Last Friday Michael Byers wrote this opinion piece entitled “Why I Said No to the Manley.”
As some of you know, I believe – with numerous reservations – that the Afghan mission is important. Moreover, I don’t always agree with Michael Byers. Although I think Canada’s work in Afghanistan should continue (under the right circumstances) I hope Byers op-ed is widely read. It is the most damaging critique of the Manley inquiry I’ve seen to date. In short, it is extremely well written and brings together all the criticisms in one place and delivers them with tremendous force.
The most stinging critique for me was about the panel’s independence. As Byers notes:
The Institute for Peace (which coordinated the Iraq Study Group in the United States) set up four working groups composed of non-governmental experts from across the political spectrum. It established a “military senior adviser panel” composed of retired rather than serving officers.
The Manley panel is inordinately dependent on the government. Its six-person secretariat is made up of some of the same officials who have been overseeing the Afghanistan mission. Prominent among these are David Mulroney, the current director of the government’s Afghanistan Task Force, Sanjeev Chowdhury, the former director of the Afghanistan Task Force, and Col. Mike Cessford, the former deputy commander of the Canadian mission.
Byers is bang on. There is something deeply problematic about having the same people who worked on Afghanistan and helped shape the strategy and plan, reviewing themselves to determine if they’ve taken the right course of action and if the country should continue along the same course. This is akin to allowing students to grade their own work and determine if they should continue on to the next level. While it is possibly they will conduct an objective review, the incentives, temptations and interests (for example, one’s public service career could be on the line) create powerful doubts about there ability to do so.
This is neither in the public’s interest, the Afghan mission’s interests, or our soldiers interest.