The main thing we learned yesterday from our Defence Minister Peter MacKay was that Canadian troops are not in Afghanistan to guard the new natural gas pipeline.
I am assuming that the main reason for some of the confusion in the media and MacKay’s own lack of candor on the purpose of our mission, is that he like the rest of Canada has not yet received the benchmarks that were promised back in early April.
With increasing concern being expressed by Canadians about the escalating violence in Afghanistan the Tories announced that they would establish benchmarks to better define the purpose and progress of the Canadian mission.According to the April 1oth article published by the Globe (here), Harper was assigning the task to his best manager.
The Harper government's top political manager for the Afghanistan mission, Trade Minister David Emerson tried yesterday to ratchet down expectations for what Canada can achieve before it leaves in 2011, but said the Tories will soon offer Canadians quarterly updates on progress.
He said Ottawa will start releasing progress reports every three months on the mission, a move that should begin before the Commons rises in early to mid-June.
Mr. Emerson said at the time that the new benchmarks aren't ready yet but acknowledged reducing Canada's proportionately high level of casualties will be one.However with Emerson just completing his first comprehensive examination of Canada's activities in Afghanistan last week, MacKay and the rest of Canada will have to wait until sometime this month.
"We want numbers that tell us when we're doing things right. We want numbers and benchmarks that will tell us when we're doing things not so well," said Mr. Emerson.
"We'll be rolling that out with some serious technical briefings over the next few weeks."It appears that the Tories are no further advanced in defining our mission than they were four months ago.
I realize that Emerson has had his plate full taking over the reigns of Foreign Affairs from Maxine (I don't even look motorcycles anymore) Bernier and with the obvious lack of managerial talent in the Tories gene pool, Emerson probably was the most competent manager available.
But there should of been a greater sense of urgency applied to set these benchmarks and release the progress reports.
We are talking about the purpose for the mission, and what we are expecting our troops to accomplish in a very dangerous environment.
Not to mention that it would save MacKay from having to make up statements like this on the fly.
"Our primary purpose there is to build that country to the point where they can walk on their own and then we're coming home."MacKay apparently forgot to mention that our mission only has a mandate until 2011, regardless of whether the Afghans can walk on their own.
Unless that has changed too.
References Globe here, Macleans here and National Post here.