We are honoured to table this report in Parliament on Canada’s role in the United Nations-mandated and North Atlantic Treaty Organization- (NATO) led engagement in Afghanistan. We share, with all Canadians, enormous pride in the work of our men and women in Afghanistan, and in particular, in Kandahar province, and we note the positive contributions they have made, and continue to make, in the lives of the Afghan people. We are also mindful of the very high price that families across this country have paid for this mission. Our role in Afghanistan is essential for Canada’s security. We are helping to ensure that Afghanistan does not again become a base for terrorism directed against North America. We remain steadfast in our resolve for a peaceful and secure Afghanistan and are convinced that Canada continues to have a vital role to play in that country.
As a Government, we have reaffirmed our commitment to Afghanistan and the Afghan people as we continue to stand with our allies as one of 40 countries in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). In doing so, it is to Canadians that we hold ourselves to account for this commitment. This first report, in a series of reports to Parliament, continues a dialogue with Canadians as we progress in our engagement toward 2011.
We have listened to the recommendations of the Honourable John Manley and the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan as evidenced by the Government motion put forward in the House of Commons and approved by Parliament in March 2008. The Prime Minister established the Cabinet Committee on Afghanistan in which we all participate; and a Parliamentary committee has been struck and a task force created within the public service exclusively committed to this mission. We have progressed with our allies in securing more troops and capability for Kandahar and we continue to work with them and the Government of Afghanistan toward common goals.
In this first report, we highlight a renewed focus for our engagement with clear priorities and attainable goals for the 2008–11 period, and we outline signature projects that will illustrate to Afghans and Canadians, Canada’s contribution to Afghanistan. We are also working on benchmarks to measure progress. These will flow from our work on priorities and programming and from ongoing efforts by the Afghan government to refine its approaches. The Government will announce the benchmarks and we will incorporate them into the next report, to be tabled in the fall.
It is with full recognition of the work that remains to be done that we table this report. Afghanistan is a country that faces numerous challenges, ones that Canada and the international community agree to face shoulder to shoulder with the people and Government of Afghanistan.
The goals outlined in this report are ambitious and not without risk but they are achievable through a Canadian effort that will remain sharply focused and closely aligned with the efforts of the Government of Afghanistan and our allies. We will continue to update Parliament regularly on the progress of this mission.