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article imageOp/Ed - Canada’s Mission in Afghanistan: Who Sent Us There and Why Are We Staying?

By Carolyn E. Price     Jun 6, 2007 in World
In recent months, many politicos, writers and Digital Journalists have written rather disparagingly about Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government’s continued support of Canada’s involvement in the war on terror in Afghanistan.
I just thought that I would take a few minutes of everyone's time to review exactly how and why we (Canadians) got involved in this mission in the first place.
"Our troops are doing us great honour in Afghanistan, fighting on the front in the snow."” Jean Chretien, Prime Minister (Liberal), March 17, 2002
The days following September 11, 2001, were indeed very scary ones for citizens of countries all around the world. So much so that on September 12, 2001, the UN Security Council issued Resolution 1368 that condemned the attacks of the previous day and offered it's deepest sympathy to the American people. Resolution 1368 also reaffirmed the right of its member nations to individually and collectively defend themselves. The UN also urged the world community as a whole to "suppress terrorism and hold accountable all who aid, support or harbour the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of terrorist acts", and finally said that they were prepared to combat all forms of terrorism.
On October 4, 2001, NATO announced that in response to the terrorist attacks in the United States, the North Atlantic Council (NATO's senior advisory body) was going to invoke Article 5 of the Treaty of Washington, that says that "any attack on a NATO nation launched from outside that nation shall be interpreted as an attack on all the NATO nations".
On October 7, 2001, the Prime Minister of Canada announced that Canada would contribute air, land and sea forces to the international force being formed to conduct a campaign against terrorism.
Corporal Ainsworth Dyer  one of the first Canadian soldiers to die in Afghanistan.
Corporal Ainsworth Dyer, one of the first Canadian soldiers to die in Afghanistan.
"I told him (George W. Bush) that Canada stands shoulder to shoulder with him and the American people. We are part of an unprecedented coalition of nations that has come together to fight the threat of terrorism. A coalition that will act on a broad front that includes military humanitarian, diplomatic, financial, legislative and domestic security initiatives. I have made it clear from the very beginning that Canada would be part of this coalition every step of the way." Excerpts from Prime Minister Jean Chretien's televised speech to Canadian on October 7, 2001.
The next day, Defence Minister Art Eggleton announced that Canada would send more than 2,000 troops to Afghanistan. "Canadian Forces will become an integral part of the overall campaign. This campaign will be unlike any campaign we've engaged in before. Every role in this campaign is significant. Every country determined to halt terror can make an important difference. The coalition of nations that has come together to fight the threat of terrorism will act on a broad front. It includes not only military but humanitarian, financial, legislative, diplomatic, and domestic security initiative." And so, Canada's initial contribution to the war on terror, entitled Operation Apollo was born.
On December 21, 2001, the United Nations Security Council authorized and established the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The ISAF was a multinational security force that originally had around 5,000 personnel coming from 29 different nations. Those nations involved included Albania, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Canada and Germany contributed the bulk of the personnel with Canada contributing around 2,000 and German providing around 2,300.
The ISAF was initially established to assist the Afghan Transitional Authority (ATA) in maintaining security, enabling the Transitional Authority and the United Nations to function and operate in a secure environment. Specific jobs that the ISAF took on included: reconstituting Afghanistan authorities; improving the capability of Afghanistan police and armed forces; operating the Kabul International Airport; and ensuring force protection measures and improved situational awareness
Master Corporal Darrell J. Priede  the latest Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan.
Master Corporal Darrell J. Priede, the latest Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan.
Specific missions that the Canadian troops took on included: providing security patrols and observation posts in and around Kabul, and working on constructions of roads, bridges, defence walls and bunkers. Also, military police units were created to support military traffic control operations like traffic accident investigations, escorting cargo transport and route reconnaissance.
Of particular interest to the United Nations and to all of it's members was the additional mandate of the ISAF that had them liaising with local political, social and religious leaders to make sure that all ISAF operations respected Afghanistan's religious, ethnic and cultural sensitivities. This is a role that Canada's troops took on with great pride and they have comported themselves with dignitiy in this regard ever since they first arrived in Afghanistan.
In 2003, ISAF control was transferred from the United Nations to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The transfer had no operational impact and the ISAF continues to operate under the original United Nations mandate. It also welcomes contributions from non-NATO countries.
Canada's current operation in Afghanistan is called Athena and there are approximately 2,500 troops committed to this operation.
In July of 2006, the ISAF assumed command of the southern region of Afghanistan from the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). From February to July of 2006, Canadian Forces personnel were operating under the OEF command while they consolidated their personnel in the volatile Southern Afghan region.
Now, Canada's efforts in Afghanistan are guided by the Afghanistan Compact, a document that is basically a five-year timetable that coordinates the work of the Afghanistan government and its international partners. The document outlines specific outcomes, along with benchmarks and timelines for the delivery of those outcomes in the three major areas of security, governance, and development.
Along with the military assistance, Canada is also donating humanitarian/development aid to Afghanistan. Canada has been focusing it's humanitarian aid on: peacebuilding; reintegration of people returning to their homes; land mine assistance; promotion of human rights - especially the rights of women; and the provision of basic health care and education for all.
In 2006, the federal government (Conservative) made a commitment to bring the total Canadian humanitarian/development funding to Afghanistan to $1 billion for the decade running from 2001 to 2011.
Since the Conservatives won a minority government, the left wing media has been spinning Afghanistan as a federal Conservative mandate to turn the Liberal "reconstruction" mission into a "military" mission. Just a few notes that should dispel that fantasy: Defence Minister Art Eggleton (a Liberal) announces on December 19, 2001, that 40 members of Canada's elite anti-terrorist group, Joint Task Force 2, are on the ground near Kandahar. The ultra-secretive unit was deployed in early December, 2001 but their exact location had never been disclosed until the announcement; and in July of 2005 General Rick Hillier announced that Canada's JTF-2 soldiers will be heading to Afghanistan to join the fight against "detestable murderers and scumbags" in combat missions. Hillier said: "We're not the public service of Canada. We're not just another department. We are the Canadian Forces, and our job is to be able to kill people." After much bleating by the media, Prime Minister Paul Martin (a Liberal) defended Hillier by saying "General Hillier is not only a top soldier, but he's a soldier who has served in Afghanistan. And the point that he is simply making is that, 'Look, we are at war with the terrorists, and we are not going to let them win.'"
I think that we all know by now that rebuilding Afghanistan after 23 years of conflict, human rights abuses and drought is going to be a long and difficult road. I believe that Canadian troops are making progress. Now that Canada is in one of the most troubled regions of the country, there are going to be even more challenges for them to establish security and stability for the local residents. However, the job needs to be done even in places where you don't want to go, and Canada is there to do its job. I know we can all agree that the biggest threat toward rebuilding the region is the continued roadblocks put up by the Taliban and al-Qaeda, whose main goal seems to be to disrupt and stop Afghan men, women and children from going about their daily lives.
Terrorism is still a threat to global peace and security and in the past, Afghanistan has been used as a base for terrorists. It is in everyones best interests that Canada and its international partners continue to try to stop terrorism from once again taking root in Afghanistan.
And finally, in case you've all forgotten, the following is a list of the brave Canadian men and woman who have lost their lives, and when they lost their lives, in Afghanistan since our involvement began in 2001:
Master-Corporal Darrell J. Priede, on 30 May 2007
Corporal Matthew J. McCully, on 25 May 2007
Master-Corporal Anthony Klumpenhouwer, on 18 April 2007
Master Corporal Allan Stewart, Trooper Patrick James Pentland, on 11 April 2007
Corporal Aaron E. Williams, Corporal Christopher P. Stannix, Corporal Brent D. Poland, Sergeant Donald Lucas, Private Kevin V. Kennedy, Private David R. Greenslade, on 8 April 2007
Corporal Kevin Megeney, on 6 March 2007
Corporal Albert Storm, Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard, on 27 November 2006
Private Blake Williamson, Sergeant Darcy Tedford, on 14 October 2006
Trooper Mark Andrew Wilson, on 7 October 2006
Sergeant Craig Paul Gillam, Corporal Robert Thomas James Mitchell, on 3 October 2006
Private Josh Klukie, on 29 September 2006
Corporal Keith Morley, Corporal Shane Keating, Corporal Glen Arnold, Private David Byers, on 18 September 2006
Private Mark Anthony Graham, on 4 September 2006
Private William Jonathan James Cushley, Sergeant Shane Stachnik, Warrant Officer Richard Francis Nolan, Warrant Officer Frank Robert Mellish, on 3 September 2006
Corporal David Braun, on 22 August 2006
Corporal Andrew James Eykelenboom, on 11 August 2006
Master Corporal Jeffrey Scott Walsh, on 9 August 2006
Master Corporal Raymond Arndt, on 5 August 2006
Sergeant Vaughan Ingram, Corporal Christopher Jonathan Reid, Corporal Bryce Jeffrey Keller, Private Kevin Dallaire, on 3 August 2006
Corporal Jason Patrick Warren, Corporal Francisco Gomez, on 22 July 2006
Corporal Anthony Boneca, on 9 July 2006
Captain Nichola Kathleen Sarah Goddard, on 17 May 2006
Bombardier Myles Stanley John Mansell, Corporal Randy Payne, Corporal Matthew David James Dinning, Lieutenant William Turner, on 22 April 2006
Private Robert Costall, on 28 March 2006
Master-Corporal Timothy Wilson, Corporal Paul Davis, on 2 March 2006
Mr. Glyn Berry, Political Director, Foreign Affairs Canada, on 15 January 2006
Private Braun Scott Woodfield, on 24 November 2005
Corporal Jamie Brendan Murphy, on 27 January 2003
Sergeant Robert Allen Short, Corporal Robbie Christopher Beerenfenger, on 2 October 2002
Sergeant Marc D. Leger, Private Richard Green, Private Nathan Smith, Corporal Ainsworth Dyer, on 18 April 2002
LEST WE FORGET, and may they rest in peace.
Again, I would like to stress that Canada is in Afghanistan at the request of their democratically elected government and as a part of the UN-sanctioned/NATO led mission to help build a stable, democratic and self-sufficient society.
International Security Assistance Force website
National Defence and the Canadian Forces website
The Afghanistan Compact, document website.
More about Canada, Role, Afghanistan
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