Canadians Forces Operations in Afghanistan
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Over 40 countries are participating in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a NATO-led formation that operates in Afghanistan under the authority of the United Nations. Canada officially ended its NATO-led combat mission in Kandahar province on December 01, 2011 and will continue to support its allies and Afghan partners through Operation ATTENTION.
Under Operation ATHENA, the Canadian Forces have worked for over 5 years in Kandahar province with a primary objective to help the Afghan government establish a stable and secure environment that will allow sustainable reconstruction, development, and good governance to take root and flourish.
After years of hard work and sacrifice, and as the Canadian Forces' engagement in southern Afghanistan is ending, we can be proud of our efforts to set the right conditions for transition in Kandahar province and continued progress in Afghanistan through security, training, engagement and development.
This is a country that ten years ago it was heading in completely the wrong direction.
Osama Bin Laden had been operating in this country. After the Soviet war there was utter chaos in this country and that enabled a radical capability like the Taliban to take this country over.
And that enabled the growth of this terrorist capability with its training camps that could have an impact, a hugely negative impact on the world.
The international community realized that and said we just can’t have Afghanistan being one of those countries that’s heading the wrong direction. Canada decided that we would be a significant part of that.
What we are doing here is a counter insurgency operation focused on the people, focused on the population.
And in essence that is what our mission is and that is what our task is.
It is operating with tasks specifically aimed at protecting that population that is caught between the crossfire. It is specifically tasked with going after the insurgents and either fighting them or convincing them that the struggle is not worth it and that’s there’s a better way to go about their future.
The international community, ISAF, the Canadians as part of that international community are in Afghanistan to help that lawful government, to help the national government, to help the people of Afghanistan in that struggle against the insurgents.
That pretty much embodies everything we are doing from the fighting the insurgency to the convincing the insurgency to the building of what’s in this country, the capability and capacities of the local nationals, of the government, of the national security forces to take up that struggle on their own.
We are partnered with all the elements of the Afghan national security force in everything we do.
We achieve training by conducting operations in partnership. We achieve training by showing by example how a professional army goes about their business.
We assist the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police to be better trained, better led and better equipped so that they are in better posture to protect the population and have the population trust the Government of Afghanistan that it is in position to support them and to look after them.
There’s been an increase in the Afghan National Army and also the Afghan National Police. I’ve seen a significant increase in those numbers across the area of responsibility. The ANA leadership and abilities, capacity they have on the ground has increased by five, tenfold.
We've been in position to see numerous successes in both the ANA and the ANP. With regard of the ANA, it's the ability of the ANA to be in better position to plan and execute operations by themselves and quite frankly often we've observed the ANA giving orders to the coalition forces and they were leading the security operation within their zone of operation.
With regard of the ANP, more and more they are in position to conduct security operation of like real policing would do unpartnered, unmentored and really demonstrate to the population that they can look after them and do the job.
Hopefully in the midterm or in the long term but at one point the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police can stand on their own two feet under lawful direction from their government and ensure the security of the people of Afghanistan.
As we talked about a counter insurgency operation that is focused on the people, people that are the centre of the conflict caught in between on one side the proposition of the government and on the other side the proposition of the insurgence. That population needs to be convinced. It needs to be convinced on the choice they can make. They can either choose to support the insurgency. They can choose to support their government or they can choose to sit on the fence.
The bottom line is that we need to be patient. We need to continue to work hard to separate the insurgents from the people, to enable that connection with the government. If they’re respected by the people, then you get that movement. You get that headway as we continue to work on that perception of security which is so important for the people to be able to have confidence in their government, that their government can support them and move their lives in the right direction.
What we’ve seen with the improved security situation, a lot more people are coming to the district centre. A lot more people are involved in the government’s decisions and we want to keep that level of coordination and mutual support between the governor, between the ANSF and us to keep that level of freedom of movement for the locals.
The local engagement by a soldier on patrol in the village, by a platoon commander in charge of an area with the local elder or malek, who is the leader of the village, the engagement for a battle group commander with a district governor, the engagement in shuras with elders, is part of that convincing. That ability or that requirement for our forces to show that there’s a better way. There’s a choice they can make to deny the insurgents the support they require to thrive and instead choose to support a better future for this country.
These states like Afghanistan are in the midst often of an insurrection but have also lost most of their infrastructure, most of their human capabilities and capacities. And the military, be it the international community or more specifically Canada within its counter insurgency operations here, we’re trying to give the security space for development, reconstruction, building of a future to take place.
We’ve moved development along at a great rate. Also we’re building roads. We’re connecting communities to their governance by building the roads. We’re assisting in a number of projects that are giving the people the confidence to enable them to live better lives.
We’ve worked on everything from infrastructure to schools… from building wells to assisting in improving mosques. I was in this theatre three, four years ago and every road was gravel. Every road had a huge IED potential. Now I drive out on those roads and they’re paved, the locals are able to transit them quickly, they’re able to move their economic resources up into Kandahar, up into the city. They’re able to move them throughout their districts. Huge, huge changes.
Without that aspect of rebuilding a country or strengthening some structures in a fragile state like Afghanistan, the future is very much uncertain. Without their ability to govern themselves, without an ability to secure themselves, without an ability to have an economy with structures that work, there’s no future.
So what does the military do? The military provides that security bubble, that security space, space and time for that development, that reconstruction to take root and hopefully thrive.