Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Afghanistan Roundup - A Hard Week

In the time I've been away from this blog three more Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, bringing the total number of deaths in theatre to 130. The three soldiers were all from the province of Quebec.

Today there was a ramp ceremony in Kandahar as Private Patrick Lormand, an infanteer with the 2nd Battalion, the Royal 22nd Regiment, began his journey home to Canada. He was killed and four soldiers wounded when their Light Armoured Vehicle was flipped by a powerful IED near Kandahar this last Sunday.

The Globe and Mail's coverage suggested that comments on Pte. Lormand's death by the Canadian military and by the Governon General were aimed in part at Senator Colin Kenney, chair of the Senate committee on national security and defence, who published a letter this weekend warning of a "Vietnam ending" to the war in Afghanistan. For the Globe's coverage, click here.

last week in Afghanistan two more Canadian soldiers were killed. Major Yannick Pépin and Corporal Jean-François Drouin, members of 5e Régiment du génie de combat, based at CFB Valcartier, were killed by an IED near Kandahar on Sept 6.

Maj. Pepin's body arrives at CFB Trenton on 9 September.

Major Pépin was the highest ranking officer thus far in the mission to be killed by enemy action. Major Michelle Mendes was found dead on base in Afghanistan in April of this year.

Maj. Yannick Pépin

Cpl. Jean-François Drouin

Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon them.

Making the news of Canadian casualties harder is other news out of the country, which I've heard on US National Public Radio and elsewhere, that the recent Afghan national election featured appalling rates of cheating and corruption. Today the Globe and Mail reported that a newly released video by Osama Bin Laden, taunting the West for engaging in a hopeless cause, is echoed at home. Besides the comments by Senator Kenney referred to above, in the US leaders such as Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, are similarly pessimistic. Feinstein has said that “I do not believe we can build a democratic state in Afghanistan. I believe it will remain a tribal entity". Read more here.

Today the Globe and Mail also reported that a UN body has ordered a recount of ballots at 10% of Afghan polling stations, which may well mean that a runoff vote is necessary. This result could be seen as proving Senator Feinstein's point, or it could be seen as proof that democracy is working, with international help and scrutiny - a case of the glass half full or half empty.

Canada's military will continue to do what it's political masters, from the Prime Minister and Parliament through the Minister of National Defence, tell it to do. As I write this, the current rotation over there is starting to count the days before they come home, hoping that there will be no more ramp ceremonies for a while. My chaplain friends at Valcartier, home of the army in Quebec, continue to work flat out comforting the families of the recently killed and wounded. Another chaplain friend is now home from working at the hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, after spending six months caring for the severely wounded and their families, whose stories are not much told here at home. Another rotation prepares to deply this December.

Please continue to pray for our soldiers and that good may come from their work and from their self-sacrifice. While the military success and geopolitical future of their mission remains uncertain, their dedication and professionalism continues.

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Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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