears on screen. He’s in his forties, with short dark hair and stubble. He wears a blue suit and a white shirt. Behind him, a banner reads “The Agenda with Steve Paikin.”
A caption appears on screen. It reads “Graeme Smith. The Global and Mail.”
Another caption reads “Past is prologue. Afghanistan: Lessons and Prospects.”

He says WE NEED TO LEARN
FROM THE DYING DAYS
OF THE COMMUNIST ERA
BECAUSE IN THE DYING DAYS
OF THE COMMUNIST REGIME,
THE SOVIET TROOPS
HAD ALREADY PULLED OUT.
THEY WERE GETTING MASSIVE
CASH SUBSIDIES FROM MOSCOW.
AND THAT REGIME STOOD
FOR A COUPLE OF YEARS
WHEN NO ONE
EXPECTED IT TO.
AND IT ONLY FELL WHEN THE
CASH SUBSIDIES ENDED.
AND I THINK THAT'S SOMETHING
WE CAN LEARN FROM.
THAT ERA WAS MARKED BY
MASSIVE COMPROMISE.
THEY GAVE UP SWATHS OF
TERRITORY TO THE MUJAHIDEEN.
THEY BOUGHT OFF
THE MUJAHIDEEN.
THEY PITTED MUJAHIDEEN
FIGURES ONE AGAINST THE OTHER,
WHICH I THINK IS PERHAPS A
MORE REALISTIC EXERCISE
THAN, YOU KNOW,
THE WISHFUL THINKING,
I THINK, WE ARE
GOING THROUGH NOW,
WHERE WE HOPE THE
AFGHANS LIKE US.

Now, clips shows soldiers fighting at war.

The narrator says 2007 SEES AGGRESSIVE
MILITARY CAMPAIGNS
FROM CANADA AND ITS ALLIES.
THE BRITISH DEPLOY AN EXTRA
1700 TROOPS TO THE SOUTH.
AND BY AUGUST, THE U.S.
HAS OVER 2300 TROOPS
IN THE COUNTRY.
HOWEVER, THE INSURGENCY
IS STILL SHOWING
NO SIGNS OF SLOWING DOWN.

Now, Steve is in the studio interviewing a man. Steve wears a gray suit, a white shirt and a matching tie. The man is in his forties, with short dark hair. He wears a light gray suit, a white shirt and a red tie.
A caption appears on screen. It reads “Rory Stewart. Former Diplomat. At home abroad. Afghanistan again.”

He says THERE IS SO MUCH TO
BE DONE IN AFGHANISTAN.
THAT'S WHY I'M
DISAPPOINTED
WE'RE PURSUING A POLICY
WHICH SEEMS TO ME
DESTINED TO FAILURE.
WE'RE CHASING THE TALIBAN
AROUND THE RURAL AREAS
IN A COUNTERINSURGENCY
CAMPAIGN WE ARE
NEVER GOING TO WIN.
WE'RE PUSHING FOR A
STATE BUILDING PROJECT
THAT IS NEVER GOING
TO SUCCEED.
WE ARE PUSHING TO ELIMINATE
ILLEGAL NARCOTICS WHICH,
HONESTLY, I DON'T THINK WE
ARE GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO.

Steve says WHAT'S THE ALTERNATIVE?

Rory says WE SHOULD BE FOCUSSING ON
THINGS AFGHANS ARE DEMANDING.
WE SHOULD BE
CLEARING THE GARBAGE.
WE SHOULD BE BUILDING ROADS
TO GET THE ECONOMY GOING AGAIN.
AFGHANISTAN IS IN A UNIQUE
POSITION BETWEEN PAKISTAN,
IRAN AND UZBEKISTAN.
IF WE CAN GET THE ROAD
INFRASTRUCTURE GOING,
THEY'LL GET
INCOME FROM IT.
AFGHANS ARE UNBELIEVABLY
ENTREPRENEURIAL AND ENERGETIC.
WE NEED TO
EMPOWER THEM.
AND WE CAN ALSO,
FINE, ABSOLUTELY,
PROTECT OUR
NATIONAL SECURITY.
I'M COMPLETELY IN FAVOUR
OF UNITED STATES TROOPS
CONTINUING TO FOLLOW
COUNTER-TERRORISM STRATEGIES.
THEY NEED TO PROTECT
UNITED STATES SOIL.
BUT THAT IS NOT THE SAME
AS CHASING THE TALIBAN
UP AND DOWN THE COUNTRY.
MOST OF THOSE PEOPLE WE ARE
KILLING IN THE TALIBAN
HAVE NO INTENTION OF ATTACKING
THE SOIL OF NATO COUNTRIES.
THEY DON'T HAVE ANY FIXED
POLITICAL MANIFESTO.
MANY OF THEM ARE VILLAGERS
WHO SIMPLY BELIEVE
THEY ARE FIGHTING FOR ISLAM
AND AFGHANISTAN AGAINST
A FOREIGN MILITARY
OCCUPATION.

The narrator says SO WHAT ABOUT THIS:
WHAT IF NATO AND
THE U.S. LOSES?
WHAT IF WE FAIL?
WHAT'S AT STAKE?

Another man faces the screen. He’s in his forties, clean-shaven, with short wavy brown hair. He wears a blue suit, a white shirt and a blue patterned tie.
A caption appears on screen. It reads “Roland Paris. University of Ottawa. Was it worth it? Assessing Afghanistan.”

Roland says ONE OF THE QUESTIONS WE
NEED TO BE HAVING IN THIS
DEBATE THAT ISN'T REALLY
YET TAKING PLACE
IN THIS COUNTRY ABOUT WHAT
CANADA IS GOING TO DO,
IF ANYTHING, POST 2011 IS
WHETHER IT MATTERS WHETHER
THIS MISSION
SUCCEEDS OR FAILS,
WHETHER WE HAVE ANY STAKE,
WHETHER WE HAVE AN
INTEREST AS A COUNTRY,
IN SEEING THIS
INTERNATIONAL EFFORT
TO TRY AND STABILIZE
AFGHANISTAN SUCCEED.
I PERSONALLY THINK WE DO
HAVE AN INTEREST BECAUSE
WE KNOW WHAT WOULD
HAPPEN IN THAT COUNTRY,
OR WE HAVE A
PRETTY GOOD IDEA,
IF NATO WERE TO
PRECIPITOUSLY WITHDRAW
FROM AFGHANISTAN.

Steve says WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Roland says THERE WOULD BE
A CIVIL WAR.
THE ELEMENTS OF
KARZAI'S GOVERNMENT
THAT USED TO BE IN THE
NORTHERN ALLIANCE
WOULD BASICALLY
SEPARATE FROM KARZAI.
THE TALIBAN WOULD FIGHT
THE NORTHERN ALLIANCE,
AND THE CIVIL WAR THAT
WE SAW IN THE 1990s
WAS ABSOLUTELY DEVASTATING,
NOT ONLY FOR THE PEOPLE
OF AFGHANISTAN, BUT THE
SECURITY OF THE REGION,
AND ULTIMATELY
FOR OUR SECURITY.

(music plays)

A clip shows Osama Bin Laden talking. He’s in his fifties, with a long dark beard. He wears a white shirt, an orange coat and a white hat.

The narrator says BECAUSE BIN LADEN'S ATTACK
ON NEW YORK GOT CANADA INTO
AFGHANISTAN, HIS KILLING IN
MAY SHOULD HAVE FELT LIKE
THE RIGHT SYMBOLIC
MOMENT FOR A COUNTRY
ENDING A MILITARY OPERATION.
BUT IT DIDN'T FEEL THAT WAY
BECAUSE OVER TEN YEARS,
AFGHANISTAN BECAME ABOUT
MORE THAN THE WAR ON TERROR.

A picture shows two soldiers talking to a man who sits behind a desk. The man is in his forties, with short dark hair and a beard. He wears a white shirt and a black vest.
A caption reads “(…) from Afghanistan National Development Strategy. (…) Islamic constitutional democracy at peace with itself and its neighbours…

The narrator continues SO CANADA'S COMBAT
MISSION IS OVER,
BUT THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN
CERTAINLY ISN'T.

Pictures of armed soldiers, Afghan children and women flash by.

A caption reads “Think Again Afghanistan footage from the Department of National Defence. Produced by Craig Desson.”

(music plays)

Watch: Ten Years in Afghanistan