Monday, May 11, 2009

90% of Canadians want out of Afghanistan

Overseas commander gets an earful about Afghan mission

Canadian Press: While on his way to the shower at Kandahar's provincial reconstruction base last month, Lt.-Gen. Michel Gauthier bumped into a worn-out soldier who unloaded on him about Canada's mission in Afghanistan.

With both of them out of uniform, the soldier spewed out his frustration to the man who retires Monday after leading all of the country's overseas operations for the last three-and-a-half years. Gauthier listened quietly...

'Of course he didn't know who I was. He was being a little more frank than we would have been knowing there was a three-star general in his presence.'

The unidentified soldier, a 23-year veteran, drove an ambulance with a quick-reaction force of troops retrieving wounded comrades and attending to the dead before evacuation helicopters arrive. A few weeks earlier, a roadside bomb blast had struck the vehicle in front of him, killed a couple of buddies and left the frustrated soldier wounded.

Because of his wounds, doctors had offered the man a chance to rotate home, but the driver chose instead to 'stay with his buddies until the end' of the tour, Gauthier later learned...

To the man who has been in charge of the country's largest and most complex overseas operations since the Korean war, the out-of-uniform chance encounter spoke volumes about where the hearts and heads of his soldiers were...

Up to 24,000 soldiers, sailors and aircrew have served under him on 15 different missions.

Gauthier will hand over the reins Monday to Lt.-Gen. Marc Lessard and leave behind an unfinished, unpopular war -- one that 90 per cent of Canadians in a recent Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey said they wanted out of on schedule in 2011.
Image source: CBC