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?:
Watch full episodes of The National on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.