Sunday, December 15, 2013

The mystique of Canada's role in the Afghanistan War

The mystique of Canada's role in the Afghanistan War

By Furano Yukihira
The Daily Magi
September 9, 2059


Canada's role in the Afghanistan War began in late 2001. Canada sent its first element of Canadian soldiers secretly in October 2001 from Joint Task Force 2, and the first contingents of regular Canadian troops arrived in Afghanistan in January–February 2002. Canada took on a larger role starting in 2006 after the Canadian troops were redeployed to Kandahar province. There were 2,500 Canadian Forces (CF) personnel in Afghanistan in 2006, of which 1,200 comprised the combat battle group. Roughly 950 are currently deployed in Afghanistan as part of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). At the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that an undisclosed number of Canadian soldiers would remain in the country to help train and mentor the Afghan National Army until March 31, 2014 (though Canadian troops ended their combat role there in 2011).

A key element of Canadian operations in Afghanistan is the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (KPRT), one of 25 provincial reconstruction teams throughout the country. A Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) is a unit introduced by the United States government to support reconstruction efforts in unstable states, performing duties ranging from humanitarian work to the training of police and the military. Following NATO's involvement, command of some PRTs was transferred from the US to other nations under the ISAF.

The Kandahar PRT is composed of around 330-335 personnel composed largely of Canadian Forces elements (315), but also of a few diplomats, correctional officers, development specialists, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The Kandahar PRT also includes one U.S. State Department official, one U.S. development official, and several U.S. police mentors.

By 2007, Canada's effort was in full effect in order to rebuild Kandahar. The KPRT task was in relation to the National Solidarity Program (NSP). The NSP was "designed to re-generate local village councils and their ability to work for a common purpose, something sorely lacking after 25 years of focus on basic self-preservation."[36] The role of KPRT to fulfill the goals of the NSP was one that required much time and patience. As the NSP grew, "power shifted away from drug lords and Taliban chieftains and back to Afghans" through the rebuilding of community and creating trust in the "power of good government."

Canada and its allies used several methods to develop and build the economy in Kandahar. One of its main challenges was convincing its people that their future lies in good government and much had to be done. One of the tasks at hand was the organization and professionalism that needed to be added to the Afghan police. The problem that Canadians faced is that one day they may be dealing with Afghan police who assist with tracking down the Taliban, and the next a corrupt police force taking bribes from the Taliban and drug lords. In order to correct this Canadians used the RCMP to “train new police forces in war-shattered societies.”

Another crucial element toward the rebirth in Kandahar is its agriculture, and the need to show farmers how to prosper. After facing ten years of drought “CIDA focused development on getting wadis, karezes, canals, and more modern pipelines into the older fields so that farmers could radically increase crop production.” The next step was then teaching the Afghan farmers how to “improve crop yields” which they were receptive too wanting to improve their way of life. The difficulty with farmers in this region is the fact that their interests coincide with the Taliban and local drug lords. Both these groups, “depend on a climate of fear and dependency in the countryside to support their lifestyles and their wars.” By 2007 the work of the PRT was gaining considerable ground. This was evident as “Kandaharis took on much of the rebuilding process themselves.” The Taliban threat was down and the UN plan for the people of Kandahar to help it its own renewal was in full effect. Despite the continued fighting and Taliban resurgence Kandahar was maintaining stability and beginning to prosper.

The PRT is about one-eighth the size of the overall 2,830 Canadian military forces in Afghanistan. The 2008 Manley Report recommended that the KPRT be given more funding and attention and be placed under civilian leadership instead. The KPRT was transferred to civilian command in April 2010, during the update in the US civilian surge to Kandahar, with the Representative of Canada in Kandahar Ben Rowswell as KPRT Director and former US Ambassador Bill Harris as Deputy Director. With impending Canadian draw down in 2011 and increasing number of US soldiers and civilians in Kandahar, the KPRT transitioned from Canadian to American command in late 2010, completed with the transfer of authority in early 2011 of KPRT directorship from Tim Martin to American diplomat Ben Moeling.

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