The Current

Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan sparks fear, but others dispute group's 'propaganda'

As the Taliban retakes swaths of Afghanistan amid the withdrawal of NATO troops, the father of a fallen Nova Scotia soldier says he fears the country’s security situation could become so bad that Canadian forces may have to return there one day.

Past 20 years set up 'building blocks' for a 'just political order,' says Afghan expert

An Afghan security forces member keeps watch in an army vehicle at the Bagram U.S. air base in Parwan province, Afghanistan, on July 5, after American troops vacated it. The Taliban says it has taken over 85 per cent of Afghan territory as NATO forces withdraw from the country, but government officials dispute the claim. (Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

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As the Taliban retakes swaths of Afghanistan amid the withdrawal of NATO troops, the father of a fallen Nova Scotia soldier says he fears the country's security situation could become so bad that Canadian forces may have to return there one day.

"I'm scared to death. I'm very nervous, because I think the inevitable is going to happen," said Jim Davis, whose 28-year-old son, Cpl. Paul Davis, was killed in a light-armoured vehicle rollover near Kandahar in 2006.

"I believe the Taliban will eventually take the country back, because I think the current government will collapse."

The Taliban have taken over several parts of Afghanistan in recent weeks, including Panjwaii, west of Kandahar. It's an area Canadian troops spent much of their time fighting and dying for during their mission in the country. On Friday, the Taliban said it now controls 85 per cent of Afghanistan's territory, a claim government officials have dismissed as propaganda, Al Jazeera reported.

This comes after the last remaining U.S. and NATO troops formally began their withdrawal from Afghanistan earlier this spring, after 20 years of war. In an update last Thursday on the mission's end, U.S. President Joe Biden declared he "will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan, with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome."

'My boy died for a good cause,' says Davis

Canada's mission in Afghanistan formally came to a close in 2014. But amid recent events, some veterans have been questioning whether their sacrifices were worth it.

That's a question Davis has thought about a lot over the years. But, ultimately, he believes it was.

"I spent two hours with [my son] before he boarded the plane to go to Afghanistan, in Winnipeg, and we had quite the conversation," Davis told The Current's guest host, Mark Kelley.

Jim Davis, left, with his late son, Cpl. Paul Davis, right, before he left for his mission in Afghanistan. Paul Davis died in Afghanistan in 2006, when the light-armoured vehicle he was travelling in rolled over on a road near Kandahar. (Submitted by Jim Davis)

"Deep down, he honestly believed he was going to Afghanistan to make a better life for the people of Afghanistan, especially the women and the young girls."

The day before his son's funeral in 2006, Davis's feelings about Canada's mission were solidified when he met two women originally from Afghanistan, who came to give him their condolences through an interpreter, he said.

"I saw in their eyes and what I saw was broken souls…. I could immediately read the hardship that they were coming from," said Davis. 

"That's when I knew my boy died for a good cause."

Afghan army retaking Taliban districts, says expert

Muska Dastageer, an anti-corruption expert and lecturer at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, said the sacrifices Western troops made for her country were "absolutely" worthwhile.

"What has been put into place over the past 20 years is the building blocks of what one day could become a just political order," she told Kelley. 

"But it's been less than 20 years since that process began."

Muska Dastageer is an anti-corruption expert and a lecturer at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul. While the Taliban seem to be pushing for a military takeover, she credits Afghan national security forces for doing 'quite well.' (Submitted by Muska Dagasteer)

Afghanistan's administrative institutions, including the army, are still "incredibly nascent," something that must be taken into account when examining corruption or dysfunction in the country, she said.

Even though the Taliban haven't ruled for decades, the effects of their time in power, from 1996 to 2001, continue to be felt today, Dastageer added. Afghan women still face a great deal of hostility, and millions more girls are at are that risk their education could be discontinued, and the quality of their lives "diminished," she explained.

"It is absolutely true that there is an onslaught going on right now," she said. "Judging from what [the Taliban are] doing, they're very much angling for a military takeover."

However, claims that they have taken over the majority of the country are disputed, she said, as many of the districts the Taliban won in recent weeks have been retaken by Afghan security forces.

"Despite the propaganda … [Afghan national security forces are] doing quite well," she said. "And it's my hope that mainstream media is going to be able to reflect that."

Written by Kirsten Fenn. Produced by Ben Jamieson and Randy Potash.

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