After 12 years and 162 deaths, Canada formally ended its involvement in Afghanistan yesterday, hauling down the Canadian flag at NATO headquarters in a low-key ceremony journalists were ordered not to report on at the time because of security concerns. Canadian soldiers joined the hunt for Osama bin Laden in late 2001 and more than 40,000 rotated through the country in the following years. The last remaining Canadian personnel, who had been training Afghan forces, will leave the country at the end of this week, reports the CBC.
"Canada played a critical role in securing Kandahar Province and had a strategic impact across the country with their contribution to the NATO training mission," the top US commander in Afghanistan said at the flag-lowering ceremony. But at home, the public had long questioned Canada's involvement in what turned out to be the country's longest war, and its biggest overseas deployment since 1945. "Canadian troops fought bravely," writes Thomas Walkom at the Toronto Star. "But they were ill-served by political masters who could never quite figure out why we were in this particular war."