In Afghanistan, progress in strengthening security, governance and development is always hard won; the environment for implementing Canada’s new approach in Afghanistan was daunting, and dangerous. The dual nature of our whole-of-government effort—in Kandahar and nationally—made for an especially challenging engagement, one that became the largest Canadian mission abroad since the Korean War more than 50 years ago. At its peak, approximately 2,950 Canadian soldiers and over 120 civilian personnel were deployed to Afghanistan.
In 2008, a tenacious insurgency, unable to stand up against the 40-country International Security Assistance Force, favoured guerrilla tactics and attacks on civilians, employing intimidation and improvised explosive devices as weapons of choice. Attempted assassinations on political figures and civil society were common; criminal elements flourished, fueled by a growing poppy trade.
From a governance perspective, not only were Afghanistan’s ministries and institutions weakened by the conflict, but so too was the legitimacy of the central Afghan government. Rebuilding Afghan governance was defined by a need for the Government of Afghanistan to regain the trust of the Afghan people in the very institutions that would ultimately protect and provide for their way of life. This need was profoundly challenged by a lack of national government reach in the provinces and districts. The situation of women and girls was especially dire after decades of denial of their human rights, equality and access to services and other resources.
Afghanistan remains an extremely poor country that will require years of development to improve the standard of living of its people as defined by the United Nations Development Programme through its Human Development Index. The provision of basic services alone presents considerable challenges in any conflict zone; high rates of unemployment, illiteracy, as well as frequent natural or man-made disasters and the erosion of economic stability have made progress in development in Afghanistan even more difficult.
It has taken a strong, committed international effort and unwavering courage on the part of the Afghan people to bring Afghanistan back to a point where the foundation for furthering progress in security, governance and development is in place.
Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan to date has made a vital contribution in helping the Afghan people with the monumental challenge of rebuilding their country. Afghanistan remains the single largest recipient of Canadian bilateral aid and military assistance.
Of the 44 targets announced by the Government of Canada in 2008, and to be completed by December 31, 2011, a total of 33 targets have been fully achieved or surpassed. Another 5 targets have been partially achieved as of the tabling of this report, although 2 of them are expected to be fully achieved this spring. While 6 targets will not be achieved at all, progress has been made and significant work has been undertaken to advance them.