In the aftermath of 9/11, the world’s attention turned to Afghanistan, galvanized by the need for Afghanistan to recover from its status as a failed state by providing legitimate governance structures, economic opportunities, access to quality basic services and enhanced security and rule of law.
In addition, in order to set the conditions for Afghanistan to never again be a safe haven for terrorists, in 2006, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) began to expand its reach beyond Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, in order to help build the foundation of security, governance and development across the country.
After commanding the stabilization of Kabul for two years, Canada was entrusted with the leadership of the ISAF security effort, as well as broader reconstruction efforts, in the southern province of Kandahar in 2006. As a result, Canada established Task Force Kandahar and the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team to carry out its multi-faceted mandate.
Acting on the recommendations of the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan (the Manley Report) and the House of Commons motion on Afghanistan of March 13, 2008, the Government of Canada transformed Canada’s military, development and diplomatic operations in Kandahar province. This involved adopting a more comprehensive Canadian strategy in order to enhance Canada’s presence on the ground and have a greater strategic effect.
Canada’s renewed and refocused efforts included the announcement of a framework of six policy priorities. The first four priorities focused primarily on Kandahar:
Canada also announced three signature projects in Kandahar.
These priorities and projects were anchored in the Afghanistan Compact of 2006 and the Afghanistan National Development Strategy, which was released by the Government of Afghanistan in April 2008 and which set out a series of critical goals in the areas of security, governance, rule of law and human rights, and economic and social development for the 2008–2013 period.
Benchmarks and targets were set by the Government of Canada in June 2008 to guide the implementation of this new strategy. They also served as a means for Parliament and Canadians to assess the amount of progress that Canada was making on a quarterly basis.
The objective in establishing these priorities was straightforward—to make measurable progress by 2011 toward building a safer and better governed Kandahar supported by a national government more able to advance Afghanistan’s own security and development.
Despite the many obstacles that Canada faced in fighting the insurgency and rebuilding a failed state, important progress has been made. Improvements in the well-being of Afghans and the security of Canadians are evident, although much work remains to be done.