Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Sajjan Furor Masks Big Questions, Concerns about Afghanistan's Future

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Sajjan Furor Masks Big Questions, Concerns about Afghanistan's Future

Article excerpt

Liberals defeat Sajjan non-confidence motion


OTTAWA - Lost in the furor over Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan's claims to have been the "architect" of a decade-old battle in Afghanistan are fears that country is again on the edge of failure.

Liberal MPs used their superior numbers in the House of Commons on Tuesday to vote down a largely symbolic non-confidence motion brought against the embattled defence minister.

The Conservatives sponsored the motion after Sajjan exaggerated his role in Operation Medusa, a key battle involving the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan in 2006.

While the minister apologized, the Tories accused him of misleading Canadians on other issues, such as the urgent need for Super Hornet aircraft and cuts to tax benefits for soldiers deployed to Kuwait.

The vote was hardly a nailbiter, despite the NDP voting with the Conservatives, as 168 Liberal MPs joined Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in supporting Sajjan.

Green party Leader Elizabeth May and Independent MP Hunter Tootoo also supported Sajjan, resulting in a final vote of 171-122.

Yet for all the debate that led up to Tuesday's vote, one thing that was noticeably missing was any mention of the situation in Afghanistan now.

That is despite the fact the country's future remains as uncertain as ever, as the threat posed by the Taliban -- and now the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant -- continues to grow.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was warned shortly after taking office in November 2015 that the progress had been made in bringing peace to Afghanistan was in danger of being rolled back.

That was despite the U.S.-led coalition having spent billions of dollars on security and reconstruction and having had more than 3,000 military personnel killed, including 158 Canadian soldiers.

"Insecurity has increased significantly," reads a secret briefing note prepared for Trudeau and obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information law.

Afghan security forces were "sustaining unprecedented casualties and significant territorial losses", the briefing note added, as the Taliban "expanded its footprint" across the country.

The situation has since grown worse, with U.S. generals warning in recent weeks that they need thousands of additional troops to break what has become a stalemate with the Taliban. …

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