I call this meeting to order.
Good morning. This is meeting 47 of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Thursday, March 29, 2007.
I remind each one of our members that today's meeting is televised. In our first hour this morning we will again have an update on the situation in Afghanistan, and perhaps Canada's roles and responsibilities there.
We will also hear from Barnett Rubin from the Center on International Cooperation. He is no stranger to our committee. We had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Rubin in New York a couple of months ago. He is the director of studies and a senior fellow at the University of New York.
From the University of Victoria we have Mr. Gordon Smith, executive director of the centre for global studies and professor of political science. I'm not certain how many meetings of the foreign affairs committee Mr. Smith has attended--hundreds perhaps--as a former deputy minister of foreign affairs.
I also remind our committee that we will reserve a little time at the end of our meeting today for some committee business.
Before we begin, I want to encourage the members to review the public work on democratic promotion written by our committee's researcher, Gerry Schmitz. Angela, our clerk, has provided us with a synopsis and the links to this work that he wrote in 2004.
Mr. Rubin and Mr. Smith, welcome. Our committee format is such that we will give you each an opening time period of 10 to 15 minutes, and then we will move to questions. Each party will receive a time allocation of seven minutes on the first round and five minutes on the second.
Welcome, and we look forward to what you have for us.
First, I want to thank the committee. It's good to meet again those of you I saw in New York and to have this chance to meet with you here.
I'm also very pleased to be here with Gordon Smith. I hope you've had the time to look at his paper, which has quite a few ideas that are worthy of consideration. I believe you also received copies of my recent article in Foreign Affairs.
I also would feel remiss if I did not thank Canada for the commitment it has made to Afghanistan and the sacrifices it has made. I might mention that I don't mean to say that the life of a senior diplomat is worth more than the life of a young soldier, but we did know Glyn Berry at the Center on International Cooperation. He worked with us on some projects when he was in New York at the permanent mission. I was staying with Chris Alexander, the former ambassador, now the deputy SRSG, at the time that he so unfortunately lost his life in Kandahar.
I regret that the role of Canada is not better understood in the United States, but I think it is understood in Afghanistan. I've met there with your military commanders, soldiers, diplomats, and aid workers, and they are performing very well.
Of course I'm speaking to you in my personal capacity, which is the only capacity I have, and though I'm a U.S. citizen, I'm not here to represent U.S. interests. I've been involved with Afghanistan since 1983. I've been there 29 times and visited all its neighbouring countries and also most of the countries that are now involved in Afghanistan in one way or the other. So I know something about it, the international order, and also about the mistakes that have been made by many people, including at times by me.
I thought I would say a few words about the fact that I understand, though I'm not extremely well informed about it--perhaps I'll learn more here--that there is some political controversy or debate about Canada's role in Afghanistan. I wanted to say a few words about that.
First, a word of understanding. Of course the United States dominates the mission there. It provides about half the economic assistance. And I don't know the exact proportion of troops, but I think something like 70% of the foreign troops in Afghanistan may be American, which means of course that the mission in Afghanistan is cooperating with the United States in what many people see as an American project. I understand that for many people it is very difficult to cooperate with the current administration in Washington. It's even difficult for some senior members of the President's own party in the Senate to do so.
I want to emphasize that Afghanistan should not be victimized because of our leadership. It's not just an American project.
Many governments in the world have some misgivings about various aspects of this operation, but there is no government in the world that officially opposes it. That includes Iran, which is actively contributing to the reconstruction of Afghanistan, and officially at least, Pakistan, which is doing likewise. We'll talk about Pakistan's role, which is more complex.
Most important, everything I've seen indicates to me that most Afghans want this effort to succeed. They want an accountable national government, though they might disagree and they do disagree about how it should be structured.
They want the education, health care, development, security, and rule of law that they expect this government with all its international backing to deliver, even if they disagree about many points, such as the precise role of Islam in the legal system, the relationship of Afghan laws to international laws and standards, and other matters.
They also want a unified and multi-ethnic Afghanistan, although there is a serious issue, which is often not discussed that openly, that they do disagree with each other and with their neighbours on where the border of that unified Afghanistan should be and who exactly is an Afghan.
But that does not mean that they're happy with us, the international community, or with their government. They're not at all happy, and support for both the international presence and for the government has plummeted in the past year or so, although I hasten to add that the lack of support for the government does not by any means always translate directly into support for the insurgency, for the Taliban, or any of the other components of the insurgency. Sometimes it does, sometimes it does not.
But the main complaint is not that we, the west, or the international community is forcing on the Afghans something they don't want. There are some such complaints from people who are inclined to be more Islamic and also from many people, because among the things we have brought there are the unintended consequences of a large presence of foreigners with a lot of money, spending their money and living there, which has created, especially in Kabul, some severe social problems.
The main complaint I hear from Afghans is not that we are imposing something on them that they don't want, but that we haven't delivered what they think we promised, which are basically the things I mentioned above. Why haven't we? In part it's because it's extraordinarily difficult.
I just want to mention something I said when I met with some of you in New York. It's not often realized that Afghanistan is the poorest country in the world outside of sub-Saharan Africa, and it is poorer than almost every country in sub-Saharan Africa. Its GDP per capita is about half that of Haiti, and its indicators of education, health, longevity, and so on are similar to those of Burundi, Sierra Leone, and so on.
That also means it has one of the weakest governments in the world. The per-capita tax revenue of the Afghan government is $13 per year. Those are the entire resources of the Afghan government for security, education, health, and so on. You can imagine, even with aid, the amount of public services it manages to deliver. So the difficulties are great, and then we have the history of the past 30 years. I won't go through that.
It's also partly because of mistaken policies that were followed by the U.S. government, the Bush administration. From the beginning they tried to define the mission as minimally as possible in order to conserve their resources for other things they wanted to do, such as invade Iraq. I can understand the feelings some Canadians may have that they do not want their soldiers and civilians to be killed or wounded because of mistakes made by the United States.
We don't need to have a debate about whether or not Canada should be there--certainly you have the right to have that debate--but we need to have another debate. I would really ask Canada and Canadians to take part much more—and I believe this hearing is a sign of that—in debating what all of us who are in Afghanistan really should be doing, and try to change the approach where it should be changed.
It's very difficult for Canada to affect the policy of the United States, but I've visited most of the countries that are in Afghanistan—Norway, Germany, Spain, Italy, U.K., France--in the last few months, and I find there are many countries that are committed to Afghanistan one way or another, even whose governments have concerns about the policy. In each of those countries there are also opposition parties and independent intellectuals who have such concerns. I believe there was even a meeting--perhaps it was organized by Norway--about six months ago of some like-minded countries in Europe.
What I would really suggest is that Canada--the government, the Parliament, the opposition, and independent figures such as my colleague here--make an effort to collaborate with like-minded people in other middle powers that are engaged in Afghanistan to try to devise some common proposals.
I think you would also find a very willing ear in the United States for that, even perhaps in the government, because they did carry out a reassessment of their policy in the last six months. We see some results of that in the recent supplemental appropriation they have proposed that involves the doubling of reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan, and in their decision to increase the number of troops and put more into the security sector, policing, and so on. I'm constantly in touch with mainly the Democrats in the U.S. Congress, but also with some Republicans, who very much want to have that debate and hope we can do better than we have.
Where do we need to make these changes? I won't mention the proposals here because they are in my article that you have received, and I'm sure you'll want to ask questions about it.
Of course the key changes are the level and pace of economic support, especially employment generation, and the ways international assistance can actually diminish government capacity and legitimacy; the approach that the international community is taking to counter narcotics, which is quite damaging, and I commend what my colleague has said about that; regional questions, in particular the role of Pakistan and how to approach Pakistan in a unified way; and the need for an accelerated and coordinated approach to the domestic security sector, which is police, justice, and corrections.
My specific views are in the article, which you have received.
I thank you, and I await your questions.
Je vous écoute. Merci.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I was just about to read those very sentences—and I really mean what I said in them.
I think it is very important that we get a better debate on these issues in Canada. To me, the debate is so much a polarized one between those on the one side who say we have our troops committed, they're losing their lives, there must be no question but that we are 100% behind our troops—that's the one side—and the other side that says it's impossible, we're losing too many people, and we should get out.
I think both are wrong. I think we need exactly the kind of analysis that Dr. Rubin has been giving. I'm really delighted that this committee is studying this question and I'm honoured that you've asked me for my views on it.
Let me be clear at the beginning that in my view the objectives that have been stated by the Canadian government for Afghanistan are entirely worthy. The question that I raise in this report is, are they achievable? Is it possible to do what that report asks--not wouldn't it be a good idea, but can we do it? Are the resources there?
I also want to make clear that in my view the performance of our military has been of a very high order and we all owe something to those who have lost or risked their lives there. I also have noticed and am impressed by the ways in which CIDA is really trying to change the way it does business, in a fundamental way, so that it can operate in the real world of Afghanistan.
But the question in my mind, which I hope Canadians will examine and certainly this committee will examine, is to whether overall we have anything like the resources that are necessary to achieve the stated objectives, which are, of course, to bring about democracy, a functioning market economy, and respect for human rights. I've been struck by the comparisons that have been made with levels of effort in the Balkans, particularly in the analysis that has been done by James Dobbins, who was, of course, the first U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. He points out that depending on how you make the comparison, what is going into Afghanistan is 1/25 or 1/50 of what went into the Balkans.
I was just reading in an interesting article that I would commend to you, in the latest issue of Survival,—that's Spring 2007—General Richards, the British general, of course, stating just four months ago, “I haven’t got enough troops to win this.” I think that was a statement of candour.
So I think the first issue that has to be addressed is the number of troops involved, and also the levels of development assistance. I know those have gone up and are going up dramatically, coming from Canada, including those that are targeted in the Kandahar area.
I particularly want to underline, and this article by Seth Jones of the RAND Corporation does that, the critical role that is played by Pakistan. We all know this. The border is open. The Pashtun people live on either side. I haven't had anything like the travelling experience of Dr. Rubin, but I have been up into the tribal areas of northern Pakistan, and the government in Islamabad has never controlled those areas. But I think what is very important is what we now have, and again I will quote just one sentence from this Seth Jones article:
||There is significant evidence that the Taliban, Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), al-Qaeda, and other insurgent groups use Pakistan as a sanctuary for recruitment and support. In addition, there is virtual unanimity that Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has continued to provide assistance to Afghan insurgent groups.
I think those situations are becoming more and more difficult, making it complicated to deal with Afghanistan as a country on its own. This is not Haiti, which has water all around it and a relatively benign border. It's a much more complicated environment, and we can get into it in the question period if you would like, the issue of whether the Pakistani government is doing all that it can, but also, we should discuss not only Iran, as Dr. Rubin has suggested, but also the role that is played by India and the reaction of Pakistan to the role that is played by India in Afghanistan.
I also say in the report that I think it's important for us to not forget the original motivation for going to Afghanistan, and that was to deal with al-Qaeda. The al-Qaeda problem has not gone away. Indeed, from the information I'm able to obtain, al-Qaeda is on the increase in northern Pakistan.
In the report, we put forward the idea that, first of all, everything that can be done must be done, although maybe it's impossible to break al-Qaeda away from the Taliban. Secondly, try to bring more people who now associate themselves with the Taliban back into the political process.
The political dimension of this, both with Pakistan and the internal political dimension in Afghanistan, is key. I say that without having any illusions about how difficult this is to do.
There should be no question that we are more than pulling our weight. I came back from a meeting in Brussels just two weeks ago, one the former chairman of this committee, Mr. Graham, was at. One has to be struck by the fact that in Europe, there is not nearly the same sense that there is here or in Britain—if I exclude Britain from Europe for this purpose—that this is their war. They see it as the Americans' war and the war of the friends of the Americans. This is seen in the kinds of national restrictions that I think are intolerably—that's a strong word—imposed on the commitments coming from our European allies.
The final thing I would mention is the area of poppy production, to which Dr. Rubin has alluded. We can talk about it more if it's an area of interest to you, but to put it simply, let me just say that poppy eradication is not working and is causing quite severe political problems flowing from the economic consequences of that. Some means must be found, whether it is through the buying and marketing of opium for drug purposes or in some other way, to change the incentive structure. It isn't simply a matter of destroying the poppy crops. That is one of the critical elements in assuring the support of the Afghan people for the efforts that we and other NATO countries and friends of NATO are making in Afghanistan.
Thank you very much.
I'll share my time with Mr. Martin, if he's coming back, but he needs to be in the House for twelve o'clock.
Merci, both of you. I think it's fabulous to see Mr. Rubin back here.
It's very difficult to understand all the players involved in Afghanistan. The perception here in Canada—my perception, in a sense, and that of my constituents—is that it's a U.S. war, and not even a NATO involvement, even if 36 countries are involved in Afghanistan.
We're reading that any solution will pass with the cooperation of Pakistan, and that the Pakistanis are not doing enough. I have two questions concerning that area.
In Pakistan, what is the exact role of ISI, the Pakistani intelligence? It seems ISI very strongly supports the Taliban, and the solution will pass with them in a sense.
My other question concerns India. With the long conflict between India and Pakistan, I feel it's still very present in this Afghanistan war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Do you think India should play a larger role, in a sense, or that NATO and the U.S. will let India play a larger role in Afghanistan? Will that bring Islamabad to be more cooperative with the NATO countries?
First, on Pakistan, I can't say exactly what the role of the ISI is, because it's a secret intelligence agency.
Of course, the official policy of the Government of Pakistan is that they support the international effort, but they think it has been excessively military, not sufficiently political. They argue for a political approach to the Taliban, and also to the tribal areas.
There certainly is, in Pakistan, obvious infrastructure of support for the insurgency, both in the tribal agencies and also in parts of Baluchistan, which includes madrassas, training camps, recruitment, videos and DVDs that are sold openly, and so on.
It's not that I see intelligence reports, but people do tell me about them. If they're telling me the truth, there are persistent intelligence reports that working-level ISI officers have been involved in supporting the Taliban, and before that they were supporting the mujahedeen for many decades. They continue to provide some kind of assistance, though it's not in the open and official way that it was done earlier. I might add, though, that Pakistan also denied it was supporting the Taliban throughout the period, when it was in fact supporting the Taliban, as Pakistan has now admitted.
As far as India is concerned, I don't think Pakistan will respond positively by increasing its perception of being threatened by India in Afghanistan. In fact, most of the uncooperative things Pakistan does with regard to Afghanistan are motivated by its fear of an Indian presence in Afghanistan.
Pakistan should not have a veto power over Afghanistan's relations with India. The two countries can have a very mutually beneficial relationship. But the United States, Canada, and others that are there should try to do what they can to assure that India's role is not threatening to Pakistan. There are certain specific issues that Pakistan has raised, like Indian consulates, and Pakistan has tried to at least induce some confidence-building measures and transparency between the two countries regarding their activities in Afghanistan.
First, Pakistan does have those troops on the border, and has been quite active in pursuing al-Qaeda. Of course, al-Qaeda members are not Afghan or Pakistani, by and large; they are Arab, and from other countries. Pakistan does not have any interest in attacking the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. In fact, that created a lot of problems for them, in that Taliban would still be in power otherwise, which is what they would prefer.
So they are willing to do that, but they have not used those troops against the Taliban. Until Vice-President Cheney's recent visit, they had never arrested a senior Taliban official on Pakistani soil. They actually denied that there were any such people. President Musharraf personally denied to me, at a Council on Foreign Relations meeting, that there were any Taliban leaders in Quetta. Then they arrested a former defence minister of the Taliban in Quetta. So that calls into question the good faith of their effort.
The military in Pakistan always says that the alternative to military rule is chaos. However, I find that there are very few Pakistanis who believe that. I might add also that the civilian leaders in Pakistan tell U.S. diplomats, “We have to do what they want, or they'll be replaced by some radical Islamists, maybe by the Taliban or something”, which also doesn't appear to be true, from my observation of Pakistan.
I think the military can find another general. The Pakistani political system is mature enough that, despite all of its problems, you can actually have an elected civilian government in Pakistan. It's pretty clear that this is what Pakistanis would want.
I should add, and this is more controversial, that in my view, civilian rule in Pakistan would be more favourable--or at least potentially could be more favourable--to what we are trying to accomplish in Afghanistan, because the military in Pakistan is not just the military, it's actually the ruling party. It has political alliances, and those political alliances are with the Islamist parties. Musharraf's party is in coalition with the pro-Taliban party in the Balochistan provincial government. The Pashtun parties that are opposed to the Taliban actually are in opposition to the military, and would be likely to have more influence if there were an elected civilian government. Of course there would be some problems, but I don't think the blackmail the Pashtun military uses with foreign guests is credible.
Just on the Taliban, I prefer to speak about the insurgency rather than the Taliban, because the Taliban as an organization is only part of the insurgency. There are many people fighting for a variety of reasons. Certainly there are people who can be neutralized or incorporated into the government one way or the other. I think it is much more questionable whether it's possible to create a political or factional split within the structure of the Taliban, which appears to be relatively united under the leadership of Mullah Omar.
At the Bonn Conference, the Iranian representative came to Mr. Brahimi, who was chairing it for the UN, and said to him, “I'd like to assure you that from now on, Iran will not interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.” Mr. Brahimi said to him, “Don't speak to me as if I'm a child. It's not possible for Iran not to interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, but what we want you to do is interfere in a way that's positive.” I think that is the idea that you are proposing.
Part of the motivation of the economic cooperation framework to which you referred is to create incentives for cooperation in Afghanistan on the part of the neighbours. That was part of the idea. Of course Afghanistan, as a landlocked country, absolutely needs that.
However, I would raise a note of caution. I think that experience shows that countries tend to put their security interests first. Certainly countries under military rule put their security interests first. I wouldn't say all the countries have an interest in stability in Afghanistan. They all have an interest in Afghanistan being stable and ruled by their friends. The second-best solution is for it to be unstable. The third-best solution is for it to be stable and ruled by their enemies' friends. That is the source of the problem.
At the moment, for instance, there are two different frameworks for economic cooperation in Afghanistan. There is a Pakistan-Afghanistan framework through Karachi, and there's an India-Iran framework, which goes through Iran and then up to western Afghanistan. Those are also associated with different ethnic groups in Afghanistan, because of the territory through which the trade passes.
I think it's very good to try to invest in its regional cooperation, and Canada has supported that and should do more, but I think that the confidence-building measures on security and fundamental issues of national interest are what will make the regional cooperation possible.
Okay. If I'm not mistaken, the killing of the ISI officers took place in the South Waziristan tribal agency.
I want to be clear about the tribal agencies. It's not that the Government of Pakistan has no de facto control over them. The Government of Pakistan has no de jure control over the tribal agencies. They are not under the government administration.
The border problem is not where the Durand Line is or recognizing the Durand Line. The border problem is also that these tribal agencies are not administered territories.
Furthermore, the people who live in those territories say they're Afghans and they also say they're Pakistanis. They don't believe they only belong to one country, and yet they don't participate in the Afghan political system, except as fighters. It's actually a bigger problem there.
In South Waziristan right now, the area has a large number of fighters from the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan who are allied with al-Qaeda.
For the local Pashtun tribes, I don't know what their private opinions are, but many of them are organized militarily to support the Taliban and are now actually fighting against the Uzbeks from al-Qaeda because they have worn out their welcome.
The ISI is involved in this very complex conflict between pro-al-Qaeda Uzbeks and pro-Taliban Pashtuns. We don't exactly know who killed the ISI officers in that area, but of course Pakistan's actions are multi-dimensional.
As far as the Kajaki Dam is concerned, it's an extremely important project. I am glad to hear that Canada is helping to secure it. The lack of improvement in the electricity supply in the five years the foreigners have been there is certainly one of the top items on the agenda of Afghans when they complain.
It's sui generis
, I think.
I think that if we try to put it in western and western democracy terms, we will end up tripping over each other because it won't be credible.
The fact is, now people are electing--it may be the people who would otherwise just be chosen as the village elders, but they are being elected. Once you're elected, as I don't need to say to you, ladies and gentlemen, you become accountable. People will ask you what you've done.
The original purpose of electing these councils was to, as I say, deliver development assistance. But now what is happening, I am told, is they are becoming kinds of village councils to deal with things other than just the delivery of development assistance.
Again, on the legal side, we're not going to move to a court system that is comparable to our own rapidly, in any event, or maybe ever, at least as far as one can see. But there have been traditional ways of dealing with justice that haven't all involved chopping off a hand or something like that, which is totally unacceptable.
I think one has to be prepared to build on tradition and not try to just impose outside models.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you very much, gentlemen, for your interventions.
I think you started out on a rather pessimistic note about the perception of Afghans by both the successive military interventions, and more importantly, perhaps, the nation-building that is presently going on in their own country and the ability of their own institutions to respond to their needs.
I think if you were to travel across Canada and to speak to the Afghan diaspora, of which there is a substantial number in our country, they would confirm that. Whenever I speak to anyone in my own riding, and quite often they are taxi drivers in Toronto--and I'm not using this as a joke.... They are in daily telephone conversation with their families and friends in the communities there. In the last few years they have become progressively less enchanted and less hopeful about an ultimate good end to this. This is largely because of lack of security and lack of delivery of services, as both of you have pointed out. And it is attributable to the drug problem. There's no doubt about it.
I'd like to ask one question. Clearly there's a large debate among the military forces themselves at NATO meetings about this. What is the role of the military as opposed to local police? You have said that the American eradication program will not work. What is the chance that the U.S. administration will abandon that? It is being forced down the throats of every other NATO member, whether they like it or not, by the U.S. administration. If Colombia is any example, we're not likely to see them abandon it. If they don't abandon it, where does that take us?
Equally linked to that is perhaps something that hasn't been mentioned so far. A direct result and one consequence of it is the endemic corruption in the country, which is a huge inhibition to the delivery of the very services you said are essential if we're going to get the Afghan population believing that the right thing is being done. Most Afghans you speak to are very skeptical about the problem of corruption being helped. Is there some aid mechanism...? Have we ever found in a society that we can use aid to provide the public services with enough money that they don't have to be corrupt, or that we can eliminate corruption? That would be my principal question.
I have a second question. We haven't talked a lot about Russia; we've talked about every other neighbouring country. Whenever I've met with Sergei Ivanov, or any of the Russian authorities, they've always made a strong point that their intelligence authorities are very supportive of what we are doing in Afghanistan. They are very helpful to us. When I say that, I mean the western powers generally. Is that true, or is there another Russian agenda in the region?
The jirga proposal you referred to was one that I believe originally came from President Karzai. He envisaged having meetings of Pashtun tribes on both sides of the Durand Line--he wouldn't say the border--to try to maintain security in the area. Of course, neither the non-Pashtuns in Afghanistan nor the Pakistani government accepted that proposal, so they are now working on something different.
But there's a fundamental problem. Jirga is used as a national institution in Afghanistan, but it's not used as a national institution in Pakistan, so there's no symmetry between the two sides. They're having a great deal of difficulty figuring out how to actually do it, and I don't know if they'll succeed.
On the second point, I think it's absolutely true that this is not just an Afghan problem; it is a regional problem. The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is not just a question of recognizing a line, because the border is more complex, as you mentioned. They refer to it as the three-tiered frontier because the British drew it so there's a line between the administered territories of Pakistan and the tribal agencies that are not administered.
By the way, the Afghan government has certain rights in those tribal agencies. They used to recruit soldiers from there, and they have relations with the tribes. The tribes send messages to President Karzai telling him what they want him to do. These are people on the Pakistan side of the border, and they fight in Afghanistan on both sides.
Afghanistan was under British suzerainty, and the outer border of Afghanistan with Russia and Iran was considered the security border of the British Empire. It's now more or less considered the security border of Pakistan as well. That's what the doctrine of strategic depth is about.
So there's a whole set of issues involving the internal structure of Pakistan, the relations of Pakistan to Afghanistan, and the way Afghanistan is settled in the region, which need to be revisited. It's currently run under a colonial agreement from 1905 between Britain and Russia. It's a good time to revisit this whole set of agreements, because the international community is there and can help with the confidence-building measures and particularly investment in the development of that frontier area, which would provide the people there with livelihoods other than smuggling and warfare.
Thank you very much, Dr. Rubin and Dr. Smith, for the very fine pieces you've put out in this very difficult challenge.
If I'm repeating something, I apologize; I had to leave to go to the House to speak.
I don't understand how we can possibly beat an insurgency whose bases are outside of the country in which we're actually fighting, in this case Quetta, Pakistan, as we all know. I also don't understand why we haven't put more resources into the Afghan national police. While our troops are doing an outstanding job of knocking back the Taliban, I believe a constabulary force has to go in after that in order to maintain security for the people who are there.
My questions are as follows.
One, do you think a regional working group, able to bring in Pakistan, India, Iran, and Afghanistan, is absolutely essential in order to deal with the political challenges of the arena?
Two, the transference of the poppy crop, the opium production...removing that and channeling that from the production of heroin into the production of pharmaceutical-grade narcotics that can then be sold, particularly to developing countries where there's an 80% deficit, would give the country a value-added resource that the farmers would get a reasonable rate of return on. We'd then also be severing that economic tie to the Taliban.
To Dr. Rubin, if you could share with us any of the U.S. administration's conclusions from their review of Afghanistan, we'd be grateful.
Is it winnable? That's actually the title of our paper, Is it Working?, and I'm basically saying not at the present time. I deliberately said that as starkly as I did because I think it's important to draw attention to that fact.
Now I've come and I'm answering both questions together here. That is because the timetable that Mr. Wilfert pointed out very much focuses not only on military presence, but also on the kinds of levels of military activity that are going on now. Everybody I know who I've spoken to says the tolerance level inevitably goes down over time, so that's why that part is particularly time-sensitive. Even if there were general security throughout the country, I think there's going to be a continued external military presence there, but not the kind of war fighting we now know. As I was saying to Madame Lalonde, the development assistance is going to be there for a long, long time.
On the question of some sort of regional working group, I guess it wouldn't do any harm, and might do some good, but I think ultimately the key is going to be that of outside pressure. The people who can really make a difference are going to be those like the United States, when it gets fully focused on this set of issues--above all, the United States.
Dr. Martin, when you were out we talked a bit about the poppies issue, and my view is, as you know from the paper, that eradication isn't working. I think from your question you agree with that. Whether it is through the purchase of some form of marketing board and the sale for the use of legal drug manufacture, or whether it's some other incentive form, something has to be done to provide the incentives to the farmers to stop growing poppies or to sell their poppies. It can't be such a great incentive that it ends up encouraging other people who aren't producing poppies now to produce them.
As I understand, only 4% of the agricultural land in Afghanistan is now being used for poppy growth. So you have to make sure you don't make the rewards so great that you end up shooting yourself in the foot.
The only thing I'll say about the question of whether it's winnable is if we define our goals in a reasonable way, then it's still possible to succeed. It is not possible to turn Afghanistan into a modern, prosperous, stable, peaceful democracy that has a higher level of representation of women in its political system than the United States, in a short period of time, especially with few resources.
I think the point about not being able to beat an insurgency without bases outside the country is very important. That's one of the conclusions of the policy review carried out by the U.S. government, I believe. I haven't seen the policy review, of course, but I've seen the results, which is more attention to the problem of the Taliban in Pakistan, the doubling of the amount of U.S. assistance that has been requested, and in particular, the focusing of a lot of that resistance on building the police, as you suggested. It is belated, and I go into the reasons for that, but it is very necessary, as you mention.
Of course, I just underline again, if you don't have a functioning judicial system, it's not clear exactly what the police are supposed to do except to beat people up, which is what they do.
On the question of dealing with opium, I want to mention there is a serious problem. There is an international legal regime on narcotics, and opium is an illicit drug, and there are very strict rules under this regime, which is administered by the International Narcotics Control Board in Vienna, about who can be licensed to produce legal opium. One of the conditions for doing that is having a sufficient law enforcement system to guarantee that there will not be any leakage. Because one could easily imagine that if you tell them in Afghanistan that now it's legal to grow opium, everyone will start growing opium. And in addition, you will have a very difficult problem of how to allocate the licences to produce opium in a country where people are not registered with the state and there is no land survey. So the degree of control you need to have to administer such a program under the current international legal regime does not exist.
Now, that puts you in a vicious circle where, because of narcotics and the corruption it entails, you cannot create adequate security, and because of the lack of security, you cannot partially legalize the growth of opium. I certainly would be in favour of examining whether, particularly in post-conflict areas, it is possible to have a different approach to counter narcotics into which this could be integrated, but that would actually require possibly some changes in the international regime. I'm part of a project that is investigating just that question.
We'll call this meeting back to order. It's my understanding that we are no longer televised, and that's always good. I always have a problem eating when I know that we're being televised.
We're going to come back quickly and go to our committee business. There have been a couple of things.
You do not have a copy of this budget. This morning in our subcommittee on human rights it was asked that this budget be passed out. It is a budget, according to the clerk, that is very much in line with what a study would need. The amount requested is $9,900, and it is in regard to the human rights study in Iran. It was passed unanimously in the committee.
We're doing a study on China, and now a bit of a study on Iran. Mr. Cotler and a number of others have brought forward a motion, and we're going to move that into a study on Iran.
Do we have a consensus on this budget? We do? Agreed.
This morning there were three reports, and again this is not on your agenda, because I just came from the human rights committee meeting, which was held from nine to eleven. The first report has been filed, and we can discuss this. Certainly I'm not saying that we're going to move this today, but just so you know, it is that the Government of Canada should launch a criminal investigation into the involvement of Iranian Prosecutor General Sayeed Martazevi in the torture and murder of Canadian citizen Zarah Kazemi pursuant to section...and it goes on.
Also, the following was addressed to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development:
|The Subcommittee on International Human Rights expresses its profound disapproval at the failure of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Development to comply with the motion of Caroline St-Hilaire,
--this is an important one--
|adopted by the Subcommittee on November 7, 2006, requesting a copy of a report prepared by Professor Charles Burton.
| Therefore, the Subcommittee on International Human Rights demands the unconditional production of the unedited and original version of the report....
That comes from Madame St-Hilaire, and we'll deal with all of these in the next meeting.