Other than the “Can the Mission be Saved” headline coming on the heels of yesterday’s repatriation of casualties in Afghanistan, which really irks me, John Ibbitson asks some good questions in the latter half of his piece in yesterday’s Globe and Mail. MP+

“[The Canadian Forces] have done far more than could ever have been asked of them. The Afghanistan deployment, whatever else it has achieved, has transformed the Canadian army from a shrunken and grievously underfunded embarrassment in the 1990s to a strengthened fighting force that has operated effectively now for years in a foreign and often hostile land.

But if the goal was to stabilize and secure the region, then that goal has not been achieved.

Neither, however, can the mission yet be described as a failure. Morale appears to remain high among the troops. There are no stories of Canadian soldiers bitterly condemning the incompetence of their officers and the futility of the war. Kandahar is not Canada’s Vietnam. It is no Iraq.

Sergeant Kirk Taylor, one of the four soldiers who died Wednesday, so believed in Canada’s mission in Kandahar that he had prepared a public statement defending the cause to be released in the event of his death.

The “mission in Afghanistan is vital for us not only as Canadians but as human beings,” he wrote, describing the mission as a chance for Canadians to help Afghans develop solutions to Afghan problems.

Few countries have sent an expeditionary force overseas for such a long time, with such ambiguous results, and yet with such continued commitment to the mission from the forces themselves.

There are other questions: What will become of Canada’s ramped-up military after the Afghanistan deployment ends? Will the forces be retrained at their current strength, their equipment renewed and replaced? Or will a cash-strapped federal government permit the gradual erosion of the army to pre-Afghanistan levels?

These are difficult political issues. But they will need to be raised, even as Canadians once again mourn the return of their war dead.”

Read the whole piece here.