TOUGH WEEK FOR CANADIANS IN AFGHANISTAN

After having a dismal week with fatalities, Canadian forces enjoying a routing of Taliban in a widely publicized campaign in which as many as 72 hostile fighters were killed. In a matter of days, their fortunes would once again turn south.

In two horrific instances in the past couple of days, Canadian soldiers have injured or killed a number of Afghan National Police officers and a young child.

Just west of Kandahar City this week, a truck full of armed men was signalled to stop as it approached the Canadian soldiers manning a checkpoint. After ignoring the signals given, warning shots were fired. The men in the truck began to fire their weapons in response. After the ensuing chaos, one policeman lay dead and four were injured.

It would later turn out that the truck was full of plain clothed Afghan National Policemen. Wouldn’t you think that such a group would know not to approach a Canadian checkpoint in such a manner given the goings on of the last few days and the heightened state of alert?

Reading the accounts of this from several sources online, I came across the following statement in an Associated Press write-up in the Toronto Star:

It’s unclear why the Canadians perceived a truckload of men as an imminent threat, even if they were armed.

Now, is it just me, or does this statement boggle the average mind?

To be sure, it must be a tremendously difficult job being a soldier in today’s hostile environments. On battlefields of old, the combatants were clearly marked, tagged, or uniformed. In Afghanistan, anybody can be a hostile. An old man, a young woman driving a car, a child perhaps. They can be behind any rock, which number in the tens of thousands. They can be just over the next hill.

Shortly after a suicide bomber attacked a returning convoy of Canadian military vehicles outside of Camp Nathan Smith this week, a motorcycle travelling at a high rate of speed got past an Afghan National Police security perimeter. With the motorcycle closing fast, Canadian troops once again opened fire to protect themselves from a possible second suicide attack. In the end, a 10 year-old boy lay dead and a 17 year-old teenager was injured.

Again, I can’t imagine nor would I want to know what must travel through the minds of our soldiers in such an environment. I wish not to find out. We picture our soldiers in their battle fatigues and their weapons caches, but we sometimes forget that they are our 20 year-old sons and daughters. That young man shooting at the enemy could be the same young man who was shooting pool beside you last year or the same young woman whom you sat next to on a bus one time. It must truly destroy them whenever their defensive actions result in the deaths of innocent ones. Such is the shame of war, but it is a necessary function.

My prayer is that our soldiers will be successful in routing the Taliban scum who prey on them and on the people of Afghanistan. Our soldiers are the best and they need our support, and on that note, I’ll close with the following statement issued by the family of fallen soldier Corporal David Braun:

“On behalf of myself, my two sons, and my daughter, we would like to thank all of our friends and family, as well as the military for their support during this difficult time. Ever since David was 12 years old, his dream was to be in the military.

On two occasions, when he was home for leave, he came to the school in his hometown of Raymore, Saskatchewan and spoke to students about not only his job, but his passion. In a normally noisy classroom, you could hear a pin drop.

We know that David died doing a job that he loved and something he believed in. We are very proud of his bravery and ask that you support our troops.”

– Patty Braun, mother