Thursday, June 08, 2006

Canadian Combat Role Undermining Peace Prospects, Says Afghan Diplomat

This is the latest message I've received from Steven Staples of and the Polaris Institute. It is about the important work of Dr. Seddiq Weera, Afghan diplomat.

Like you, I'm sure, I am very concerned about the arrests of 17 young men this week in Ontario, charged with planning a terrorist attack in Canada. Is this a legitimate threat - or is this another display to promote fear in the Canadian public so that we will accept a pro-national security agenda? Will there be a fair trial - or will the government resort to the use of secret evidence?

The events of the last week are inextricably tied to Afghanistan, and that's why I wanted to let you know about the work of Dr. Seddiq Weera, someone whom I think you will be hearing a lot more about in the future.

I was very privileged to spend the afternoon last week with Dr. Weera in Ottawa. He traveled from his home in Burlington to visit with officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs, to urge them to support diplomatic and peace-building initiatives in his native country of Afghanistan.

Dr. Weera is an Afghan-born, Canadian-educated diplomacy expert. His message could not be more important, especially in light of the recent riots in Kabul that have raised questions about the stability and legitimacy of the Karzai government.

He is trying to warn the Canadian government that our military's combat mission is actually aiding a civil war between the Northern Alliance-dominated Karzai government and the Taliban in the south. Our participation in "search and destroy" mission under the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom is actually strengthening Taliban and al Qaeda forces.

Dr. Weera argues that Canada should instead be taking a lead role in funding a renewed diplomatic process that will bring all the warring factions to the table, including the Taliban. "It's time to talk to the Taliban," he says. I could not agree more.

When I heard that Dr. Weera was coming to Ottawa with such an important message, I told several journalists about his work. The newspaper article below ran in a dozen daily newspapers and he appeared on National CBC TV.

Regrettably, Foreign Affairs officials cancelled their meeting with Dr. Weera at the last minute.

Nevertheless, he met with peace groups, and he and I held a press conference in the Parliament Buildings. We were both very pleased that NDP Defence Critic Dawn Black, when she heard about Dr. Weera being on the Hill that day, came over from her office to speak with him personally after the press conference.

I am sending you this note because I feel that Dr. Weera's message is very important for Canadians to hear. While we want to help the Afghan people, our government is saying that war against the Taliban is the only way - that is not true.

Dr. Weera points out that Afghanistan desperately needs a new peace process. This is being undermined by the war, and he thinks that we are wasting precious time and lives and should start the dialogue right away.

I invite you to learn more about the project and Dr. Weera's work through his Afghanistan Peace Education Program's web site.



Listen more, shoot less, says peace adviser:

Otherwise, he says, Canada will remain tied up in an unwinnable war

June 1, 2006
By David Pugliese

Military tactics that don't differentiate between terrorists and Afghans with legitimate complaints are driving new recruits into the arms of al-Qaeda, warns a Canadian who is an adviser to a peace commission sanctioned by the Afghan government.

Dr. Seddiq Weera says Canada will be embroiled in an unwinnable war in the South Asian country if it does not push for more diplomacy and negotiations to deal with the legitimate grievances of many Afghan groups.

"You bomb them, you shoot them, you don't invite them to tell you why they are unhappy," said Dr. Weera, who is usually based in Kabul, but is on a brief visit back to Canada.

"You have no mechanism for consultation or negotiations. The only thing you have is either 'be a peaceful citizen and follow the government or we will kill you.'

"Aren't we creating more sympathizers?" he added. "Aren't we supplying al-Qaeda with more Afghans?"

Dr. Weera, who was imprisoned for four and a half years for taking part in the resistance against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, meets with Foreign Affairs officials in Ottawa today.

Before coming to Canada, he was a member of the 1989-1991 Afghan interim government in exile that was based in Pakistan.

Dr. Weera is currently a board member and technical adviser to the Independent National Commission on Strengthening Peace in Afghanistan, but points out that his views are his own.

He said the Canadian military is needed in the country and has done good work. But Dr. Weera notes there has been too much emphasis on combat operations.

Western nations, he said, do not want to acknowledge that when troops went into Afghanistan in late 2001 to destroy al-Qaeda bases, they arrived in the middle of a civil war. U.S. troops joined forces with the Northern Alliance, whose members currently dominate today's Afghan government and are considered in the West as "the good guys," Dr. Weera said.

But he points out that there is no black and white situation in Afghanistan. Previously when they were in power, members of the Northern Alliance raped hundreds of women. When the Taliban came to power, their members beat hundreds of women.

Today, there are drug lords and war criminals serving in the Afghan parliament. There are also war criminals and drug lords associated with the Taliban as well as another opposition group, Hezb-e-Islami.

He said people in southern Afghanistan have concerns that those from the north control many of the police and government positions as well as receive the bulk of money to finance aid projects. Whether these complaints are legitimate is not clear, but Dr. Weera said some effort has to be made to discuss such concerns.

Dr. Weera said if that is not done, foreign soldiers will not see any victory in Afghanistan.

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