AFGHANISTAN

The Canadian connection

ANDREW BILSKI May 30 1988
AFGHANISTAN

The Canadian connection

ANDREW BILSKI May 30 1988

The Canadian connection

As the Soviet troop withdrawal from Afghanistan progressed last week Capt. Murray Allan marked his 15th year in the Canadian Forces at the Holiday Inn in Islamabad. He and four other Canadian officers are part of the 50man UN team observing the pullout and investigating breaches of the Afghan accord. “We realize there could be a bit of danger,” said the 37-year-old native of Creelman, Sask. Added Allan: “When they told me I was coming over here for a year I thought it was fantastic. This is why I joined the Canadian Forces—the thrill, adventure and excitement of going to some foreign country.”

Along with investigations leader Maj. Geordie Elms, 34, of Toronto, and Capt. Doug Mair of Aurora, Ont., a 40-year-old father of two who is the team’s military administrative officer, Allan is based in the Pakistani capital with one-half of the UN mission. Lt.-Col. David Leslie, 51, of Ottawa, the ranking officer of the Canadians, and Capt. Pat Chartres, 47, also from Ottawa, are based in Kabul with the others. Under a rotation system, each observer will spend time in both posts.

Each member of the Canadian contingent has had UN peacekeeping experience—mostly in Cyprus, Beirut or Jerusalem. But because the

Geneva accord on Afghanistan does not include a ceasefire, the unarmed observers face the danger of continuing warfare between Mujahedeen rebels and the Afghan Army.

All the observers will wear a sky-

blue beret adorned with a UN badge, and the Canadians will have Maple Leaf flags on their sleeves. Shirley Elms, the wife of one Canadian, said that she is “not at all concerned” for her husband’s safety. Referring to his

previous duty as an unarmed peacekeeper in Beirut and Jerusalem from 1983 to 1985, Elms said, “We’ve lived through this before.”

The Canadian officers, too, downplayed the possible dangers. “You really don’t know what you are going to experience until it happens,” said Capt. Mair. He added: “Those of us

who have been to Beirut have experience under fire. We are prepared.”

ANDREW BILSKI with

KATHY GANNON

in Peshawar and

HILARY MACKENZIE

in Ottawa