Assertion, unsupported by fact, is nugatory. Surmise and general abuse, in however elegant language, ought not to pass for truth. Junius

2006/10/18

Standing on Guard for Thee

Appearing in yesterday's Gazette (via CanWest News Service) was this headline: Hastily trained Afghan teens to stand guard for Canadians, by Renata D'Alieso.

According to D'Alieso, as a result of six recent deaths, NATO has decided that it is better to use local teenagers to police and defend a particularly dangerous stretch of road in Kandahar being rebuilt by the Canadian battle group. Arming these youths with Kalashnikovs and training them for 9 to 10 days will apparently help lessen the insecurity in the region. As NATO's regional police adviser, Canadian Forces Colonel Gary Stafford explained, "The Afghan government requested that we expedite and get [Afghan] individuals into high-risk areas."

Technically this is an auxiliary police force under the command of the regular Afgani police. Still, the links with the Canadian Forces are clear. As D'Alieson reported, NATO (read: Canada) complied with the Afghan government's request to train, arm and supervise this new police force. Moreover, supporting law-enforcement appears to be in line with Ottawa's general strategy of pacifying the region. Gordon O'Conner, the Minister of National Defences thinks policing is the key for success in the region. Speaking last September, O'Conner theorized that the secret in defeating the Taliban "insurgency" is "about developing effective Afghan national police forces and an Afghan national army" to establish order.

Yet, training a professional army and police force is a far cry from giving AK-47s to kids after a ten day training session. The end result is that NATO/Canadian Forces in Afghanistan are enlisting under-aged, ill-trained teen-aged boys destined to be cannon fodder. And the proof is in the pudding: "Most, if not all, were asleep at their posts when Canadian soldiers recently dropped by to inspect. When they were awake, some had errantly fired their rifles in the direction of the Canadians", reported the Gazette.

Does the Government think the use of sticky-palmed teenagers in a war zone is appropriate policy? Here's a clue: "Police salaries are low, about $80 a month, far less than the wages foreign organizations pay skilled local workers. The job is also risky, particularly in southern Afghanistan." So risky, in fact, that near-children are being recruited into doing a job adults won't do. Is the state of affairs in Kandahar so desperate?

From this particular pedestal, one sincerely hopes that the Government is adhering to the spirit, if not the letter of the Geneva Conventions:
The Parties to the conflict shall take all feasible measures in order that children who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities and, in particular, they shall refrain from recruiting them into their armed forces. In recruiting among those persons who have attained the age of fifteen years but who have not attained the age of eighteen years the Parties to the conflict shall endeavour to give priority to those who are oldest." (Protocol I, Art. 77, Sec.2.)
One can also hope that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter McKay (apparently still on special assignment in the vicinity of Alpha Centauri) can clarify if the Canadian government has violated the terms of Article 77. Meanwhile, Members of Parliament should consider the morality of sending boy-soldiers into harm's way.

11 Comments:

Anonymous BlueBerry Pick'n said...

teaching kids...

wow. I don't know what to say...

its so WRONG...

but the alternative is that the kids shoot at Canadians, I guess building OUR cult killers is better than letting the cultists get them to shoot at NATO forces.

*but it all seems so WRONG*... using kids as a buffer zone...


it makes me ill thinking about it...

these poor kids: they're ONLY IN A WAR ZONE because BUSH LIED & LET BIN LADEN GET AWAY @ TORA BORA.

Why are we even THERE??

Spread LOVE!,
BlueBerry Pick'n
can be found @
ThisCanadian DOT com
"Silent Freedom is Freedom Silenced"

Wednesday, 18 October, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you not have half a clue?

Where does it say in the story (which is riddled with errors and a lack of context) that these "kids", who could be 18 or 19 for all we know, have been hired by Canada?

Get your facts straight before you launch.

Thursday, 19 October, 2006  
Blogger Agaete said...

Thanks for your comment.

I'd rather that this not turn into a Canadian Forces vs teary-eyed lefty debate, because it isn't. It is about international law and army experience of recruitment.

That said, I agree that there are gaps in the source article which I wish could be cleared up, like the age of the soldiers and the involvemnt of Canadian Forces in the recruitment and training.

Still, I think the point stands that these kids are acting as a barrier to professional soldiers I understand that Canadian soldiers are at risk in the area, but using these barely trained teens is quite sad indeed. Where is the Conservatives money to help protect Canadian soldiers?

In any event, I would be pleased to get get some first hand information about what is happening.

By the way, I saw that someone at the Forces forum felt the urge to throat punch me, which is interesting... http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,52057.msg464869/topicseen.html

AGAETE

Thursday, 19 October, 2006  
Anonymous Caveman said...

Hey Agaethe... do you know what truth is? Or does it escape you in your bid to promote leftist propaganda and falsehood?

You write: "Nonetheless, Canadian Forces in Afghanistan is enlisting under-aged, ill-trained teenaged boys destined to be cannon fodder"

That, my dear, is a lie. Canadian Forces do not enlist Afghans. Afghanistan is a sovereign nation which does its own enlisting and assigning of its troops. And please, 18-19 year olds are not children. If you're going to smear the men and women who'd gladly defend your right to be a total moron and denigrate them to further some cretinous leftist agenda, try to be more subtle with your lies.

Thursday, 19 October, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are, of course, wrong.

READ the news, and you'll see that

1. Canadians have not recruited these kids.
2. Nato has not asked for this "help".
3. It's an Afghan govt. decision and the kids are trained, equiped and employed by them, not Canada.

Get it straight, so you don't misinform others with your distortions.

Thursday, 19 October, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since you seem so inclined to state what the people at army.ca are saying about you, you make it fair play to include what they are saying about the topic.

http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,52057.0/topicseen.html

Thursday, 19 October, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don’t take the comments from the CF personally. They are very simply getting fed up with certain left leaning politicians and activists who seem to feel they have a much better understanding of what is going on in Afghanistan than the soldiers who are in or recently returned from that country.

Listen to what they are saying please, not to people who are trying to gain votes at the expense of Canadian soldiers safety.

The Soldiers support this mission, they are volunteering to do extra tours and they are not doing it for the extra pay, not because they want to shoot people or any of that rubbish. They are supporting this mission because they see for them selves that it is helping the people of Afghanistan and it can succeed.

I am sure no one really wants to “throat-punch” you J

Friday, 20 October, 2006  
Blogger Agaete said...

I actually did read over the comments at the army.ca forum and was mildly surprised about the maturity of the discussion. To be fair, as far as I know there was only one throat puncher.

Assuming that these men and women actually have been there, I take these comments to be accurate:

Mike_Baker wrote: The Canadian Forces do in fact recruit teens, but as said people are considered men and women much sooner in that part of the world.

Infidel6 wrote: This is VERY common in Afghanistan -- In fact I was very surprised that the CF / Cdn Gov't had not gone this route previously. I'm not going to say its a good idea -- but its the cheapest method...

There are two more criticisms of the Gazette's story and my blog: the use of the word teen and whether or not the Canadian Forces are recruiting.

Teen is ambiguous, I admit. I wish that Ms D'Alieso has specified more clearly what the ages are. I suspect that those of military age(16+) are either with the Taliban or with the Afghan army. In any event, I wrote in the blog that the issue needs to be looked into, especially in light of the Geneva convention.

In regards to enlistment, it is a word that I hesitantly chose. I could have picked "using" or "training" or "supervising." The fact is that these kids are under the auspices of the Canadian Army as Colonel Gary Stafford said.

Finally, I think that the left is getting a bad rap about all of this. Mr Caveman, for example, accused me of essentially betraying those who are protecting my freedom, which is not the case at all. Indeed, by cutting out discussion from the left on military matters is quite dangerous. But that is a topic for another time and place.

AGAETE

Friday, 20 October, 2006  
Anonymous Teflon said...

Having read your piece I just want to rehash the fact that these "teens" (I don't know the ages of them as this activity started after my return to Canada) are hired or enlisted by the Afghan athorities, train by them (possibly with supervision of the NATO pers that are part of the Embedded Training Teams) They are paid and controlled by the Afghan Government or Provincial Goveners. The CF's envolment comes in due to the fact they are being placed in some areas in Canada's area of operation and therefore take it upon themseleves to monitor their doings and with a hope of 1. keeping them alive and 2. Since they are there, improving their performance so that they do assist in the stablization and security of the area.

Another point I would to bring up as it has been a problem in Canada and the CF for decades - often seen during our "peace keeping" in the former Yugoslavia. We in Canada (and some in the CF) have dificulty looking at an thing with anything but the Canadian perspective, overlaying our cultural values over the scene at hand - in this case "teens enlisted to fight in buffer zone!" well here in Canada you say something to that effect and everyone thinks of pimply-faced 16 years olds running around with guys getting shot up when they should be in school learning something, well in Afghanistan alot of 16 year olds already have a wife maybe a kid or two and either farms his little dirt patch or works for another on his, Manhood is reach at different ages in different cultures. Besides, We (Canada) send teens into battle over there. I had some 19 year olds serving in my platoon over there, hell I trained some of them and others to go over also and because it's what they wanted to do, they did well.

A last point on army.ca, keep in mind that it is a privately owned site (not an official CF site) for those that share a personal or proffesonal interest in the military and calls countless posters members, every type of person from interested civis, cadets, and retired or currently serving members of both the CF and numerous forces of other nations, so yes in that large crowd there will be a few overcharged "throat punchers" but the vast magority are quite well read and polite.

Friday, 20 October, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Police salaries are low, about $80 a month, far less than the wages foreign organizations pay skilled local workers. The job is also risky, particularly in southern Afghanistan."

I hardly think Afghanistan has the economy to pay their police force 80k a year as we do here in Canada. You cannot just completely change the face of a nation in a few years, it's going to take some time. People need to stop spreading propaganda to further their political career and open their eyes to the tireless, selfless and honourable work we've been doing for Afghanistan.

Police work is inherently risky regardless of where you work - though, the risk is heavily increased in a warzone. They say the job is risky like it's not anywhere else. It's a new thing for Afghanistan and, again, going to take TIME to perfect.

However, with an election so close time is running out. What happened to the real leaders of the world?

Friday, 20 October, 2006  
Blogger CanEng said...

Agaete,
Colonel Gary Stafford is NATO's regional police adviser for southern Afghanistan. His comments (and the use of “us”) are likely related to the organization he is working with: the ANP. Nothing he said suggested that “these kids are under the auspices of the Canadian Army” (and I disagree with the word “kids” as they are likely 18 yea olds that are men by Afghan culture).

However, all of this goes back to the detail that we all agree was lacking in the article.

Friday, 20 October, 2006  

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