ARCHIVÉE - La mission des Forces Canadiennes en Afghanistan: « La politique et les valeurs canadiennes en action »

Cette page Web a été archivée dans le Web

L'information dont il est indiqué qu'elle est archivée est fournie à des fins de référence, de recherche ou de tenue de documents. Elle n'est pas assujettie aux normes Web du gouvernement du Canada et elle n'a pas été modifiée ou mise à jour depuis son archivage. Pour obtenir cette information dans un autre format, veuillez communiquer avec nous.

Archives des discours du ministre / Le 9 novembre 2005

Note: Cette transcription est présentée dans la langue utilisée lors de la conférence de presse. Elle vous est  fournie à titre d'information seulement. Il n'y a pas de traduction disponible.
[ Seul le texte prononcé fait foi ]

PRINCIPAL(S)/PRINCIPAUX: Bill Graham, Minister of Defence


It is a pleasure to be here at the Liu Center today to speak to this audience about what I believe to be one of the most important foreign operation the Canadian Forces have undertaken in many years: our mission to Afghanistan. I know that you follow Canada's foreign policy initiatives closely and will be fully aware of what is at stake in Afghanistan.

And I am sure that you will agree with me that Canadians should know why their government has called upon our military to go to Afghanistan at this time, how this new mission is a logical extension of Canada's previous commitments to this country, how it reflects our history, how it is an example of our new defence and foreign policies in action, and how it is an expression of Canadian values.

Canada's New Foreign and Defence Policies

Several months ago, the Government of Canada published a series of papers on our foreign and defence policies. Together these papers are designed to chart the course of Canadian foreign and defence policy for at least the next decade.

These documents were not academic exercises, they were informed by recent global history and born of experience, particularly the international experience of the Canadian Forces over the past 15 years in places as diverse and challenging as Somalia, the Balkans, Haiti and Afghanistan.

The one unifying feature running through these very different places is that none of these states were able to provide an acceptable level of security for their citizens or fulfill their international obligations. They were or are, failed or failing states.

As a result of this experience, both the defence and international policy statements identify the concept of failed and failing states as the organizing principle for Canada's future foreign military operations.

Failed and failing states are a major challenge to global peace and security in the first part of the 21st century. We must address them not only because of the geopolitical instability they generate as breeding grounds for terrorism and international crime (think of New York, London and Madrid), but also because the suffering and denial of human rights challenges basic Canadian values.

Indeed, it was very much these considerations that led us to push for the promotion of the concept of the “Responsibility to Protect” at the United Nations as a guide to how, and under what conditions, the international community should intervene to address the situation when states were failing to exercise their sovereign powers to protect their citizens.

Security reasons may mandate the need for us to focus our efforts on such states, but Canadians should know as well that we have developed some very special skills in dealing with these complex situations.

Dealing with situations in failed or failing states is not simply about waging war “over there”. Rather, it requires a sophisticated set of skills and instruments, including combat capabilities, negotiation and diplomatic skills, and a willingness to help others rebuild their institutions in a way that is culturally sensitive to their distinct local needs. We are there to rebuild society, winning battles is only part of the job.

These are attributes the Canadian Forces have in spades largely due to the combination of our military's vast experience in peacekeeping operations around the world since the 1950's, the enviable war fighting history of the Canadian military in all the major conflicts of the twentieth century and our recent experience in complex places like the Balkans.

Few militaries in the world have this range of history and experience. This, in turn, has instilled in our military culture, and our people, a rich array of skills and attributes.

After all, our men and women in uniform embody Canadian values of tolerance and respect combined with a steely determination to defend our rights. These values are a result of our history as a bilingual and multicultural nation that has, over the years, become one of the world's most successful models of embracing cultural differences among one of the world's most diverse populations.

Moreover, the Government of Canada's “3-D Approach”, which integrates defence, diplomacy and development assistance in our international operations, is tailor made to a policy emphasis on failed and failing states. This holistic and integrative approach gives Canada comparative strength in achieving objectives on the ground, whether that is security and stabilization, humanitarian relief, institution building or economic development.

I need not remind this audience of the unfortunate history of war and misrule that has characterized Afghanistan's recent history culminating in the rule of the Taliban and their support for all al-Qaeda and their attack on New York.

And the troubled country of Afghanistan, where the Canadian Forces have been deployed consistently since 2002 in varying numbers and missions, is a quintessential example of where we can effectively bring these qualities to bear.

That is why we were there as early as 2002, in Kandahar, in a combat mission to deal with international terrorism. It is why we pressed for NATO to take over ISAF and then subsequently provided some 2,000 troops to a mission led by Gen Rick Hillier, today the Chief of the Defence Staff.

ISAF has been, and continues to be, instrumental in providing the stability and security the Afghan government needs to extend its authority throughout the country. It was crucial to the successful and relatively peaceful presidential elections of last year. And when we recently watched parliamentary and provincial elections we had the gratifying sight of Afghans, particularly women, defying threats of violence and intimidation, going to the polls in record numbers.

These elections were not without their problems. A very courageous Canadian, whose life was often threatened, worked ceaselessly to ensure the integrity of the process. The turn out varied in different parts of the country and in some cases the results had to be dismissed because of outright fraud. But in the end, new voices are present in the Afghan political system:

women, such as Ms Siddiqi, who spent time in Canada as an activist for Afghan women, demonstrated great courage and determination to win a parliamentary seat despite a direct attack on her life; Hazaras (a long disadvantaged minority) and others determined to bring modern, democratic perspectives to a society long determined by tribal rulers. From now on power will be determined by votes, not guns. So, like everything in Afghanistan, we can see hope. We can see progress. But we also must recognize that the continued commitment and presence of the international community is necessary if a new Afghanistan is to emerge from its recent terrible past.

ISAF was the right mission for Canada, although, like Kandahar, it has proved to be dangerous, resulting in 3 Canadian fatalities and further injured personnel.

Canada's efforts to secure and re-build Afghanistan, both through our military and our substantial aid contribution of over $600 million dollars, have been consistent and robust for well over 3 years. And real progress has been made, notably with the gradual re-building of institutions and civil society.

Afghanistan could probably still be accurately described as a fragile state. Extremist insurgents continue to roam some parts of the country in an effort to regain their previous authority, terrorize the population and destabilize the government. Its economy is overwhelmingly dependent on the international narcotics trade and the country is therefore highly vulnerable to organized crime.

Afghanistan then is at a critical juncture today. Progress has been substantial but the ongoing commitment of the international community is required if it is to become a peaceful, stable and prosperous country. Without a solid, long-term, multi-faceted international commitment, it could revert back to a failed state or become a “narco-state”. That is not in our interest or, indeed, in the interest of any state.

That is why the Government has decided to increase Canada's military commitment to Afghanistan over the next several months. In fact, by early next year, our military presence and role in Afghanistan will be greater and more varied than it has been to date, notwithstanding significant contributions over the past three years.

Just last month, the Canadian Forces returned to Kandahar and established a Provincial Reconstruction Team, a PRT, comprised of about 250 Canadian Forces members as well as officials from CIDA, the RCMP and Foreign Affairs.

The intent of the PRT concept is to assist the Afghan authorities in providing governance and security, as well as delivering basic services to citizens. It is a concept that is highly consistent with Canadian values and expertise. It also corresponds with the thrust of our defence and international policy statements as a practical exercise in our 3-D approach.

Provincial Reconstruction Teams have been established by various NATO countries throughout Afghanistan. Canada chose to deploy a PRT to Kandahar because it is a region we know well, having been there before. It is also one of the provinces most in need of security and re-building. Kandahar is a big challenge for the international community and for Canada, but we know we can make a real difference there, given our past experience and expertise.

In February, the Canadian Forces will also be deploying into Kandahar province a brigade headquarters of about 350 personnel that will command the multi-national force there for nine months. At the same time, we will be deploying a Task Force of about 1,000 troops into Kandahar for one year. As an essential complement to the reconstruction efforts of our PRT, this force will provide much needed security in the region.

We have also recently deployed elements of JTF2, Canada's elite special- forces unit, into southern Afghanistan to work with our allies in counter-insurgency operations, again to help provide security and stability so re-building can take place.

Finally, we are providing a Strategic Advisory Team of approximately 15 civilian and military planners and support staff to advise the Afghan government on defence and national security issues for a year. Their job is to enable the Afghan government to run their own affairs, our raison d'être for being there.

So as you can see, Canada's military commitment to Afghanistan now and going forward is significant and multi-faceted, reflecting the complex challenges on the ground.

A month ago I had the privilege of visiting our troops in Afghanistan for the second time. This recent trip brought home to me the human dimension of what we are accomplishing there. In Kabul I heard first hand from President Karzai, Foreign Minister Abdullah, the Minister of Defence, and the Minister responsible for rural development just how much they appreciate not only the stability and security that our troops are bringing to their country, but of equal importance, how our troops work naturally with the local population in a way that inspires their confidence and makes us their partners in rebuilding their country.

In Kandahar, the local governor and tribal elders I met told me how much they liked working with our Provincial Reconstruction Team. How Colonel [Steve] Bowes and his troops understand their needs for schools, hospitals, and roads and how the troops are working with them to rebuild this infrastructure. And how the local police appreciate the RCMP officers there and the policing skills they are providing. They told me a very human story of how they had been given 20 motorcycles – but they had no idea how to use them. So they brought them to the base and our troops taught them how to ride and manoeuvre them.

Driving through Kandahar on patrol with our troops I was surprised by the number of smiling children who ran over to wave and cheer our convoy. I should not have been surprised by that because our troops have a great affinity for children. In Kabul, my wife visited an orphanage that had been adopted by the Civil Military Cooperation Detachment. They had made it their special project to take toys they collected, clothes and other necessities to the children. All of this on their own time and with their own money. And the director told Cathy of just how important their regular visits are for the happiness and well being of the children, and also for the their security by discouraging the attentions of less well-intentioned persons.

It is that spirit of going the extra mile that works wonders with the local population and, without any express intention, contributes significantly to the success of our mission. And it is that spirit that led a British commando general to tell me that the Canadian troops are appreciated by their NATO allies because of their willingness to stop and help, or to extend a patrol when needed, and how this is an inspiration and encouragement to other members of the ISAF mission to get out and actively engage the population, not necessarily a natural reaction in other military cultures.

Our troops rightly take pride in what they are doing in Afghanistan. This point has been brought home to me as I travel across Canada and am told stories by our troops of how proud they are of their part in bringing changes there.

Canadian Afghans too speak of the importance of our mission, as recently happened when I was in Quebec City speaking to students at Laval. Two women from Afghanistan in the audience came up to me afterwards and thanked Canada for how our troops are transforming their country. They particularly emphasized how the status of women has improved with the presence of international troops.

And not only Afghans appreciate what we are doing for their country. I have also heard from our NATO allies who value the quality of our participation there and the contribution that we are making in ensuring the success of the mandate that the United Nations conferred on NATO. Nor should we underestimate just how much this participation contributes to Canada's standing in the international community, where there is a universal appreciation of the threat posed by an unstable Afghanistan.

So, from a Canadian perspective, our mission in Afghanistan is totally consistent with Canada's new international and defence policies; in fact, it is the first and most significant tangible expression of those policies in action. Our role in Afghanistan is also quintessentially Canadian: we are helping re-build a troubled country and we are giving hope for the future to a long-suffering people. This is a clear expression of our Canadian values at work.

A few voices call for the withdrawal of our troops. A visiting British politician even suggested at a Toronto rally recently that we are engaged there in a war against Islam. My answer is: they should talk to the Afghans, Afghans who are Muslims themselves, Afghans who want us there to help them transform their country and allow them to live decent lives; to allow them to conduct fair and democratic elections free from fear and intimidation.

That said, Canadians should be under no illusion; Kandahar is a very complex, challenging and dangerous environment and mission. The part of Afghanistan we are going to is among the most unstable and dangerous in the country. Indeed, that is why we have been asked to go there and that is why we are going there.

Canadians can be assured that our troops are exceptionally well trained, equipped and led for this mission. I met with them in Kandahar. They are confident in their ability to accomplish this task with all the professional qualities that have marked their previous endeavors. Among them are those who have served there before.

In fact, the PRT is named Camp Nathan Smith after one of the four Canadians tragically killed by “friendly fire” at the military training area known as Tarnak Farm, just outside of Kandahar city. General Hillier and I unveiled the plaque naming the camp when we were there in the presence of several of their colleagues who were present at that tragic event. So they know from their experience that this will be dangerous work with a risk of injury and the potential for casualties that comes with the job.

Canadians, too, must recognize this aspect of their mission and be ready to support them in every way if that occurs.

Afghanistan and 21st Century Peacekeeping

I know that this audience closely follows defence policy issues and you no doubt have noticed that there has been some attention in the media over the summer on the nature of our Afghanistan operation. Some have described this as a peacekeeping mission, while others, like the Polaris Institute, have characterized it as peacemaking, and as such, a departure from Canada's traditional role.

This, in my view, is a rather abstract and academic debate and it obscures the reality of today's operations. Each mission is unique and our mission in Afghanistan blends many elements, including peacekeeping and combat.

General Romeo Dallaire distinguishes between the previous classic peacekeeping missions and the more complex multinational operations of the last decade or so. But in so doing, he does not abandon peacekeeping, rather he updates it to fit modern realities. He and other experts rightly point out that to be effective and successful, today's “peacekeepers” often need more flexible, robust mandates and rules of engagement and the combat capabilities necessary to enforce them. And if you have doubts about the need to be ready for combat, ask the Dutch about Srebrenica [Bosnia and Herzegovina]

Clearly, we could not effectively do what we are doing in Afghanistan if we did not have a long, internationally respected, and proud history of peacekeeping around the world, which has instilled a special culture and skill-set in the Canadian Forces, that few militaries possess. Of equal importance, the Canadian Forces could not effectively carry out this mission, or many others, without the ability to engage in active combat and deal with violent aggressors.

Resorting to war or conflict is the absolute last resort for Canadians and that includes our military who have experienced it. As Erasmus put it: “War is sweet to those who do not know it.”

Fundamentally we are in Afghanistan to help them rebuild their country, and our actions there are always governed by that basic principle. That is why we have been in Afghanistan since 2002 and have accepted the sacrifices that has entailed. It is why we are increasing our presence there today. It is why we are working to ensure that our mission in Kandahar will be the first step in moving the command from Operation Enduring Freedom to ISAF. All of Afghanistan should have the same international response. And that response should speak with one voice to the Afghan government of President Karzai, which is gradually asserting its democratically based authority over its entire territory.


As I conclude these remarks, I can envisage the faces of those men and women of the Canadian Forces that I saw off to Afghanistan from Edmonton, those that I saw in Kabul and Kandahar when I was there, and those now training for the larger mission in February. They are the face of Canada. They join countless other experienced members of the Canadian Forces : Open, generous, sensitive to the culture and the needs of their far away destination, willing to take risks and determined to use their considerable skills to bring stability to the lives of people living in hard conditions.

With their colleagues from the RCMP and CIDA, theirs will be the face of Canada for the people of Kandahar, as those of earlier colleagues were for Kabul. And experience tells us that the positive image of our country that they will generate will contribute to the great reputation that we Canadians benefit from around the world.

Forty-five years ago, in 1960, I had the privilege of driving through Afghanistan; from Herat in the west, to Kandahar in the south, Kabul and Bahmian in the North East and south to Pakistan through the fabled Khyber Pass, itself a constant reminder of wars of the eighteenth century imperial “great game”. This was a poor country, one of hard mountain landscapes but with green agricultural valleys inhabited by self-sufficient shepherds and farmers with a tradition of generous hospitality for their infrequent visitors.

Today, after 30 years of Soviet occupation, ethnic violence, Taliban rule and war it is another place entirely. Destruction and suspicion have replaced hearth and hospitality but as I found in Kabul and Kandahar, hope in reconstruction is strong, and reconstruction has begun.

Many of us have heard President Kharzai speak of his dream to see once again the Afghanistan of his youth; a country of pomegranates, grapes and valleys of peace and hospitality, of a proud, self sufficient and independent people. I know that our troops that are there will do their utmost to realize that dream such that Afghanistan will no longer be a source of problems but regain its place as a stable and prosperous member of the family of nations.

We Canadians, who have the privilege of living in one of the most blessed countries on earth, should take pride in sharing in that dream and in our very real contribution to its realization.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to address this audience on this vitally important subject.

Date de modification :