The Problem with the Manley Panel on Afghanistan

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.

15 thoughts on “The Problem with the Manley Panel on Afghanistan

  1. Scott Tribe

    The other problem of course is that all the Commissioners of this so-called independent panel are all either Afghanistan mission supporters (including Manley).

    Combined with what Michael Byers listed, the recommendations of the Committee are going to be a foregone conclusion in favour of maintaining the mission – anyone with any sense can see that.

    Reply
  2. Scott Tribe

    The other problem of course is that all the Commissioners of this so-called independent panel are all either Afghanistan mission supporters (including Manley). Combined with what Michael Byers listed, the recommendations of the Committee are going to be a foregone conclusion in favour of maintaining the mission – anyone with any sense can see that.

    Reply
  3. Josh McJannett

    Hi David,

    Our group, Canadians for Afghanistan, responded to Prof. Byers piece in the Saturday edition of the Ottawa Citizen.

    I thought I’d share it with your readers.

    “The Ottawa Citizen
    Published: Saturday, December 15, 2007
    Re: “Why I said no to Manley,” Dec. 13.

    It is unfortunate that Michael Byers has chosen not to lend his knowledge of the law of armed conflict to the Manley Panel, to help them make the best possible recommendation on the future of Canada’s mission. Instead, by electing to use his invitation to publicly attack the independence and character of the panel’s members, he does a disservice to the people and government of Afghanistan, who are relying on Canada to consider the potential extension of its mission seriously and with maturity.

    In his opinion article, Prof. Byers’ glazes over the broad multilateral support that the international effort in Afghanistan enjoys. More importantly, he ignores the value of the assistance Canadian development workers, civil servants and troops are providing the Afghan people.

    However much Prof. Byers would like it to be, Afghanistan is simply not Iraq.

    The United Nations, NATO and more than 35 countries are providing the humanitarian, diplomatic and military support Afghans need to build a more hopeful future. This is a definitive test of the modern multilateral order. It was 50 years ago this week that Lester B. Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in Canada’s effort to bring a peaceful end to the Suez crisis. Before and since then, Canada has been a leader in promoting global peace and security. Afghans and their government are now asking us to prove that multilateralism still works. They deserve better from Professor Byers.

    Margaux Carson,
    Ottawa
    Canadians for Afghanistan”

    As you will know, the Manley panel have been given the latitude to make any recommendation for the future of the mission they choose. You correctly point out that they were provided with four options, one of which included:

    Option 4: Withdraw all Canadian military forces from Afghanistan after February 2009 except those required to provide personal security for any remaining civilian employees.

    I encourage you to check out our website and leave your comments on our blog.

    Sincerely,

    Josh McJannett
    Canadians for Afghanistan

    Reply
  4. Josh McJannett

    Hi David,Our group, Canadians for Afghanistan, responded to Prof. Byers piece in the Saturday edition of the Ottawa Citizen.I thought I’d share it with your readers.”The Ottawa CitizenPublished: Saturday, December 15, 2007Re: “Why I said no to Manley,” Dec. 13.It is unfortunate that Michael Byers has chosen not to lend his knowledge of the law of armed conflict to the Manley Panel, to help them make the best possible recommendation on the future of Canada’s mission. Instead, by electing to use his invitation to publicly attack the independence and character of the panel’s members, he does a disservice to the people and government of Afghanistan, who are relying on Canada to consider the potential extension of its mission seriously and with maturity.In his opinion article, Prof. Byers’ glazes over the broad multilateral support that the international effort in Afghanistan enjoys. More importantly, he ignores the value of the assistance Canadian development workers, civil servants and troops are providing the Afghan people. However much Prof. Byers would like it to be, Afghanistan is simply not Iraq.The United Nations, NATO and more than 35 countries are providing the humanitarian, diplomatic and military support Afghans need to build a more hopeful future. This is a definitive test of the modern multilateral order. It was 50 years ago this week that Lester B. Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in Canada’s effort to bring a peaceful end to the Suez crisis. Before and since then, Canada has been a leader in promoting global peace and security. Afghans and their government are now asking us to prove that multilateralism still works. They deserve better from Professor Byers.Margaux Carson,OttawaCanadians for Afghanistan”As you will know, the Manley panel have been given the latitude to make any recommendation for the future of the mission they choose. You correctly point out that they were provided with four options, one of which included:Option 4: Withdraw all Canadian military forces from Afghanistan after February 2009 except those required to provide personal security for any remaining civilian employees. I encourage you to check out our website and leave your comments on our blog.Sincerely,Josh McJannettCanadians for Afghanistan

    Reply
  5. Mound of Sound

    Josh is stretching reality when he talks of “broad multilateral support” that simply doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist among the ISAF group or the civilian aid sector. If such support existed, NATO wouldn’t be limping along with 40,000 soldiers – about the number needed for Kandahar and Helmand provinces alone. Read Petraeus’ counter-insurgency field manual (FM-324 available in pdf on the internet). It notes the minimum force level is one counter-insurgent (soldier) for every twenty five civilians who need to be protected so that civilian reconstruction can go on. We have an effective force in Kanhdahar of one rifle for every 30 sq. km. That’s why we have to bomb civilian compounds – hamlets we ought to have been protecting so the Taliban couldn’t infiltrate them in the first place. If these Canadians for Afghanistan were remotely sincere, they’d be calling for Canada to muster a Korea-size force to at least secure Kandahar province.

    Reply
  6. Mound of Sound

    Josh is stretching reality when he talks of “broad multilateral support” that simply doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist among the ISAF group or the civilian aid sector. If such support existed, NATO wouldn’t be limping along with 40,000 soldiers – about the number needed for Kandahar and Helmand provinces alone. Read Petraeus’ counter-insurgency field manual (FM-324 available in pdf on the internet). It notes the minimum force level is one counter-insurgent (soldier) for every twenty five civilians who need to be protected so that civilian reconstruction can go on. We have an effective force in Kanhdahar of one rifle for every 30 sq. km. That’s why we have to bomb civilian compounds – hamlets we ought to have been protecting so the Taliban couldn’t infiltrate them in the first place. If these Canadians for Afghanistan were remotely sincere, they’d be calling for Canada to muster a Korea-size force to at least secure Kandahar province.

    Reply
  7. Josh McJannett

    Dear Mound of Sound,

    Thank you for your response.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly that Canada’s (and NATO’s) handling of the mission to date has been less than perfect.

    Neither I, nor Canadians for Afghanistan as a campaign purport to espouse military advice about how best to win a war. What we exist to do is to provide Canadians witha case for why we need to care, why we need to remain engaged.

    There is little point arguing about troop numbers, battle tactics and development strategies if your government isn’t committed to anything more than 12 months of lip service. We need to commit to getting the job done and then pledge the resources to seeing it through.

    I personally agree very strongly with you that there is a strong case to be made for more troops.

    Canada should be playing a leadership role in drumming up international support, particularly in the muslim world where donors have been reluctant to commit to the project. This mission has enormous implications for regional stability; Canada is well-placed to make that case.

    Josh McJannett
    Canadians for Afghanistan
    http://www.supportourmission.ca

    Reply
  8. Josh McJannett

    Dear Mound of Sound,Thank you for your response.I agree with you wholeheartedly that Canada’s (and NATO’s) handling of the mission to date has been less than perfect. Neither I, nor Canadians for Afghanistan as a campaign purport to espouse military advice about how best to win a war. What we exist to do is to provide Canadians witha case for why we need to care, why we need to remain engaged.There is little point arguing about troop numbers, battle tactics and development strategies if your government isn’t committed to anything more than 12 months of lip service. We need to commit to getting the job done and then pledge the resources to seeing it through. I personally agree very strongly with you that there is a strong case to be made for more troops. Canada should be playing a leadership role in drumming up international support, particularly in the muslim world where donors have been reluctant to commit to the project. This mission has enormous implications for regional stability; Canada is well-placed to make that case.Josh McJannettCanadians for Afghanistanhttp://www.supportourmission.ca

    Reply
  9. Pingback: supportourmission.ca » Blog Archive » eaves.ca

  10. Mark Graham

    Mound of Sound,

    Sincerity is hardly an issue for us. My own view, based on nothing but intuition, is that more soldiers would be helpful in the short to medium term.

    But “broad multilateral support” does not necessarily mean there will be an excess of troops. There are a number of reasons for what you consider to be the troop shortage in Afghanistan.

    What is clear is that the nine separate UNSC resolutions authorizing the ISAF mission, the large number of country’s contributing troops, and (relative, say, to Iraq) the generally supportive positions taken by the vast majority of governments in the world, together constitute “broad multilateral support”.

    The real question is not whether governments support the mission but whether they are doing enough. We are calling on Canada, and all governments, to do enough.

    Best regards,
    Mark Graham
    Canadians for Afghanistan

    Reply
  11. Mark Graham

    Mound of Sound,Sincerity is hardly an issue for us. My own view, based on nothing but intuition, is that more soldiers would be helpful in the short to medium term.But “broad multilateral support” does not necessarily mean there will be an excess of troops. There are a number of reasons for what you consider to be the troop shortage in Afghanistan.What is clear is that the nine separate UNSC resolutions authorizing the ISAF mission, the large number of country’s contributing troops, and (relative, say, to Iraq) the generally supportive positions taken by the vast majority of governments in the world, together constitute “broad multilateral support”.The real question is not whether governments support the mission but whether they are doing enough. We are calling on Canada, and all governments, to do enough.Best regards,Mark GrahamCanadians for Afghanistan

    Reply
  12. D. McBean

    Being open and clear about the mission is essential. Which is why former Conservative aides cum registered lobbyists such as Mr. McJannett should be open when they push the mission with their ‘grassroots’ (more like astroturf) organizations.
    See
    .
    .

    Reply
  13. D. McBean

    Being open and clear about the mission is essential. Which is why former Conservative aides cum registered lobbyists such as Mr. McJannett should be open when they push the mission with their ‘grassroots’ (more like astroturf) organizations. See ..

    Reply

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