Good reasons for troops to be in Afghanistan

Female Afghani Army recruits take part in military training.

Credits: (JOE WARMINGTON/Toronto Sun)


LASHKAR GAH, AFGHANISTAN - Sneaky and skilled insurgency, drug smuggling, improvised explosive devices, religion, refugees, murder, terror and poverty.

In Afghanistan while you will see all of the above in abundance, there is hope backed up by effort for people building homes, roads, schools, businesses and dreams.

There are no guarantees all the lives lost will be rewarded with the distinction of helping ensure this country moves forward peacefully. The skeptics (and you clearly can see why there are many) feel what is happening here now is nothing more than a propped up state, which upon the end of cash influx from abroad will succumb to organized crime and radical religious fronts, just buying their time until its appropriate to move back in.

The optimists (there are many of those on the ground, too, both in uniform and locals) talk about Rome not being built in a day and point to just how much has been done here in the ten years since NATO intervened.

It's a robust and constant debate here.

Both are right.

And then you meet women like Naheed and Shabnam all usual logic goes out the window for those harbouring both points of view or those who hold both and go back and forth depending on the reality of the moment.

Ten years ago, both women would have been stoned for even talking with me. Now one is a member of parliament and the other is training to be an officer in the Afghan Army.

But before this trip I had not realized how brave and committed some of the Afghan people are and how appreciative.

You hear about the suicide bombers but what we often don't see are the regular people who live here and pray for a better life.

And people who are doing something about it. As part of 20 females training to be officers in the Afghan National Army, 20-year-old Shabnam is one of them.

"I wanted to do my part and help make my country better," she told me.

Ten years ago she would not be allowed to learn to read and today she's on track to go over to the United States like four women who have preceded her and train to be a helicopter pilot.

"That's my goal," she said.

It's amazing watching these woman train in that they are not wearing veils and every day fly in the face of what radical Islam sees as the role of women. "They are very brave and we are proud of them," said Canadian Major General Michael Day, who heads the training program here. "Back in their villages some of them would be killed for just coming here."

Day knows there is a long way to go. But you have to start somewhere. By the end of this year, there will be 195,000 members of the ANA and already in most parts of the country they are taking the lead in security here.

Canadians, Americans, Danes, Georgians are here more as trainers and mentors.

A wife and mother, Naheed Farid is a 26-year-old MP from the province of Herat who has made it her mission to ensure that women of all backgrounds here will be able to achieve everything in life that women in other countries take for granted. Even thought a previous MP was murdered for saying such things, she is forging ahead.

"It's the right thing to do," Farid said, adding people can have their faith and be in the modern world too.

So you look around here and you see helicopters and burkas and bombs and remember all of our war dead and think why?

Then you see millions benefitting and talking about making it a better place and it's difficult to imagine ever abandoning them.

I admit I fall into the optimistic side but also see the realty that this could go several possible ways including into areas we don't want it to.

But then I think of our troops who died here and look at courageous and determined souls like Shabnam and Naheed and feel pretty good about what side of this I am on.

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