Chief of defence staff tells soldiers to 'hold their heads high' after Panjwaii falls to Taliban

·2 min read
Former Cpl. John Lowe rests during an operation on March 23, 2010 in Panjwaii, Afghanistan. (Murray Brewster/Canadian Press - image credit)
Former Cpl. John Lowe rests during an operation on March 23, 2010 in Panjwaii, Afghanistan. (Murray Brewster/Canadian Press - image credit)

Canada's top soldier has written to current and retired soldiers to offer words of support and reflection following the fall of Panjwaii — the district in Afghanistan where so many Canadians fought and died.

"Many of us have been watching the reports coming out of Afghanistan with dismay," Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre, acting chief of the defence staff, said in an open letter posted online.

"The fall of Panjwaii, reported last week, has hit many of us particularly hard, and as we question our legacy, it serves as a harbinger for all Canadians who served in the country, regardless of when and where."

The Taliban swept through Panjwaii the previous weekend, handing Afghan Army troops a significant defeat and delivering a major psychological blow in the wake of the American withdrawal. On Friday, Taliban forces penetrated Kandahar City.

Kandahar City and its surrounding region was the Taliban's spiritual home, birthplace and first seat of power, a place from which they projected their own brutal version of Islam in the 1990s.

'Was it worth it?'

Eyre said in his letter that place names such as Masum Ghar and Mushan have been carved into the memories of the Canadians who served there.

"The heat, the dust, the grape rows, and the poppy fields all provide a backdrop to what truly troubles us — our investment of effort, of sweat, and most of all of blood," he wrote.

That loss of life affected not just the soldiers, Eyre said, but also the families of the those who served.

"Many of us have been asking, some for years, 'Was it worth it?' Answers will be deeply personal and not all have reached a final conclusion, other than time will tell," he said.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press
Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Eyre went on to say that soldiers who served in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan can "hold their heads high knowing that we did everything our government asked us to do."

"The solution was never going to be a military one, and what we gave the people and the government of Afghanistan was time," he wrote. "The decision with what to do with that time was theirs to make."

Acknowledging the "pain and doubt" now felt by many of the Canadians who served in Afghanistan, Eyre urged them not to give in to "bitterness and remorse."

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