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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Haroon Siddiqui Obama gives Canada opening to redefine role in Afghanistan

It took Barack Obama just one sentence to sum up NATO's misery in Afghanistan. And it took him two to highlight the democratic deficit afflicting our own mission there.

Michael Ignatieff reported that when he suggested to Obama that the West is "strategically adrift" in Afghanistan, the president replied:

"We feel the same way."

Obama obviously understands that after eight years of war, its goal remains elusive, principally because we don't know what it is.


While Zardari has been complaining about those deaths, Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has revealed that the remotely piloted drones dropping the missiles have, in fact, been taking off from a secret base in Pakistan. Either Zardari did not know or he has been lying. Either way, it shows his government getting squeezed between the Americans on the one hand and the militants on the other.

This is no way to help democracy in Pakistan.

The way for Canada is clear:

• Ask Washington to be included in the Afghanistan-Pakistan strategic review. Cultivate Gen. Jim Jones, the national security adviser, who came to Ottawa with the president.

From his White House perch, Jones is the one who will co-ordinate the reports and finalize the recommendations to Obama.

• Identify the diplomatic initiatives and development and civilian projects that Canada can help with.

In short, let's define the role that we can play up to and beyond Feb. 2011, rather than wait to be pressured, again, into an assignment.


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