In much of the world this is a time of new beginnings. In Afghanistan, it is time to mark the beginning of an end: A dozen year commitment of foreign troops to fight the Taliban will wind down this year, meaning 51,000 American soldiers are poised to take their leave from a conflict that appears to be stumbling towards a stalemate, or worse.
The Afghanistan mission has been the longest military engagement in American history. For Canada, which saw 30,000 of its soldiers pass through the country over nine and a half years, it is the largest military operation since the Second World War. One hundred and fifty-eight Canadian soldiers and four civilians died, and by the end of 2010, a total of 1,859 military members had been wounded.
Those grim figures are just part of the reason why Afghanistan’s future should still matter ”“ to Canada and its allies.