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Monday, September 27, 2021

Was it worth it? Canadian veterans defend their role in Afghanistan

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TORONTO — Former Canadian soldiers who served in Afghanistan have been shaken by the rapid fall of the country to the Taliban, and they’re worried about what the future holds for the residents there.

Thousands of people have been trying to escape Afghanistan since Sunday when the Taliban took over the capital Kabul, wrapping up a 10-day period in which the group overtook the country, shocking many Western powers who are desperately trying to get their personnel out.

The Canadian government suspended operations at its Kabul embassy, cut diplomatic ties with Afghanistan on Sunday, and is trying to evacuate Canadian citizens and locals who helped Canada’s military. More than 40,000 Canadians served in Afghanistan and 158 were killed between 2001 and 2014.

Michael Akpata is a Canadian Armed Forces veteran who served in Kandahar in 2007. He said he thinks it was right for Canada to serve in the Afghanistan war, which began following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States.

“I hear multiple pundits saying: ‘Was it worth it? Was it the right thing to do?’ And from my perspective, yes, it was,” Akpata told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday.

“Who I worry about are the families of the fallen and those who have taken their lives,” Akpata said in an interview from LaSalle, Ont., located about 375 kilometres southwest of Toronto.

Thousands of Canadian soldiers suffered physical and psychological wounds from the war. According to the Canadian Armed Forces, 191 veterans have taken their own lives since 2011.

“Before we were able to say we had stabilized the country and had done something,” Akpata said. “We who were there understand what we contributed.”

The current situation shouldn’t “diminish the sacrifice of the young Canadians I fought with,” Akpata said.

Retired Maj.-Gen. David Fraser, a former commander in Afghanistan, agreed that Canadian soldiers should feel good about their service.

“They should be proud of what they did because they did what they were asked to do by their government,” Fraser told CTV News on Monday.

“They provided a lot of education to women, they provided hope and opportunity,” Fraser said. “We could not win the war, but we bought time for the Afghans to try and find a peace solution.”

Both Fraser and Akpata said they’re concerned for the Afghan residents and that they hope the Canadian government is able to get Canadians and those who helped the military out.

They’re also worried about the people in Afghanistan and hope that there will be peace in the country.

“It’s the average Afghan who suffers the most because of the politics between the Taliban and the Afghan government,” Fraser said.

“My hope is that the people can live there in peace,” Akpata said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned the violence in Afghanistan and said the country is trying to evacuate people as soon as possible. Canada is also committed to bringing in 20,000 refugees from the country.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden is defending his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan saying that American forces shouldn’t be fighting a war that Afghan forces aren’t willing to fight. He announced the move in April and said the troops would be gone by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that spurred U.S. action in the country.

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