By Michael Petrou - Friday, January 25, 2013 - 0 Comments
Michael Petrou on why this war may be unavoidable
Robert Fowler got to know the Islamists now battling French and Malian troops in northern Mali pretty well during the 130 days he spent as their hostage in 2008 and 2009. Then the UN secretary general’s special envoy for Niger, he and fellow Canadian diplomat Louis Guay were kidnapped by al-Qaeda’s African franchise and lived with them in desert camps until they were freed.
Fowler describes men more single-minded than any he had previously encountered. Their devotion to Islam was constant, as were their attempts to convert them. They showed no interest in the usual concerns of young men: music, sports, fashion, sex. “The mujahedeen seemed perfectly content to talk and chant about Allah and their servitude to Him endlessly,” writes Fowler in a memoir. Life on Earth was a blink of the eye, and death was nothing when you would live in paradise forever. They hoped to die soon in the service of jihad, or holy war. Around the campfire, young recruits listened with wide-eyed wonder to stories of battles against Algerian soldiers that left a battlefield strewn with their apostate enemies’ blackened limbs—proof, if it was needed, that God was on their side. And yet for all their spiritual obsessions, Fowler’s al-Qaeda captors had practical strategies about how Islam’s victory in this world might be achieved. Continue…
By Andrew Potter - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 1:00 PM - 11 Comments
Is Afghanistan ready to take its fate into its own hands? Not yet.
The first thing you notice about the Canadian mission in Afghanistan is how tired people are. At the embassy in Kabul, at the airfield and Provincial Reconstruction Team’s camp in Kandahar, even the military’s staging base Camp Mirage—they’re all going flat out, working 18-hour days, seven days a week.
The second thing you notice is that everyone vibrates with a sort of high-strung urgency. A lot has been written in recent months about the military surge, thanks to Barack Obama’s decision to flood Afghanistan with 30,000 additional troops by summertime. But what you don’t get from the papers is a sense of the surge of effort and intensity from everyone involved—military personnel for sure, but also the diplomats, development workers, and civilian advisers who are all pitching in to the whole-of-government project of building a stable and functioning state.
After almost a decade of mucking about in Afghanistan, the next 12 to 18 months will decide the country’s fate. In one of the many sporting metaphors that people naturally slip into, one Canadian military ofﬁcial described it as “the last college try.”