CASC Report: Keeping Our Promises


Canada in Afghanistan Post-2011: The Way Forward

Summary of Findings
Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee

March 9, 2010


On March 13, 2008, following the report of the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan (the “Manley Panel” report), the House of Commons adopted a resolution calling for an end to Canadian combat operations in Kandahar by July, 2011. Specifically: “Canada will end its presence in Kandahar as of July 2011, and, as of that date, the redeployment of Canadian Forces troops out of Kandahar and their replacement by Afghan forces start as soon as possible, so that it will have been completed by December 2011.”

Instead of resolving the uncertainties surrounding Canada’s role in Afghanistan through 2011 and generating debate about the options for Canada’s commitments to Afghanistan Post-2011, the resolution created a policy vacuum.

The Canada Afghanistan Solidarity Committee (CASC) has set out to help reinvigorate the Canadian debate and to focus attention on Canada’s unfulfilled and continuing obligations in Afghanistan. To this purpose, CASC is proceeding with a program of consultation and analysis in order to help us articulate a vision for a new Canadian mission in Afghanistan. The CASC “Keeping Our Promises” project is predicated on the conviction that a Canadian multi-party consensus on the way forward, beyond 2011, remains possible.

This report marks the beginning of our efforts. We have not covered every possible Canadian contribution. We have also tried to avoid the temptation to be overly prescriptive. This report is a work in progress.

We have consulted widely among the CASC membership, within the Afghan-Canadian community, within the community of academic and expert opinion, and most importantly, across the spectrum of Afghanistan’s emerging civil society and Afghanistan’s political leadership. We have directly canvassed more than 100 organizations, agencies and individuals. During a recent trip to Kabul, we consulted a cross-section of opinion, from former warlords to women’s rights organizations. We interviewed opinion-makers, government officials, civil rights advocates, teachers, several MPs, journalists and power brokers. We also spoke with representatives of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and officials with NATO and other international-community agencies.

We will continue this work in the coming months. This report represents only a summary of our key findings to date, and will form the basis of how we proceed with our work from here.


A New Mission:

  • The way forward in Afghanistan is democracy: equal rights, the rule of law, a representative and accountable government, freedom of speech and assembly, a liberal and generous education, an entitlement to basic health services, and a fair chance at prosperity.
  • Canada should not be faulted for choosing to end its “combat role” in Kandahar in 2011, but it would be a folly for Canada to squander the expertise and experience our military has gained in Kandahar. It would be especially foolish to squander the trust that the Canadian Forces has established among the Pashtun people of Kandahar, from whom the Taliban derives most of its rank-and-file fighters, and within whom Talibanism has spread its deepest roots.
  • Canada’s “battle group” should come home. These soldiers can now withdraw with honour and with the heartfelt gratitude of Afghans and Canadians.
  • Canada’s military presence should be dramatically scaled back to the most cost-effective and concentrated efforts. Canada’s priorities for a limited military contribution in Afghanistan post-2011 should focus on:

    1/ Leadership and guidance to our NATO allies in Kandahar and other southern provinces; Accelerated training of the Afghan National Security Forces by building on the existing Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (OMLT) model;  Accelerated contributions to the national capacity of the Afghan police services, justice services and prisons;Enhance the “human terrain” capacity of Canada’s special forces, i.e. Joint Task Force – Two (JTF-2).

    2/ Canada should also consult with ANSF and NATO allies on the potential for continued contributions from elements of Canada’s Air Wing, especially UAV reconnaissance and surveillance capability, and helicopter airlift services.

    3/ Canada should maintain its leadership role with the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), carrying on its polio eradication program and completing its Education and Dahla Dam signature projects. The PRT should explore the possibility of initiating further hydroelectric and irrigation projects in Kandahar province. The PRT should also assist in the development and expansion of Kandahar University, with an emphasis on women’s education and Canadian-Afghan academic partnerships, and should provide greater support for collaborative initiatives such as the Afghan-Canadian Community Centre in Kandahar City.

  • Of the six priorities Canada has identified for its engagement in Afghanistan, “national reconciliation” is the only one that falls into a realm of international intervention that can be properly and unequivocally termed a “quagmire.”
  • Canada’s approach to reconciliation has held to principle that “reconciliation only involve those individuals and organizations that agree to renounce violence, respect human rights and the rule of law, and accept the legitimacy of the Afghan government and the Afghan constitution.” With the exception of this principle, Canada should immediately abandon its reconciliation policy, replacing it with a clearer position to be asserted among ISAF member states and with the Presidential Palace in Kabul.
  • A new Canadian policy on Afghan-led reconciliation should stipulate that any negotiations with illegal armed groups, particularly the various ideologically-driven Taliban factions and such groups as Hezb-e Islami (Gulbuddin Hekmatyar), must be led by a democratically-accountable Afghan institution, that follows the will of the Afghan people.

    Any negotiations process that unfolds, no matter how unlikely, must be open and transparent, accountable to ISAF member states,  inclusive of all Afghan national minorities, and subject to the full engagement and consent of the Afghan Parliament. The process must also be subject to the scrutiny of the Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission ,the participation of a cross section of civil society groups (particularly the women’s rights leadership), the review of the Afghan Supreme Court, and existing commitments regarding transitional justice.

  • Canada should re-dedicate itself to Afghanistan with a “new mission” that builds upon Canada’s accomplishments in Afghanistan, relies upon Canada’s distinct strengths and advantages, and draws from the intellectual resources of the Afghan Diaspora in Canada.
  • Canada’s new mission in Afghanistan should be country-wide, long-term and well-resourced, guided by a single, overriding policy: The entrenchment, growth and development of democratic culture in Afghanistan.
  • Canada should proceed with an ambitious, closely-monitored, root-and-branch investment in Afghanistan’s education ministry, with the objective of universal access to primary school education, widely-accessible vocational, trades and business-administration programs, and flourishing universities.
  • Canada should aggressively foster and fund public-private initiatives in the recovery of Afghanistan’s cultural patrimony and its literary canon, the development of a vibrant  Afghan publishing industry, and the cross-translation of works in English, French, Dari and Pashto. Canada should directly invest in the development of a national public library and cultural centre in Kabul, a network of provincial and regional libraries, village libraries and mobile libraries for remote rural areas.
  • Canada should directly fund broad-based Afghan institutions with Afghan mandates to promote the study of democracy and the dissemination of democratic ideas, to advance national unity and the administration of justice, to elevate the legal and social status of women, and to restore Afghanistan’s central place in the intellectual, cultural and economic life of Central Asia.   
  • Canada should further enhance Afghanistan’s intellectual, academic, trades and technical capacities by fostering partnerships between Canadian and Afghan universities and institutions, and by investing in scholarships, academic exchanges, civil-service exchanges, and a range of vocational and skills-transfer programs.
  • Afghanistan should be identified as a high priority for the engagement of a Canadian Democratic Promotion Agency. An agency field office should be established in Kabul as soon as practicable. The Agency should play a leading role in a new Canadian mission in Afghanistan, with a focus on the entrenchment of democratic institutions and democratic capacity-building.

Of immediate concern:

  • Canada must gather with willing ISAF democracies to engage the Presidential Palace and the Afghan Parliament to undertake a public inquiry into the breakdown of the 2009 presidential elections process. Canada should insist that for both practical reasons and for reasons of public trust, “Afghanization” of the elections process must not exclude the unencumbered engagement of internationally-appointed observers, monitors and overseers.
  • Canada’s role in assisting Afghanistan with its elections processes should be elevated to include an ambitious, long-term program of education and training aimed at all participants in the elections process - prospective candidates, their campaign teams, government officials at the national, provincial and district level, and all relevant Afghan National Security Forces components. Voter education should be dramatically enhanced.  Canada should actively recruit among Canadians with experience in running and monitoring elections to train and mentor their Afghan counterparts.
  • As Canada’s aid programs in Afghanistan expand from their Kandahar focus, close attention to aid effectiveness principles regarding country-led development is required. Canada should continue to support a mixed approach to its aid and basic services contributions, mindful of the obligations of mentoring, skills exchange and ultimate Afghan ownership of service-delivery.
  • If CIDA is to continue as Canada’s lead agency for humanitarian aid and basic services in Afghanistan, the agency must come to terms with its own shortcomings in Afghanistan – its cumbersome bureaucracy and its lack of coherent, long-term direction.
  • Also, CIDA should step up its efforts to raise Canadian awareness of its work in Afghanistan, and CIDA should be required to make a clearer accounting of its activities, expenditures, and achievements. Similarly, CIDA-funded NGOs should be required to place a higher priority on informing Canadians of the work they are undertaking in Afghanistan.
  • In place of a Kandahar-focused priority on border security, Canada can make a more robust contribution to Afghanistan’s territorial and political sovereignty by assisting in the development of a clearer definition and determination of the breadth and scope of Afghan citizenship – a national census.
  • To build on the investment Canadians have made in Afghanistan over the years, a sharper focus on long-term results is required. A substantial and long-term Canadian commitment to all levels of Afghanistan’s education sector would allow Canada the leverage to control the quality of the “outputs,” force greater coordination among Afghanistan’s donor partners, ensure greater efficiency in program delivery, build administrative capacity in Afghanistan’s education ministry, and eliminate corrupt practices.

To keep reading, download the report below. You can read this in English, French and Dari.

CASC - Canada in Afghanistan Post 2011.doc181 KB
CASC - Canada in Afghanistan Post 2011.pdf897.73 KB
CASC-report-summary-french.doc488 KB