07/10/2021 By RuneLite
As the situation unfolds in Afghanistan, a former Sudbury, Ont., doctor who served on the frontlines in the war against the Taliban says he is still proud of his and Canada's efforts to bring peace to the country.
But Dr. Ray Wiss said in an interview with CTV News that it hasn't been easy watching the collapse of the Western-backed regime.
"I've run the gamut of emotions, as you can imagine," Wiss said on the phone from his new home in British Columbia. "But I will never be ashamed or regret what I did -- what we did."
Despite the rout by the Taliban, he's hoping their efforts will still someday yield results.
When Canadian troops landed in Afghanistan in 2001, Wiss said, no girls were allowed to receive an education.
"By the time we left the combat mission, there were three million in school," he said. "How much of that seed that was planted there will blossom? How much can it be repressed? I don't know."
Wiss went to Afghanistan for the first time in 2007-2008, and did a second tour of duty in 2009. He wrote two books on his experiences – 'FOB Doc: A Doctor On the Front Lines in Afghanistan - A War Diary' and 'A Line in the Sand: Canadians at War in Kandahar.'
When he left after his last tour, Wiss said the outcome was far from certain. He points to one anecdote his combat team commander related to him, in which a local warlord was demanding money the Canadians were carrying for an aid group.
"He was trying to appropriate a large cash payment that we we're trying to make to a regional organization," Wiss said. "He says, 'No, I want that. I'm taking it,' and things are pretty tense there for a while ... Canadian soldiers actually had to get into a Mexican standoff, guns pointing at his people and his guys pointing guns at ours."
Finally, more coalition soldiers showed up and the warlord backed off. But it was a sign of how deep the problems were.
More than 40,000 Canadians served in Afghanistan and 158 were killed between 2001 and 2014, when Canada's military operations ended. There were casualties from Sudbury, too, including Pvt. Andrew Miller, who was killed in Kandahar in 2010, and Corp. Bill Kerr of Sudbury, who lost both his legs and his left arm in 2008, also in Kandahar.
Wiss said he takes a broader look at these sacrifices in the context of the current situation and compared it to the genocide in Rwanda, where the international community stood by while close to one million were people slaughtered.
Dr. Ray Wiss is seen on the cover of his book, 'FOB Doc: A Doctor On the Front Lines in Afghanistan - A War Diary,' in which he wrote about his time on the front lines in Kandahar in 2007-2008. (File)
"We never talk about the fact that (Gen.) Romeo Dallaire screamed at us for two months, saying something bad is going to happen," he said. "We have washed our hands of the responsibility for close to a million deaths."
Time and again, the international community has stood idly watching as atrocities take place, he said. At least in Afghanistan, he said, we tried.
"We took the opportunity to try to do something, right? And I will never regret that," Wiss said. "We went to Afghanistan. We tried, but it didn't work out as well as we'd like, and we will be criticized for it, but I will not be ashamed."
While reluctant to criticize the decision to pull out, Wiss said Canada should be making every effort to evacuate every person who wants to leave.
"We've got Special Forces right now at the Kabul Airport," he said. "We should have a battalion over there. We should get a regiment over there and we should be not only evacuating every single person wants to leave, we should be helping them in every way we can."