20 years after they deployed to Afghanistan, Canadian soldiers ask: Was it worth it?

At their first reunion since the Afghanistan mission, this is how Canadian veterans say they view and value their role there in the wake of the Taliban's recent takeover.

How Canadian veterans view and value their role in Afghanistan in wake of Taliban's takeover

Retired colonel Pat Stogran, who was commander of the first Canadian Forces deployed in Afghanistan, is seen near Kandahar in April 2002. (Stephen Thorne/Canadian Press)

Twenty years ago, they believed they were making history.

"9-11 happened, and like four months later we're there in Afghanistan, and it really mattered and people really cared," said Alex Watson, a captain on Canada's first deployment, now retired and working as a lawyer in Calgary. "But in terms of wins over the long term … a place like Afghanistan will break your heart."

Canadian soldiers who served in Afghanistan held a reunion recently in Edmonton to rekindle the deep bonds of war, and reflect on what's happened since the U.S.-led mission ended and the Taliban took control of the country. One big question in the air: Was it worth it?

"I would never butcher soldiers for the outcome that we had," said retired colonel Pat Stogran, who commanded the 3rd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. 

Over the 12 years that Canada fought in Afghanistan, 158 Canadian soldiers died, and thousands more suffered physical and psychological injuries. There were also deaths by suicide after soldiers returned from their deployments. 

CBC's David Common went to Afghanistan eight times to report on the war, so when an invitation to the reunion landed in his inbox, he knew he had a lot of questions for the veterans.

WATCH | 20 years after Afghanistan, soldiers ask — was it worth it?:

20 years after Afghanistan, soldiers ask: Was it worth it?

3 months ago
Duration 9:17
After years of reporting on the war in Afghanistan, CBC’s David Common travels to Edmonton to attend a reunion with Canadian soldiers as they reflect on whether it was all worth it.

Watch full episodes of The National on CBC Gem, the CBC's streaming service.


David Common covers a wide range of stories for CBC News, from war to disrupting scams. He is a host with the investigative consumer affairs program Marketplace, and a correspondent with The National. David has travelled to more than 85 countries for his work, has lived in cities across Canada, and been based as a foreign correspondent in the U.S. and Europe. He has won a number of awards, but a big career highlight remains an interview with Elmo. You can reach David at, Twitter: @davidcommon.


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