Mark Collins – Afghanistan: Gurkhas Fallen for Canada in Kabul

Matthew Fisher of Postmedia News puts the murder of fourteen Canadian embassy security guards from Nepal in some historical context:

Canada owes debt to fearless Nepalese warriors

Given how hazardous their work is, it is a wonder that it took until Monday morning [June 20] for 14 Nepalese guards to be murdered as they were being driven by bus from where they lived to the Canadian embassy in Kabul.

The suicide bomber was on foot when he struck the minibus. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the attack “appalling and cowardly.”

“Our thoughts are with the victims as we stand with the Afghan people,” Trudeau tweeted.

The deaths of these legendary fighters, who had retired from the British, Indian and Nepalese armies’ storied Gurkha regiments, will undoubtedly have a profound effect on the psyche of those few courageous Westerners still living and working in the Afghan capital.

The Nepalese are “consummate professionals — fearless warriors with the gift of self-restraint who know the value of human life,” Canada’s first ambassador to Afghanistan, Chris Alexander, said in an email Monday…

Armed with assault weapons and protected only by body armour, sand bags and cement bunkers, Gurkhas have provided the first line of defence at Canada’s embassy since it opened in the Wazir Akbar Khan diplomatic enclave in 2003, guarding the checkpoints and other barriers at the entrance and along the narrow road that leads to the compound. They have performed similar duties at other embassy fortresses in the capital and at UN compounds there and around the country since the Taliban were ousted from power in the fall of 2001…

I first heard of the exploits of these legendary fighters from the Himalayas during the Falklands War. Argentine troops claimed that rumours about Gurkhas serving with British forces using their curved “kukri” daggers [images here] to slit their enemies’ throats had terrorized many of them into surrendering without a fight. Similar stories of the ferocity and loyalty of Gurkhas have circulated since they first served with the British East India Company in 1812 and after that for the British army during the Afghan wars of the 19th century and early 20th century. Hundreds of thousands of Gurkhas fought with the British in such famous First World War and Second World War battles as Flanders, Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Tobruk, El Alamein, Cassino, the Gothic Line, on the Rangoon Road and at Mandalay [see also: “The Fighting Gurkha“]

The British army still employs several thousand Royal Gurkha Rifles [webpage here] who are garrisoned in Britain and the Sultanate of Brunei. Other Gurkhas have served with the Indian Army since Partition [more here]…

A tweet of mine:

More on those Gurkhas at the end of this 2012 post:

Canadian Office in a British Embassy? No Big Deal

More Afghan context:

POTUS Bites a Bullet, Loosens US Forces in Afghanistan Somewhat

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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