On Jan. 14 at a Young Liberals event in Vancouver, Michael Ignatieff spoke to well over a hundred young Canadians who want to make a difference. Throughout the night Michael answered questions on the environment, arctic sovereignty, pension plans, Alberta's oil sands, and NAFTA. At the end, one of the last questions asked of Michael Ignatieff was if he became Prime Minister and our mission was incomplete, would he still stick to the 2011 withdrawal date for Afghanistan. Michael affirmed that he would, emphasizing the need for Afghanistan to assert itself.
In his response Michael explained his position demonstrating his strong oratory skills. Though he gave a great reply, and I run the risk of over analyzing what may have been a slip of the tongue, there is within Michael's answer, one point that seems unclear. Michael states Canada's military mission in Afghanistan will end in 2011 and goes on to list the various ways our presence there will continue, such as providing humanitarian aid and maintaining a diplomatic relationship; however he also adds that Canada will maintain a "political presence" in Afghanistan which leads one to question what would that entail.
Michael Ignatieff's full response to the question of withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2011 if our mission is incomplete:
"My sense of this is pretty simple. I was in Afghanistan January of last year. I'm incredibly proud of the men and women, your age, who are serving there. But they got to come home in 2011 and I'm not going to change that. And I'll tell you why, it's not our country, it's their country.As this is the final post relating to the Jan. 12 YLC event that hosted Michael Ignatieff, I would like to thank Braeden Caley, YLCBC President, and Josh Hutchinson, UBC YLC Club President; for without them this political exchange would not have occurred.
If we don't keep a tough tight deadline we cannot create the conditions in which the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police get ready for prime time. The purpose of the Canadian mission is to create and train our replacement, mainly the Afghan national security forces. And the only way we're going to get that to happen is if they know that there's a date certain when we're out of there. That deadline creates the incentives necessary to get them ready for prime time.
And they will be ready.
"The other point I'd like to make is that, of course Canada will want to sustain a presence in Afghanistan. We want to sustain a humanitarian presence, an assistance presence, a diplomatic presence, a political presence.
"One of the things Canadians, again, we don't recognize is we are world experts on Afghanistan. We know as much about Afghanistan as any bunch of people in the world. This experience is extremely important, useful, it gives us power and influence in the world and we should use it. And we can stay engaged in Afghanistan but our military presence, after a decade there, should conclude."