|| That the House take note of the on-going national discussion about Canada's role in Afghanistan.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to lead off in the debate today with regard to our role in Afghanistan. This side of the House has been and continues to support the efforts that our troops have made in Afghanistan since 2002. As is known, we have rotated in and rotated out in the past with regard to Afghanistan.
There is no question that we are bringing to Afghanistan a multiple of approaches in terms of development of democracy, education of women and the rule of law, et cetera. However, under the UN auspices and under NATO, we on this side of the House we believe this is not simply a Canadian mission. Therefore, everyone has to step up to the plate and do the heavy lifting.
In 2002, when we first went to Kandahar for six months, we rotated out. The principle of rotation is that the 35 members of NATO have to participate in the NATO-led mission, not simply a few. Unfortunately, today the British, the United States and the Dutch clearly are heavily engaged along with Canada. Then other covenants with countries such as Germany and others limit their activity, at night as an example. After Kandahar, we rotated out and went to Kabul. Again, on the principle of rotation, we rotated out and Turkey came in when we left.
No one said that this was a mission in which we would be there forever. We believe heavy lifting must be done by all members of NATO. Therefore, in April 2006, I had the pleasure to go to Afghanistan with the then foreign affairs minister, and we saw what our troops were doing on the ground. At that time, they said that we were the best equipped force on the ground in April 2006, except we needed medium lift. Both the foreign affairs minister and I were ferried around on American Chinook helicopters. We did not have that capability. That is something which I will come back to later, and it is addressed in the motion before the House.
From the beginning, we do not want to politicize this mission. For us, it is a Canadian mission.
In April 2006 the government put forward a motion to extend the mission in the form of military involvement until February 2009. It was after very limited debate, I believe about six hours. From that moment on, we said that the government needed to notify NATO about rotation. It needed to let NATO know that we would change and leave in February 2009. Unfortunately, the government dragged its feet when it came to notification. In fact, there was no notification.
Last month the government put forth a motion with regard to Afghanistan. This party looked at it very carefully and proposed our own approach. After consultation with the government, the government came back and embraced basically 95% of what we had put forward. I congratulate the members on that side for finally listening to Canadians. However, I point out that we said three key things: the mission must change; the mission must end; and it must be more than military.
In terms of the change, we have advocated training of Afghan security forces, whether they be the military, that is the national Afghan army, or the national Afghan police. I think all members of the House would concur, that what we want to see is the Afghans eventually have the ability to provide their own defence, that they are able to protect themselves. Therefore, the aspect of training is absolutely critical. At the moment, about 60,000 to 70,000 Afghan soldiers have been equipped and trained sufficiently.
The area of policing is absolutely critical. Where the national Afghan army is relatively well paid and trained, the Afghan police are not. We are trying to control an area with the local police that are not properly equipped and not properly trained. Many of these people are susceptible therefore to bribes and corruption because they do not have a sufficient salary and they do not have sufficient training. This is an area where we, on this side of the House, believe we can play a positive and useful role. That is in terms of changing the mission.
In terms of the mission ending, this is not an engagement in which we are there forever. This is a NATO-led mission in which all countries need to play an active and supportive role with regard to our Afghan allies. We have proposed that in terms of the training aspect, that this will all end in February 2011. The government has proposed July 2011 with an eventual withdrawal, I am assuming, by the end of the year. The government finally agreed to an end date, or at least an end year, which is 2011.
The mission must be more than military. We know, and history is a good guide, that military superiority is not possible. We see what happened with the Russians. The Department of National Defence produced a document, 3D, an evaluation of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, which came out in October 2007 which said that superior numbers in the field will not and cannot work. Eventually, it is an issue of national reconciliation, which I will talk about a little later.
The fact is that we also have to deal with the diplomacy side. Diplomacy is absolutely critical in dealing with some of Afghanistan's neighbours, including Pakistan. I have had the pleasure of being to Pakistan several times. I have a number of colleagues in the Pakistan senate, including the former speaker and acting prime minister of the day, Mr. Soomro, who have talked very much and were engaged on the issue of what more Pakistan can do.
Yes, they have 80,000 troops along the border with Afghanistan, but the question is, how effective are they? Obviously, from the diplomatic side, working with our allies, whether it be Pakistan or China to some degree, is important because diplomatic pressure is critical.
We have been very pleased to see a rapprochement between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where President Karzai and President Musharraf have talked about some of the key issues with which they are dealing.
As we know, many of the tribes do not really recognize the border. They are very much interrelated across that boundary. Therefore diplomacy, putting pressure and working with our allies diplomatically, is critical, but the area of development is also absolutely essential.
The person in the local village wants to understand the value of what is going on. We have these national elections, which are all very nice, except where it happens is in a local village, a local hamlet.
As a former municipal councillor and former president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, I can tell the House that the FCM has done a lot around in the world in terms of empowerment at the village legal, which is absolutely essential.
People need to see new wells for clean water, a hydro-electric dam which will then actually bring electricity to a village, a clinic or a school where individuals who work in the clinic can be trained, whether they are cleaning the floors, doing the laundry or administering vaccinations. The whole program is all about substantive development at the village level.
We were pleased to see that the government, in support of the resolution, is prepared to put more emphasis on development because development is absolutely critical.
If we do not change the lives of people on the ground, it really does not matter about national elections if in fact the national government does not seem to be delivering on the ground at the local level. This is why of course things like training the national Afghan police are critical in terms of being able to hold that area as well. So, it has to be more than military. There has to be an emphasis on development. It needs to be more accountable.
In terms of CIDA, as we know, Afghanistan has become the number one recipient of Canadian aid. Yet, we have had difficulty in the past getting both the previous minister and this minister to account in terms of where the actual money is going, what is the status of many of these projects, and what is actually happening on the ground.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to co-host with my colleague from British Columbia the international Red Cross committee based in Afghanistan which talked about the kinds of projects that are successfully being delivered, why they are important, how we are evaluating these projects and what kind of benchmarks we are setting to ensure that in fact these things are happening.
That is something which people want to see, both at home and abroad. They want to see that we are being successful. And so, part of that again is changing the end date, and being more than military. That is something that this side has emphasized very strongly in this House over the last year and a half.
I want to speak about the issue of training of the national Afghan army. We know that when we train people, sometimes we are going to obviously train them outside the wire. There has been some debate about how these troops would respond if they were fired upon. We do not intend, and it has never been our intent, to hamstring our soldiers on the ground in terms of being able to execute their responsibilities. There will be training. If fired upon, of course they would respond. This is not the situation where the UN handicapped former General Dallaire in Rwanda in 1993. We are not looking at that. We are looking at: if fired upon, obviously they would respond.
However, the major focus is obviously training, not just training in terms of the national Afghan police being able to do their job or for the army being able to do their job but also to have the confidence of people on the ground who are there to be protected. So, that is important.
Again, it is the reorientation of this mission which we have argued for. Reorientation also means rotation. I am pleased to see that the government is finally using that word and understanding that rotating means that others will have to come in.
In the resolutuion we talked about sufficient forces coming in. The government has talked about 1,000 troops. I am still not clear as to this magical number of 1,000, but I can tell members, again going back to that 3D report of Department of National Defence, that military superiority on the ground is not going to win. Eventually, it is going to be national reconciliation. But in terms of having more troops on the ground to assist us in terms of protecting our flanks, this is absolutely critical.
Again, our continuation is based on ensuring that there is protection for our forces who are there and also to continue with the provincial reconstruction team and development on the ground.
With regard to medium lift clarity, the government has indicated that it will not go forward without medium lift. We certainly agree with that. Again, because of the conditions on the ground at times, it is unsafe to move. We unfortunately had Canadian casualties and deaths because of a $10.00 device that blows up a million-dollar vehicle. Therefore, the ability to move troops by air is absolutely essential and, therefore, medium lift. However, this should have been requested over a year ago by the government.
We have a situation, at the 11th hour, where with the NATO meetings in Bucharest coming up the first week of April, we still do not have answers with regard to that. That is a very sad commentary about NATO in general, that no one has stepped up to say they are going to offer the appropriate airlift that we need.
A balance is obviously required and, again, we go back to the issue of defence, diplomacy and development. We have argued all along that this is more than military. It has to be about concrete development with clear benchmarks for Canadians, so that they will know where the money is going, and they will be able to say these are the success stories and we can now move this along.
There is no question that we have, both in the House and certainly in the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, been seized with the Afghan issue. An array of speakers have come before the standing committee. They have had various viewpoints but all of them agree that this mission cannot be simply a military force on the ground and that this is certainly not Canada's mission alone.
We need to ensure that we deal with issues such as the narcotics economy, the issue of poppies, and how we deal with the situation where farmers get money for poppy crops. They are eventually developed into products such as opium and of course land on the streets in Canada and other countries around the world. We need an effective strategy to assist our Afghan partners in ensuring that other types of crops can be developed that will be lucrative for those farmers.
We need to have accountability to Parliament. Liberals have argued, and the resolution stresses it very strongly, that the government, particularly the , and the , reports back on a regular basis to parliamentarians. Ultimately, it is Parliament and Parliament's will that is essential in understanding what is going on. We need those updates on a regular basis and Liberals have called for it.
In the resolution we have also called on the government to support the fact that departments have to talk to each other. Instead of silos, which unfortunately we are often famous for in Ottawa, National Defence, Foreign Affairs and CIDA need to talk to each other and be on the same page in understanding where we are in Afghanistan. That is absolutely essential.
There is the issue of cooperation. We, on this side of the House as well as the government because of the resolution, are going to have to work much more effectively and closely with our allies on the ground in terms of diplomatic issues and development. These are essential in order to improve the life of the average person in Afghanistan.
The Liberals chose today to debate this topic for another day in the House because it is important for all colleagues to be able to have their say so people will understand the various issues prior to whenever the vote is taken on the issue of 2011. We have some clarity now from the government on 2011. There is still the issue of why the July date and we need to have that dealt with.
As for accountability, reporting to parliamentarians is critical. This is something Canadians have stressed. People need to be reminded that this debate should not even be occurring now. Had the government taken the actions that the Liberals had called for over a year and a half ago about rotation after the April 2006 vote, we would not be in the situation now, with less than a year to go until the end of February 2009, and having this debate.
Of course, the other question is: What happens in Bucharest? The government has made it very clear, and Liberals certainly concur, that unless certain conditions I have outlined are met, the mission will have to end totally in February 2009 simply because the conditions need to be met.
There is certainly agreement in the chamber on the fact that, without the conditions, we are not prepared to move ahead. The , the and the all realize that we have to have those conditions not only for our soldiers and CIDA workers on the ground but in general.
If NATO is serious about making sure that this mission is successful, and there is much debate and discussion as to not providing the same resources it did in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time, without that kind of support, the mission is not going to be successful.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the House, and I would like to inform you that I will share my time with the hon. .
I am very grateful to have the opportunity to speak to the House today about Canada's role in Afghanistan. Last week, as you know, I attended a meeting of NATO's foreign affairs ministers in Brussels. My NATO counterparts and I had very productive and constructive talks. We discussed several issues, including NATO deployed operations and partnerships. We discussed the situation in Afghanistan and the NATO-led mission there. One of the main objectives of this meeting was to present the measures our government is taking in response to the recommendations made by the panel led by Canada's former foreign affairs minister, Mr. Manley.
I informed my colleagues of Canada's conditions for continuing the mission in Afghanistan after February 2009. First, we need to secure a partner that will provide a battle group of approximately 1,000 to support our efforts in Kandahar. Second, I told my counterparts that we need better equipment for our troops, such as medium-lift helicopters and high performance unmanned aerial vehicles. We would need this equipment and the troops before February 2009. I hope—and I am optimistic—that we will be able to find a partner in the coming weeks.
The equipment and troop requirements have been made clear to our allies, and I can say that they were very receptive to our objectives. They understand how important this mission is to NATO, and they understand how important this mission is to our country. I would like to assure my colleagues, the members of this House, that the mission in Afghanistan is our government's top priority.
The mission of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan demonstrates that NATO can play a significant role in establishing peace and security outside of the Euro-Atlantic region. Forty countries, including Canada, are participating in the international force's UN-mandated , NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. In addition to 26 NATO member countries, 14 other European and Asian countries are participating.
Why are we taking part in this mission? This is a legitimate question, and I would like to answer it today: we think that countries like Canada have a role to play on the international stage. Together with over 60 countries and international organizations, Canada is in Afghanistan as part of a UN-mandated mission to build a stable, democratic and self-sufficient society.
Two years ago, the United Nations, the Afghan government and members of the international community, including Canada, adopted the Afghanistan Compact. The purpose of the compact is to improve coordination between the Afghan government and governments in the international community. It provides direction for our involvement and details results, benchmarks, deadlines and mutual obligations in three specific areas: security; governance, rule of law and human rights, of course; and economic and social development. What this really means— and we have heard this many times—is that there can be no development without security.
Conversely, security will not last if development does not progress, bringing better roads, improved access to health care and education, and significant economic opportunities for Afghans. Access to more opportunities will encourage the Afghan people to take control of their country's stability and prosperity.
Let us not fool ourselves: this is a major challenge for Canada and the international community. Despite the difficulties, we must not lose sight of the progress we have made over the past few years.
For example, nearly six million children are now attending school, while under the Taliban regime, only 700,000 children went to school, and sadly, none of them were girls.
As a result of the wide-ranging international efforts there, Afghanistan has been able to begin to rebuild itself. The security we are helping to create is vital for this process of reconstruction. Every day the Canadian Forces and others work to create security in Afghanistan.
Last week, all hon. members of the House saw another measure of progress in Afghanistan. I refer to the recent visit of female Afghan parliamentarians to Ottawa. As the has observed, these brave women are fighting to change the history of their country. Their lives are on the line every day. These women know what a return to the rule by the extremist brutal Taliban would mean. Canadians should be proud that our country is backing up these brave women, our men and women in uniform, our diplomats and our aid workers, all helping Afghanistan rebuild itself.
Yes, our presence is needed in Afghanistan. That is why our government believes Parliament should approve the extension of our military mission in Kandahar. We are making a real positive difference in Afghanistan. We are demonstrating to Afghans and to our allies that Canada is a reliable partner in the quest for global security.
Parliamentarians also demonstrated that resolve in 2006. I refer to when the House voted for a two year extension of the mission. The end of the mandate is approaching and so the House will have to reach a decision on what comes next.
Our government has already been clear. We believe Canada should live up to its international obligations and commitments. We are optimistic that the majority of the members of the House will support our position. It is based on principle. It is based on a clear assessment of our international obligations.
We introduced a revised motion on February 21. It acknowledges what is required for Canada's mission to succeed in Afghanistan. It reiterates our commitment to the UN mandate on Afghanistan, but it also affirms that our commitment is not open-ended. It commits our government to notify NATO that Canada will end its presence in Kandahar as of July 2011. We would complete redeployment from the south by December of that year.
We believe this is a reasonable compromise. We believe it addresses the important questions Canadians have about the future of the mission. It is a clear and principled position. Our NATO allies must know where Canada stands. The government and people of Afghanistan must also know. We must also ensure our troops on the ground know where Canada stands. They deserve no less than this.
Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the , just provided an overview of Canada's commitment to NATO in Afghanistan. He explained how the Afghanistan Compact guides international efforts in three areas: security, development and governance.
As members know, six female Afghan parliamentarians joined us in Ottawa during International Women's Week. They, above all, know how important security, development and governance is to their country.
Over the week, they expressed their gratitude for Canada's presence in Afghanistan and strongly stressed how important it was for Canada to stay the course. Each day they live in the reality that is Afghanistan and recognize that without security there can be no development.
Each is a woman of courage and determination and the roots of their commitment are founded in their personal stories. They serve as politicians with their lives under threat and under onerous conditions. One told of how her husband and children were killed by the insurgents, and yet they are willing to serve in public life, to see a better future for the Afghan people. They told me of their fears of what would happen if the 60 nations, which are working to bring stability to their people, were to abandon Afghanistan prematurely.
Like all mothers around the world, they want peace and stability. One spoke of her 11-month-old baby. She said what she wanted most was a good education for her children. They know already that in only six years, millions of children are now going to school. However, they also know thousands of other children are seeking the same opportunity. That is why Canada is the largest donor to the biggest education initiative of the Afghan government. They said that it was important for Canada to continue supporting the training of female teachers to teach young girls, who under the Taliban were denied formal education.
The Afghan women were grateful that maternal deaths had been reduced and that infants were now surviving beyond their fifth birthdays. They know Canada is helping to ensure that women and their children are being vaccinated to fight diseases like polio, tetanus and malaria.
They told me how women were now starting their own small businesses with the help of the microfinancing program supported by Canada and how this was bringing more financial independence to these enterprising women.
They know Canadian-supported literacy training for women means improved nutrition and health care for their children and families.
As parliamentarians, these women had a special appreciation of the work Canada was doing to ensure that Afghan women had access to their rights and protection from abuse and violence under the law. During the Taliban regime, the women of Afghanistan were more often the victims of violence and oppression. They said that there were now stronger protection laws for Afghan women and asked for increased access to legal aid.
Canada is supporting the new Afghanistan independent human rights commission, which promotes human rights and monitors and investigates violations. This is why we will continue to support projects that strengthen the institutions of good governance and a strong justice system. Through an experienced organization, Canada has supported the training of prosecutors and judges.
For all these reasons, the Afghan parliamentarians are grateful to Canada for its work and support that has brought about a real difference in their lives.
On behalf of the Afghan people, they outlined what more they knew had yet to be accomplished. We must listen to these women and continue in our work in Afghanistan, and we will. We will do it effectively so the Afghan people see positive changes in their lives.
CIDA now has over 20 persons on the ground in Afghanistan. We have plans to increase that number to 35 this year. I will be delegating more authority to those in the field. CIDA also has a quick response program to support initiatives that meet local needs as they arise. These steps will mean that we are able to act more quickly and be more responsive to situations on the ground.
CIDA officials in Afghanistan, working with our security personnel, will make decisions on their movements in the field without having to receive clearance from headquarters here in Canada. This will mean that those who can assess the security situation on the ground are actually making the decision on the movement of our CIDA personnel.
We are currently doing our due diligence to identify projects that will bring more awareness of Canada's presence in Afghanistan. Such a project will have to meet the needs of the Afghan people, be able to be executed efficiently and accountably, and be sustainable, as well as being in accord with the aims of the Afghan government.
We will ensure regular reports are available to Canadians of the development progress being made. We will continue to work to increasing donor coordination among our partner countries, aid agencies and NGOs to achieve greater effectiveness.
Much has been accomplished, but there is still much to be done. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. There is still a great humanitarian need through much of the country. Afghans face the obstacles of poverty, receive limited basic health care services and need to rebuild their infrastructure for clean water, roads and industry.
That is why Canada has provided support to the world food program, delivering food to those facing a severe winter and rising food prices.
With the World Health Organization, Canada has enabled access to basic health care and immunization programs for hundreds of thousands of children and women.
With Canada's support, communities are being rebuilt. Through over 12,000 village councils, local projects have reconstructed bridges, roads and irrigation canals. These are real results that are making a difference today and will mean a stronger future tomorrow.
Canada is a part of the United Nations effort. On the invitation of a democratically elected government, Canada is working to bring a brighter future to Afghan women and to that ravaged country.
Sustainable Afghan institutions, its government and its public sector must develop the capacity to deliver good governance, the rule of law and basic human rights to their own people. Afghan parliamentarians recognize this and are grateful for the sacrifice of Canadians in rebuilding their country.
The women of Afghanistan know that the international effort is making a difference for them, their families, their children and their communities. Last week, women in Afghanistan celebrated International Women's Day because they can see how their lives are changing. As mothers, wives, caregivers, employers and employees, as teachers and politicians, Afghan women do not want to return to life under oppression and violence.
The Afghan people are a strong, proud and determined people who know that with the return of a safe and secure country they can succeed. With Canada's continued support, they will achieve their vision of a strong, free and prosperous nation. By supporting the motion before the House, Canada can do its part.
I encourage all members of this House to support the government motion.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate on Afghanistan today.
I often listen to ministers of the Crown and soldiers in uniform speaking. There is a marked difference when the uniforms come off. There are two perspectives on what is happening on the ground. The ministers of the Crown and the generals tell us that everything is going very well. General Atkinson is one of the officers who give us regular briefings. Unfortunately, it is impossible to find out what is going on with the schools, the wells or the irrigation systems. He always tells us that something really good has happened, that they have built a bridge. The other day, he showed us photos of a bridge from many different angles. Supposedly, army engineers worked on that bridge. From time to time, they show us things like that.
The ministers of the Crown have been telling us the same thing over and over since 2001. They say that we are going into Afghanistan to build schools so that children, especially little girls, can go back to school, to ensure security, and to re-establish agriculture in some way, with irrigation wells. We know what is going on with agriculture at the moment: opium is about the only crop for sale. In short, the ministers of the Crown and the generals who are passing along the information must be wearing rose-coloured glasses.
Later, I will explain the Bloc Québécois' parliamentary approach. Some people like to point out that at various times over the years, the member for said this, or the Bloc Québécois leader said that. Later on, I will explain that the Bloc Québécois has been guided in its actions by a consistent, logical approach.
Let us come back to what is happening on the ground. It is inaccurate to say that everything is going well. We have other sources of information. We read the newspapers. Reporters regularly go into the field. For example, two weeks ago, the Globe and Mail ran an absolutely disheartening report on what is happening in Afghanistan. No one is talking about that here. Yet what was described in this analysis was terrible. We also get information from major international organizations like the Red Cross, Amnesty International and the Senlis Council. There are many groups in the field that are giving us a completely different picture than the government and Canada's senior military officers.
Let us look at what some of these organizations are saying, because the famous Manley report refers to them. I was talking earlier about the report with the . The Bloc never hid the fact that it did not appreciate this panel. We believe that the House of Commons was quite capable of creating a committee of members of the different parties in the House, which could have made a recommendation to the government. Naturally, being in a minority position, the government was afraid to entrust this task to a committee of the House. It decided that the committee's report might not contain the things it wanted to hear.
The Manley report tells the government exactly what it wants to hear. I asked the about this earlier. Why is everyone in the House, regardless of their party affiliation, saying that this mission is unbalanced? What the government has retained from the Manley report is that Canada should extend the mission and add 1,000 soldiers and that helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles are needed. Once again, everything has to do with the military. That is why we denounced the Manley report as soon as it was released.
For months and even years, we have been demanding that the mission be rebalanced, but the government is jumping on the Manley report and saying that we have to add 1,000 soldiers and deploy helicopters and unmanned planes, supposedly to conduct surveillance day and night and see exactly what is happening. We feel that the Manley report is far from definitive, and we said we did not agree with it.
With regard to the major issues involved, we often hear about the three D policy: development, defence and diplomacy. The minister is telling us that she has sent more people into the field. When I went to Kandahar barely two years ago, there were 2,500 soldiers to handle defence, six people from CIDA and six people from Foreign Affairs.
That was nowhere close to a balance. I am not saying that there should be 2,500 people from CIDA and another 2,500 in the diplomatic corps, but there is a limit. We are told that big efforts were made and, as a result, their numbers have now risen to 20 and are likely to reach 35.
Before addressing diplomacy and development, I will start by focusing my remarks on governance. Reference is often made to the Afghanistan Compact. An important element of that compact was actually governance. Do members know what President Karzai is called in Afghanistan? He is referred to as the “mayor of Kabul”. That is because, without international support, he cannot extend his influence and authority beyond the country's capital. The two Globe and Mail reporters I mentioned earlier said they were not even sure that he was still the “mayor of Kabul”. Some might say that he is the master of his castle, where he has dug himself in because the roadblocks put up by factions, warlords and corrupt police pretty much encircle Kabul, which means that anyone who has to drive out of Kabul encounters a roadblock. I am not the one saying this.
When we travelled to Afghanistan, we were not allowed out of the camp in Kandahar. We had to insist that reporters relay to Canada the message that we were prisoners in our own camp in Kandahar. We wanted to go out and visit schools, dispensaries, hospitals, irrigation systems and water wells that allegedly had been dug, but were told we could not leave the camp for security reasons. That is odd, because, when Conservative MPs travel there, they can be seen outside the camp mingling with little children or going down streets in Kabul. They are seen visiting many kinds of sites, but we were not allowed to. That is something else.
The Manley report calls for transparency. This is not complicated. The government and the generals who give us briefing sessions are not being transparent. There is propaganda in what they give us, and everything is designed to show us that everything is just fine, when that is not what our sources are telling us. As well, our own physical presence tells us that they do not want to show us those things. Why do they not want to show them to us? Is it really for some security reason or is it because there is nothing to show? That is the problem. Otherwise, the media would be happy to show us these fine hospitals, clinics and schools that supposedly exist. They are not able to do it, because there are none. That is what we have been speaking out against for a long time, and that is why we want to rebalance this mission.
Everyone says that it must not be military, that there is too much emphasis on the military aspect. The first thing the government does after the Manley report is submitted is increase the number of troops yet again. It says virtually nothing about development and diplomacy.
Let us talk about development now. I have said a little about it. There are no schools, it is as simple as that. We also have a major criticism. When we were in Kandahar, I put these questions to people who are working on the ground. They told us not only that there are no schools, but that there is no longer any accountability to CIDA, something that is even more serious.
We are always being told that Canada will be giving a billion dollars to Afghanistan. Sure. Someone can go and see one of the six CIDA staffers and tell them he has an idea: he wants to dig a well in his village 500 km from Kabul or Kandahar. CIDA will tell him this is a good idea because there is no water in the village and will ask him how much money will be needed. He will reply: $15,000. So the cheque will be signed, but we learned on site—we, members of Parliament—that it costs about $1,000 to $2,000 to build a well. And yet a cheque for $15,000 has been signed. In addition, no one will go to the village in question to see whether the well has been dug. Billions of dollars are fine, but money is flowing like water over there. We hear about roads. Gravel is needed to build roads. We learned over there that the gravel used to build the road we were told about normally costs $5 a tonne, and yet a tonne of gravel is being sold to the Canadians for $80. That is how it works.
It is unfortunate that I could not question the minister, but that is how it is. There is virtually no accountability. So that money is not going to the people at the grassroots, it is going to the people who already have assets, like the warlords, who are getting rich off Canada’s contributions.
We can be told that everything is fine only for so long.
Diplomacy fell by the wayside when a Canadian diplomat was killed early on. It is not complicated. There are jirgas in the villages. Diplomats do not go there. Soldiers are the ones who go and sit down with village elders to ask them what can be done and to engage in dialogue.
Imagine if, the next day, the village is bombed or there is a shoot-out and 6,000 civilians are killed. The next day, army personnel return to sit down with village elders and ask them what they can do, if they can give them Joe Louis cakes, cookies and little backpacks for the children. Well, that is not what is needed. What is needed is real diplomacy, meetings with the governor, with President Karzai, in order to ensure that diplomacy prevails over the military aspect.
We also often hear about international diplomacy. In the case of the countries surrounding Afghanistan, it is important that Canadian diplomats meet with representatives from Iran, Pakistan, China, India and Russia, who all have something to say on the matter. That is not what is happening. That is not what the Manley report suggests. That was not what sparked the interest of the government. Rather, it was the question of adding more soldiers and military equipment. As for the rest, the government says that we will wait, because everyone knows that if there is no security in Afghanistan—we hear this all the time—there can be no development or diplomacy.
Well, this is not working. The insurrection is gaining strength. We are losing control of the territory. Perhaps four or five times more soldiers are needed, yet NATO and other countries do not wish to mobilize any more. I will talk more about this a little later.
With regard to defence, I believe that I have expressed my point of view. We have 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan. I wish to state that we have nothing against the troops. I trained with the soldiers of the Royal 22e Régiment and was deployed with them to Bosnia in 2001. They do an excellent job. They do what they are ordered to do, and that is fight. Everyone here says that that is not the solution. However, we have 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, plus logistics support, who are fighting. Even General Richards, whom I met down there and who is responsible for all of Afghanistan, said that it did not make sense. We suggested that he tell his superiors. It is all well and good to tell NATO; someone must realize that we cannot continue with the military plan. And yet it is continuing, and this government is going forward.
A while ago, I asked the to press NATO on the rotation issue; however, he did not. Instead, he is ensuring that we stay in Afghanistan until 2011. That is what will happen. Additional soldiers will be mobilized. Another nation—we do not know which one yet—will mobilize them. Personally, I am convinced that this has already been decided. The government would certainly not impose this condition if it knew in advance that it would not be met.
I think they are playing games and they want to make us believe that it is difficult. Discussions are already underway with representatives from France, who may send their troops to the south. However, if the French do not wish to send their troops to the south because they are more comfortable with the Americans, the latter will be sent instead. That is what will happen in the end. They have probably already agreed to the helicopters and the UAVs, the unmanned aerial vehicles.
The government will tell us that all the conditions have been met. However, these conditions are not conducive to success. These conditions also include diplomacy and development. If we do not have that, we could have a million soldiers, we could be monitoring every village in Afghanistan, and we would not succeed in earning the trust of the Afghans or in re-establishing governance by having soldiers in every village of Afghanistan.
We have been saying this for a long time now, but no one ever listens. This is what is happening: not only are there no schools and clinics, but we are told that opium trafficking is fuelling terrorism, and I agree. In fact, since Canada has been there, this has continued—and is on the rise. Afghanistan now provides 90% of the world's heroin supply.
I travelled with the Germans to Fayzabad, in the north, and to Kandahar. In Fayzabad, travelling by jeep with the German army, we saw poppy fields everywhere, indeed everywhere. No one is addressing this matter and those who want to deal with it propose eradication. That is precisely what should not be done; the Afghans need to be offered another type of crop, but that is not being done.
The British and the Americans want to spray the fields and completely destroy the poppies. The poor farmer whose family's survival depends on those poppy fields will see his crop disappear. When he wonders what to do next, now that he is left with nothing, the Taliban will offer him protection, assurance and food. In exchange, he or one of his sons will have to take up arms from time to time, since the Taliban needs that type of help. That is what will happen.
In fact, that is what is happening and will happen in years to come. There is not enough vision to come up with another solution. And yet, solutions exist. I even heard that NATO may enter into discussions with the European Union to ensure that the new crops to be developed in Afghanistan will have new markets, for instance, in Europe, a continent that is not far from Afghanistan. I heard mention of that, but then I did not hear any more about it. It is over. Now we are into eradication.
By all accounts, the strategy being used in Afghanistan will not resolve the issue.
I was also surprised in Fayzabad when the Germans told me it was 8 p.m. and they had to return to camp. I asked if it was because they were supposed to go and have supper but they said they had orders not to be out after 8 p.m. It is very strange. Our soldiers in the south are patrolling day and night. So a lot of things are unfair. When I went to the Bundestag in Germany to tell them that, they said they could not introduce it before their Parliament for fear of being defeated if they allowed their soldiers to be out after 8 p.m. It really is unjust.
As is now policy here in the House of Commons, the Conservatives have twisted the mission, as I say over and over. This mission was supposed to be focused on diplomacy and development, but that is no longer true. It is almost entirely a defence mission.
For a whole year the Liberal Party carried the standard for those who wanted to end the operations in February 2009 but now they have surrendered and gone over to the Conservatives. That is terribly disappointing.
The NDP also has its faults. At just about this time last year, a decision had to be made on ceasing military operations in 2009. The Liberal Party voted in favour, as did the Bloc Québécois. To our great surprise, the NDP joined forces with the Conservatives and voted against.
So here we are now facing an extension of the mission, when if the NDP had just been willing to end combat operations in 2009, we would be packing our bags and it would all be over. They took an ideological stance, voting against the motion because it did not propose to withdraw our troops immediately. Here we are now in a worse position with a mission that will no longer end in 2009 but 2011.
We in the Bloc Québécois have been very consistent. Some people told me that I said this and that on this or that date. I want to correct the record. On October 8, 2001, we supported the mission to Afghanistan. On January 28, 2002, we supported it again after further discussions in the House. On November 15, 2005, we supported the new deployment outside Kabul.
That was when we started laying down conditions. The longer things dragged on, the tougher our conditions became. On May 16, 2006, the Bloc Québécois proposed a motion in a session of the Standing Committee on National Defence. We had been asking the government for a long time to change things and it did not want to. We proposed a motion, therefore, asking it to tell us how much longer the mission would last, what the state of our troops and equipment was, what proportion of the mission was combat and what proportion reconstruction, and what the evaluation criteria were. The next day, the Conservative government introduced the motion to extend the mission until 2009 without answering any of our questions. That was when we started to say we were finished with all this.
Our positions have always been very logical. We have always been responsible. We took these positions on the basis of the information available to us at the time.
I will conclude by saying that we were in perfect sync with the desires of the Quebec people. The Conservatives, Liberals and NDP will find us in their path in Quebec during the election campaign.
We will tell Quebeckers who was there for them, who listened to them, who is defending their interests and values, and that is the Bloc Québécois.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity this morning to participate in the debate. We are dealing with a government motion, crafted by a Conservative-Liberal marriage of convenience, to extend the Kandahar counter-insurgency mission in Afghanistan for three more years from the time when we find ourselves debating on this occasion.
I want to make reference to the acknowledgement, widely shared and widely expressed, that there is no military solution to the devastating problems that are plaguing the lives of people in Afghanistan today.
That is not a recent idea that has come from the New Democratic Party. It has been acknowledged repeatedly over a period of several years, including by members of the government, by the UN secretary general, by the NATO secretary general and by the President of Afghanistan himself when he spoke in this place two years ago.
What does it mean to say that there is no military solution? It means that Afghanistan has serious political problems and that those problems can only be resolved through political solutions.
From the perspective of many people who have studied those problems, it requires that we shift from what is primarily a military counter-insurgency effort. The dollars that Canada expends and how we distribute those dollars indicates how overwhelmingly this is a military mission to which Canada has committed itself. We must shift on to what needs to be a comprehensive, complex peace-building mission.
Unfortunately, the Liberal modified Conservative motion, which we find ourselves debating today, simply fails to recognize that fact and all of the evidence that backs up that position.
The problem with the mission is not that more time is needed. We need to be clear that this motion would extend the military mission to 2011, three more years. The problem with the mission is that it is flawed and, because it is flawed, it is failing in some of the most fundamental ways that matter most to the people of Afghanistan.
I do not want to take all of my time to talk about the six courageous, articulate women members of Parliament from Afghanistan who were here visiting last week, but I too had the opportunity and I welcomed the opportunity to talk to those six members of Parliament from Afghanistan, as I have other members of Parliament from Afghanistan.
Yes, they understandably pleaded the case for Canadians not to turn their backs on the people of Afghanistan. I welcomed the opportunity to make it absolutely clear that it has never been the view of the Canadian people nor the New Democratic Party, as has been disgustingly suggested again and again by government members, to cut and run, one of the most vile terms that could possibly be used to characterize the view of Canadians and my party. As a representative of my party, I deeply resent that representation, not just because it came out of the mouth of George Bush and was immediately parroted by Conservative members of Parliament and now by Liberals, but because it is such a pathetic misrepresentation and distortion of what the view is, which is that there needs to be a comprehensive, robust, diplomatic effort if this series of political problems are to be solved and the people of Afghanistan will be able to get on a positive constructive course to build their lives.
One of the things that is deeply disturbing is the distortion that is created about the position we have consistently advocated. It does such a disservice. It is so insensitive to our troops who are serving as they have been asked to serve by their government in a mission not of their choosing and not of their creation, but one in which they respond to the call of duty. Our troops have never done otherwise. They have always served courageously and competently in carrying out the duties assigned to them.
Clearly it needs to be recognized that NATO is not a diplomacy agency. NATO is a military alliance. It is not multilateralist military alliance either in any global sense or even regional sense that has any relevance to the region in which Afghanistan is located. NATO is primarily a war-fighting machine. It does not have the competence, mandate or experience to be involved in the kind of multilateralist mission to get us on a path to peace. That is why there is a growing crescendo of persons who are involved in the international development field who have long experience in peace building, in peace seeking and peacekeeping who say we need to shift that mission from one that is NATO led to one that is lodged within the purview of the United Nations.
The Manley panel itself identified again and again the lack of coordination that is taking place under the NATO umbrella. The problem with the Manley commission report, as I see it, is that much of its analysis and many of its conclusions were actually quite accurate. The difficulty is there was a huge gulf between the panel's analysis and conclusions, and the recommendations it made. Essentially the panel said that the approach is not working, that insecurity is becoming even more of a problem, that it is not coordinated, and let us do more of the same for another lengthy period of time. That is exactly what the Liberal-Conservative motion on the floor of this House today is prescribing.
It is time to acknowledge Afghanistan for what it really is. It is a conflict among Afghans and other regional actors. Our role is to find a way to contribute to ending that conflict, not prolonging it or, worse still, becoming a party on one side of the conflict. It requires a shift from the role of combatants on the front line in the so-called war on terror to peace support professionals in a dynamic interstate conflict that is in a multilateralist framework. That means reorienting the current strategy away from combat and toward a coordinated diplomatic, developmental and peace support mission.
In the absence of a concentrated political effort, coordination of the military, diplomatic and development strategies in Afghanistan has been severely hampered by internal divisions. This has been hampered by duplication and sometimes competing objectives in terms of various initiatives. This has been hampered by a failure to address Afghan's most pressing needs as outlined in the Afghanistan Compact. Canada must channel its contribution through new and different avenues to support a comprehensive, intelligent peace process and real nation building efforts.
The path to peace has to be organized around institutions that are designed for such tasks. The UN constellation of agencies, the very raison d'être of the UN, is surely in the best position to host those vital roles and initiatives. There are roles for UNICEF and the United Nations Development Fund for Women. Heaven knows we have a major problem to find the way to support and protect women in that society. There is a role for the United Nations Development Programme. Our development contribution has been outstripped 10:1 in terms of the resources allocated for Canada's current mission in Afghanistan. There is a role for United Nations Disarmament Commission, and there may be a role for the UN Peacebuilding Commission, which is led by a proud, distinguished Canadian woman who served this country as a distinguished CIDA official, as a long-time UN official doing effective peace building in a number of countries.
At least two years ago, former deputy minister Gordon Smith stated before the foreign affairs committee, “What is needed is a process of substantial conversation or reorientation of anti-state elements into an open and non-violent political dynamic”. This means placing our diplomatic weight behind peace initiatives at the local, regional and international levels in a coordinated fashion.
We need to be using the considerable skills and expertise of Canadians to help bring the various actors who are parties to these conflicts in Afghanistan to the table. Taking the path to peace through diplomacy also means involving the regional actors who are now excluded and often are contributing in devastating ways to the problems of violence in the region.
More than just new diplomacy, we also need better aid and development. Time does not allow me to talk in detail about this in the context of this debate, but we must do a better job in meaningful development work. There are some good, positive results where we are doing that in some parts of Afghanistan. We should acknowledge that and build on those strengths. What is needed is greater civilian oversight of the Canadian development aid, not more military engagement in a role that does not belong lodged within the military.
Given the decision the government has made to extend the current mission with the support of the Liberals, we are in danger of turning some of that good work that is being done in Afghanistan through the development effort, but not enough of it and not accompanied by a robust peace building effort, in the wrong direction.
It is very worrisome for those who have experience on the ground both in Afghanistan and in other conflict zones that the Manley report and the government apparently advocate directing more of our international development efforts into so-called signature projects.
What people need in Afghanistan is meaningful international development initiatives that will change in a positive way the lives of Afghans, not more Canadian flags to try to gain more Canadian support and approval for what we are doing in Afghanistan that is so deeply flawed.
We also know that a great deal more accountability is needed. Although this Liberal-Conservative motion to a large extent misses the very point of what is needed, it has to be acknowledged, and this is a positive thing, that there has not been the transparency and accountability and we need to build those in. In that respect there is some progress in this otherwise inadequate and flawed motion that is before us.
There were six women members of parliament here from Afghanistan. I was not surprised to hear both the and the say that they were just cheerleaders for exactly what the government is doing.
It is very tricky to have a debate here about the true sentiments of women who know what kind of punishment can be meted out to them for speaking out either inside or outside of parliament, especially outside of one's country.
We know what happened with Malalai Joya, also a courageous woman member of parliament. She told the very same truth that was acknowledged by the six women members of parliament that women are at severe risk not just at the hands of the Taliban, but also at the hands of warlords and drug lords, and in some cases the northern alliance and even male members of parliament. For speaking out, Malalai Joya was not only evicted from parliament, but the protection she needed for her life to be safe was removed. This makes her at even greater risk.
I listened to those six members of parliament respectfully, and I welcomed the opportunity to do so. There were three points on which they expressed considerable interest and support. I thought one was quite interesting.
The leader of the NDP, the Afghan ambassador and I met with them. We raised the question of the UN getting on with the diplomatic effort and meaningful development. They looked us straight in the eye and told us that we needed to do that because they were too busy dealing with what needs to happen around working in compliance with the Afghanistan Compact and other important work.
They did not reject at all the notion that there needs to be a great deal more in terms of meaningful humanitarian aid and development effort. They indicated, and these were their words, that many of the people are being drawn into the Taliban because they are starving, because they are desperate, because they do not have jobs, because they do not have income and they cannot feed their families. Those people are easy prey for bribery or being paid so they can feed their families. How many times have we heard that from others? Who is in a better position to confirm that than those six members of parliament?
An increasing number of voices are speaking out about getting on the path to peace and getting off the war effort. They want us to begin to seriously undertake diplomatic and development work. I start by quoting the UN Special Representative for Afghanistan who several months ago stated:
||--there is a cry for peace in Afghanistan, from the civil society...and there are possibilities for peace.
|| It is obvious that among those who support the Taliban and even among those who support their violent actions, there are...people who are tired of war and who respond to the cry of the people for peace. We from the United Nations will certainly support peace talks because the insurgency cannot be won over by military means and we have to keep the door open for negotiations.
Ernie Regehr, a much respected internationalist in terms of peace building and progress to peace, stated:
|| A comprehensive peace process is required to address the fundamental conflicts and grievances that remain unaddressed in Afghan society. This is a process to build a relationship of trust between the southern Pashtuns and the rest of the country, in the context of respect for fundamental rights and addressing the conflict that fuelled the civil war that predated the October 2001 U.S.-led invasion and is--