In accordance with the motion passed by the House of Commons on March 13, 2008, I am honoured to present this fourteenth and final report on Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan. This provides an occasion for all Canadians to pause and reflect on what Canada has achieved in supporting international security and the dreams and aspirations of the Afghan people between 2008 and 2011, and on the work that remains to be done.
Afghanistan is no ordinary place. It continues to be one of the most impoverished and dangerous countries in the world and the remnants of wars, present and past, are visible everywhere. The challenges that the Afghan people continue to face today are formidable and the country will require years to recover from the violence, underdevelopment and poor governance that 30 years of war, turmoil, and oppression from the Taliban have caused.
The reason for Canada’s decision to engage in the UN-sanctioned, NATO-led military mission in Afghanistan is clear: the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States represented an armed attack against all members of NATO. These attacks killed 2,977 innocent civilians, including 24 Canadians, and those who perpetrated this act of violence, namely Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, did so with impunity from within Afghanistan under the Taliban regime.
Canada has remained in Afghanistan to help Afghans and our allies to secure, rebuild and steer Afghanistan toward becoming a more stable, self-sustaining, prosperous country that will never again serve as a haven for terrorism.
Progress in Afghanistan over the last ten years, and particularly between 2008 and 2011, has not been easy and progress itself has not always been steady, but Canada has made a difference in the lives of the Afghan people, especially in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban and the heart of the insurgency.
In Afghanistan, Canada reaffirmed its commitment to the NATO Alliance, and our brave men and women of the Canadian Forces, working alongside our aid and development professionals, diplomats, civilian police, and corrections and customs specialists, undertook their mandate with valour, distinction and purpose—knowing all too well the incredible risk they were facing in bringing security, stability and development to the people of Afghanistan.
At every turn, our soldiers and civilian professionals in Afghanistan showed the highest level of dedication to the challenges they faced and their immeasurable moral commitment to this mission has improved the lives of the Afghan people. They have made Canada and Canadians proud.
Today, more children now have access to education and more Afghans are being trained as teachers and provided with vocational and literacy skills, in particular women and girls.
Although Afghan women and girls continue to face considerable challenges, women in Afghanistan today can vote, in fact their rights are now enshrined in the country’s Constitution and their collective voice resonates through a burgeoning and effective civil society. Women also now actively take part in political life and debate, and a record number of them were elected in the 2009 and 2010 elections. Laws are also now enacted to protect their fundamental rights.
The size and capabilities of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police operating in Kandahar have been strengthened, leading to improved safety, perceptions of security and increased visibility and respect within the communities they protect.
Improvements have been made in provincial and district governance, basic human rights and freedoms, and the rule of law.
Kandaharis have greater access to higher quality medical care.
The agriculture sector is growing because of Canada’s investments in the Dahla Dam and Arghandab irrigation system. Vital physical infrastructure is being built to support the delivery of basic services such as drinking water supply and sanitation, electricity and health care. In addition, the development of a viable economy is being supported through the construction of roads and government buildings.
These are just a few examples of Canadian efforts that have made a difference in Kandahar province and of which Canadians can be proud.
Nationally, Canada’s contributions in other parts of Afghanistan were also many. These include working with non-governmental organizations and numerous agencies under the umbrella of the UN to eradicate polio, improve human rights—particularly for women, demine the landscape, create job opportunities and respond to humanitarian crises created by recurring droughts and floods.
Canada’s new role in Afghanistan is not without risk, but we will continue to make a difference in the lives of the Afghan people. Between 2011 and 2014, Canada’s engagement is focused on making investments in the future of Afghan children and youth through ongoing development programming in education and health; and advancing security, the rule of law and human rights, including through the provision of military and police trainers; promoting regional diplomacy; and helping to deliver humanitarian assistance to those in need.
Our ultimate objective, and that of the international community, is to help Afghans create a viable country—a more peaceful country that will never again be a safe haven for terrorists, a country that is better governed, a country in control of its own destiny.
Helping Afghanistan transition toward a viable state is based on the principles of mutual accountability. This means that the Afghan government must fully commit to addressing corruption and continue to demonstrate unconditionally its commitment to peace; to a society based on representative democracy, the rule of law and effective and transparent governance; to the tolerance of religious differences; and to human rights, especially for women.
Following the progress that has been made in Afghanistan, and as we move forward, we must never forget how much Canada has sacrificed in helping the Afghan people rebuild their war-torn country.
We stand in honour of our soldiers and civilian professionals who were injured while serving in Afghanistan, as well as those who deployed to Afghanistan in support of Canada’s mission or who provided support to the engagement from home.
Canadians also stand in honour of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The sorrow of losing sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and fathers and mothers is beyond words. The dedication of our soldiers and civilian professionals, their heroism, and the sacrifice of their lives to protect and improve the lives of the Afghan people will always be remembered and honoured. The legacy of their courage and the impact of their effort cannot be ignored, or forgotten.
To the families of the fallen, who are now living with unimaginable grief and loss, you will forever be in our thoughts and prayers.
Prime Minister of Canada