Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Afghanistan: Canada Loses its 80th Soldier; 2 Others Wounded

CBC News reports that a Canadian soldier was found dead at a base on Tuesday:

A 22-year-old Canadian soldier was found dead in Afghanistan on Tuesday, but a top military commander said the death was not related to combat.

Brig.-Gen. Guy Laroche told reporters that Bombardier Jérémie Ouellet was found at 2:15 p.m. local time in the sleeping quarters at Kandahar airfield, the main NATO military base in southern Afghanistan.

Laroche said the Canadian military is investigating the circumstances surrounding Ouellet's death. He said more details would be provided once the investigation is complete.

May he rest in peace.

And this just in via the AP:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan–A suicide car bomber blew himself up next to a convoy of Canadian troops Wednesday in the southern Afghan city Kandahar, killing a civilian and wounding two soldiers.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene said a Humvee vehicle from the convoy was burned and destroyed. NATO troops cordoned off the area, not allowing journalists or police near the vehicles.

A passing truck driver was killed in the attack and four people were wounded, including two Canadian troops, said police officer Nematullah Khan.

Meanwhile, a UK commander says "Winning hearts and minds" in Western-occupied nations like Iraq and Afghanistan is an impossible goal".

"There will of course be circumstances where we can earn the trust of local people, where we can prevail amongst the national leadership, establish a constructive dialogue with religious authorities, but I doubt we will (be) or maybe ever have been in a position to win their hearts and minds," Lieutenant General Graeme Lamb said.

"To suggest that good intentions will cross fundamental cultural, social and religious differences and win over a damaged population is at best dangerous and wishful thinking. The image of winning a heart or a mind is almost ridiculous," he told an international security conference in Stockholm.

Lamb, until last October the top British commander in Iraq, was speaking five years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

He said the best an occupying army could hope for was the consent of local people, and this required delivering tangible benefits like electricity, water, health, education and security.

Among the locals were "some who need us, albeit for a short time, others that will accommodate us, albeit for a short time, and others that will hate us simply for all time".

There's no doubt that redevelopment efforts have taken a back seat to lopsided hyper-military spending in both countries while civilians continue to suffer in stifling environments. Just how long are starving, poor and displaced expected to wait complacently for real help?

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