Friday, August 07, 2009

How Terror Make Hostages Of Us All.

The recent murders of Sapper Matthieu Allard and Cpl. Christian Bobbitt bring the number of Canadian soldiers who have died in Afghanistan to 127. Allard and Bobbit were killed by "improvised explosive devices" (IEDs), sometimes called roadside bombs - the method by which most of our soldiers have been murdered. Of the 127, 67 were killed by IEDs. This is more than enough to make you wonder whether there's some lesson Canada's military commanders haven't been learning.

You will wonder about that a lot less if you understand the context. In 2008, IEDs were used in the murder of 172 soldiers with armies affiliated to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, but another 519 Afghan civilians were murdered in this way. Another 1,014 Afghan civilians were wounded, and among the casualties were 98 children.

This report from journalist Dene Moore is quite useful. This analysis, by Mathias Hagstrøms of Roskilde University in Denmark, goes much farther to explain how terror works in the context of IEDs. The dilemma Hagstrøms presents is a case study in the challenge of building an effective and functioning state that is capable of defending itself against terrorism.

It's a bit like a classic hostage-taking.

The objective must be to hand over the responsibility of landmine awareness and mine-risk education (MRE) to the Afghan government, but this will potentially "politicize" the work, to "blur the line between military and humanitarian operations," as Hagstrøms puts it, which could imperil the effectiveness of such programs.

Keeping MRE initiatives in the hands of "neutral" United Nations agencies might actually save lives, at least in the short term. But to do so also plays into the hands of Taliban, which is intent upon undermining every aspect of the embryonic Afghan state and its authority.

If Afghan authorities can't handle their own affairs, they will require foreign military assistance. So long as our soldiers are there, the Taliban will continue to murder them, or at least keep trying. But if we leave, we'll clear the field for the Taliban to slaughter and bully as many Afghans as they like.

We are all hostages.

More from Hagstrøms here, and background on his landmine awareness study here (pdf).


Blogger Dave Zeglen said...


I'm a long time reader - thank you for your insights.

On a related note, unless you've seen it already, I recommend "The Hurt Locker" - takes place in Iraq, but relevant nonetheless.


3:20 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home