Police chief shares personal feelings of watching Taliban take over Afghanistan

By Denis Grignon

Police Chief Mark Mitchell spent a full year from 2009 to 2010 in Afghanistan.

I spent 10 days in Afghanistan in August of 2010. But I wouldn’t dare afford myself any great insight into the true plight of its residents – before or after those tragic images of desperate Afghans trying, in vain, to escape their home and its not-so-new ruthless rulers.

I was the bilingual comic emcee for a show tour of a small handful of Canadian Armed Forces operating bases and, therefore, always under watchful protection. As the entertainment for the troops, we were escorted everywhere by well-equipped military personnel, we were well-fed, slept in air-conditioned quarters and, aside from a few air sirens that, admittedly, surely raised my blood pressure as I sought close cover (always within steps), I never really felt in danger.

We consorted with some of the locals, but only minimally and always under careful supervision by our Canadian handlers. That included a short visit to a nearby school where I made crafts with some of the Afghan kids. Well, boys only — because girls had not yet been given the right to attend school.

Kawartha Lakes Police Chief Mark Mitchell. Photo: Erin Burrell.

Kawartha Lakes Police Chief Mark Mitchell has a much more personal and empathetic point-of-view though. Mitchell spent a full year from 2009 to 2010 in Afghanistan, mentoring and training its then-new national police service. It meant living and working alongside its residents – some of whom he knows have since died or been killed.

So, understandably, his was a more personal roller coaster of feelings as he watched the recent footage of the Afghan government, military and police service capitulate at a speed most pundits did predict.

“I went through a real range of emotions,” he told me about watching the scenes of the Taliban take-over a few weeks ago. In a candid conversation for The Advocate Podcast’s most recent episode, Mitchell cites the most “disheartening” image: “The convoy of Taliban fighters entering (Kabul, the capital city). Vehicles with Taliban fighters clinging on to them.” Here, Mitchell pauses slightly, then adds. “And then I saw an Afghan police vehicle in that convoy. And an Afghan army truck…vehicles that had been provided to the Afghan security forces.” Another pause. “And now they were in the hands of the Taliban.”

“To me,” he adds, “that was very symbolic.”  

And, yes, disheartening for someone who spent a year in the warn-torn country working to enact positive change.  

–Listen to the full interview with Mark Mitchell in of The Advocate Podcast: Stories from Kawartha Lakes. Subscribe for free via Spotify, Apple Podcasts or follow the link on this page. Brought to you by Wards Lawyers.

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