Why Canada cannot afford to shrug o Afghanistan

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People survey the destruction after an overnight suicide bomb explosion that targeted a wedding reception in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 18, 2019.

This fall Canadians will have not one but two elections to be concerned about. The latter will take place miles away across the Atlantic Ocean, on September 28 in Afghanistan – a land far too familiar to Canadians. Come October regardless who the next tenant of 24 Sussex will be, the Afghanistan red file is not one that they’ll be able to shrug aside as the Trudeau Liberals have done.

In the aftermath of 9/11 our brave Canadian men and women in uniform answered the call and helped an international coalition to bring down the Taliban –  and ever since Canadians have continued supporting Afghanistan by sending it millions of dollars in foreign aid for various humanitarian projects.

Yet 19 years later, Afghanistan remains exactly as CNN war correspondent Nic Robertson described it in 2001 – a biblical landscape frozen in time – and submerged by the blood of countless innocent civilians.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reports nearly 4,000 civilian casualties in the first half of 2019, with 1,366 civilians killed and another 2,446 wounded in the six months to June 30.  That same month the Institute for Economics and Peace revealed in their 2019 Global Peace Index Afghanistan to be the least peaceful country in the world, replacing Syria which is now the second last. 

Despite these figures, thousands of Hazaras remain in overcrowded refugee camps across Asia and Europe. The Trudeau Liberals have pushed thousands of Syrian refugees across the finishing lines and into the warmth of Canadian arms, while hundreds of Hazara families remain refugees in limbo awaiting a goodwill gesture from Ottawa.

Within weeks from the publication of UNAMA’s report, on July 31 another attack targeting a school bus claimed the lives of 34 and left 17 more injured. On August 7 at least 14 people were killed and 145 wounded after a Taliban suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle outside a police station in the west side of Kabul – an area largely populated by the Hazaras, one of Afghanistan’s ethnic minorities.

Kabul, the capital of the nation, is anything but safe, with military and police checkpoints at every corner, somehow the perpetrators always manage to sneak-in past the army of law enforcement personnel, delivering his payload in the heart of public gatherings.

The Hazaras – for the simple crime of belonging to a religious and ethnic minority – have been and continue to be the victims of a sophisticated extermination campaign. Whether they are at prayer in the mosque, exercising at the gym or simply going to a wedding, Hazaras are targeted day or night whenever and wherever. 

This past weekend the residents of the west end of Kabul witnessed such a horrific attack that left everyone around the world in shock, when a man entered a packed wedding hall detonating himself in the midst of a crowd where children were dancing and others still eating. The blast killed 92 attendees while leaving over 182 others severely wounded. By the early hours of the next morning the mutilated cadavers of the victims were still being pulled out from beneath the hall’s collapsed glass ceiling rubble.

Afghanistan has become a cesspool of corruption, from the executive level down to the bottom low-level staffers. The Kabul regime’s incumbent Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzay, who came to power in 2014 amidst widespread election fraud and irregularities, had pitched himself as the anti-corruption economist saint that would fix the failed state. 

Not only has the saint not done any saving or fixing; quite to the contrary ethnic tension is at an all-time height and corruption has flourished to new disturbing lows under his tenure. In the words of Abdul Razaq Vahidi a former minister of Communication and Information Technology, key positions in the Customs and Revenue departments are proposed by and approved by either the Minister of Finance or Ghani Ahmadzay himself, instead of the Human Resource Department. As such the recruitments are not done based on merit, most of the employees do not have the knowledge to do a very simple tax calculation, nor the required literacy to draft an ordinary letter. 

Earlier this month U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass said he is “disturbed by reports” that Khalilullah Ferozi, a former bank manager convicted of multimillion-dollar fraud has been moved into house arrest from prison in exchange for allegedly making a $30 million campaign donation to the Ahmadzay’s presidential-election campaign.

Ambassador Bass’ concerns – albeit warranted – are of little importance when the White House on one hand is on the verge of finalizing a peace deal with the Taliban, effectively securing their return to Afghanistan and essentially pouring down the drain whatever little progress Afghanistan had made, while on the other hand claiming to help the upcoming elections by pledging monetary support.

Here at home, in addition to the millions of dollars that Canada has sent to Afghanistan, it currently sends to the regime an annual aid package of $465-million, to be portioned out over three years, slated to end in 2020.

Canadians will have to get serious and decide once and for all what to do with the Afghanistan issue because, if 19 years has taught us anything, shoving more money in that quicksand of a country isn’t going to fix it or stop the persecution of the Hazaras.

In the words of Irwin Cotler former Minister of Justice and Human Rights activist: “It may be a dark time for democracy, but such countries as Canada have a responsibility to help preserve the liberal values upon which the international system is built, one that, for all of its faults, promotes the democratic principles that Canadians hold dear. As stated by Minister Freeland during her acceptance of Foreign Policy’s Diplomat of the Year Award, “authoritarianism is on the march — and it is time for liberal democracy to fight back.” 

No matter who becomes the next Prime Minister, he or she, must address the continued and systematic persecution of the Hazaras of Afghanistan and develop a proper plan with checks and balance in place before further financial support to Afghanistan.

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