Mission: Afghanistan
Sep 15, 2009

As Chief of the Defence Staff, I have said that the defence of Canada begins off shore, in places like Afghanistan. As part of a UN-sanctioned, NATO-led mission requested by the ­government of Afghanistan, the Canadian Forces are committed to protecting Afghans and I have had the privilege of witnessing some of Canada’s best and brightest – both military and civilian – working hard to secure a future of hope and opportunity for the people of Afghanistan. Whether it be ­Canadian soldiers protecting Afghans and mentoring their Afghan National Army counterparts, members of the RCMP training Afghan National Police, or civilians fostering critically important reconstruction and development initiatives, the mission Afghanistan is worthwhile.

The situation is difficult. Security has deteriorated in some parts of the country. The election has been marked by allegations of fraud – allegations that are being investigated by the Independent Election Commission and Canada’s Grant Kippen.

For years, insufficient numbers of troops has challenged the ability of NATO forces to create the security conditions necessary for tangible progress. But that is changing. The influx of American troops into the Kandahar region over the past few months has enabled Canada to concentrate its efforts – both military and civilian – on a smaller area of responsibility. It has allowed Canadians and Afghans to stabilize a region of the province and establish the conditions necessary for development and governance. And it is yielding, small, but important results.

This “village-based approach” is very much in line with the recommendations made in the assessment conducted by ­General Stanley McChrystal, commander of ISAF. It is about protecting the civilian population and establishing the security conditions necessary for development.

It is about creating opportunities for local entrepreneurs and fostering a sense of hope and optimism for the Afghan people. It is about offering Afghans a credible and effective alternative to the insurgency.

Three years ago, Canadians were largely alone in Kandahar Province. Today, we have a four-fold increase in American military and civilian resources assisting our efforts. We have an Afghan brigade leading and executing operations. We have over 700 Afghan police taking an increasingly active role in policing their communities.

There is much work to be done, and significant challenges as we move ­forward, but the work being done by Canadians in Kandahar Province is commendable, and the strategy recently advocated by General McChrystal will bring us closer to our goal of rebuilding Afghanistan as a stable and democratic country.
I am very proud of the men and women serving in Afghani­stan.
General Walt Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff
© FrontLine Defence 2009