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Government Response to the First Report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development

Government Response to the First Report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on “Canada in Afghanistan”

The Government of Canada has carefully considered the First Report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on Canada in Afghanistan, and taken note of the observations and recommendations contained therein.

The Government of Canada would like to thank the members of the Standing Committee for their work in preparing this report.

This response provides an overview of the Government’s approach to the Afghanistan mission and addresses the recommendations of the Committee. 

Government of Canada Approach to the Mission in Afghanistan

In the introduction to “Canada in Afghanistan,” the Committee, in summarizing a number of points drawn from witness testimony, states that “Canada needs to be clear about its policy goals in Afghanistan and to communicate those effectively to the Canadian public.” In the time since the Committee undertook its study, the Government has clearly articulated its policy and programming priorities in Afghanistan, adopted benchmarks to measure progress and evaluate its approach, and released four Quarterly Reports to Parliamentarians and Canadians detailing the successes and shortfalls of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.

On March 13, 2008, the House of Commons passed the Government’s motion on the mission in Afghanistan. Coinciding with the latter stages of the Committee’s study, the motion not only extended Canada’s military presence in Kandahar to July 2011, but also called for an increased contribution to the reconstruction and development “to strike a better balance between military efforts and development efforts,” a key recommendation of the Committee. The motion also called for “a greater level of accountability” to ensure that Canadian development contributions were being spent effectively, the adoption of a regional diplomatic approach, and support for greater coordination among UN partners.

On June 10, 2008, the Government announced six priorities to guide Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan through to 2011. In doing so, the Government set a clear course toward the goal of a better-governed, more peaceful and more secure Afghanistan. These priorities are consistent with Afghan objectives, notably the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS), and the efforts of the international community, reflected in the three pillars of the Afghanistan Compact: security, governance and development. As part of these priorities, the Government of Canada has increased its focus on Kandahar Province, and is on track to meet its target of directing 50 percent of its assistance to Kandahar.

With a focus on Kandahar, Canada will help the Government of Afghanistan to:

  1. maintain a more secure environment and establish law and order by building the capacity of the Afghan National Army and Police, and supporting complementary efforts in the areas of justice and corrections;
  2. provide jobs, education, and essential services, like water;
  3. provide humanitarian assistance to people in need, including refugees; and
  4. enhance the management and security of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
  5. Nationally, Canada will help:

  6. build Afghan institutions that are central to our Kandahar priorities and support democratic processes such as elections; and
  7. contribute to Afghan-led political reconciliation efforts aimed at weakening the insurgency and fostering a sustainable peace.

These priorities address a number of the recommendations of the Committee, including directing aid to projects that “have an immediate impact on the lives and living conditions of the Afghan people,” advancing “technical and other cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” increasing “the legitimacy and effective capacity of public administrative institutions,” enabling the development of governance institutions and democratic elections, and promoting “the creation of conditions favourable to a peace process in Afghanistan.”

In addition to these priorities, the Government announced three signature projects that will be visible examples of Canada’s continued commitment to the future of Afghanistan: the repair of the Dahla Dam and its irrigation systems; the building, repair or expansion of 50 schools in Kandahar; and the expansion of support for polio immunization in Kandahar, with a view to eradicating the debilitating disease by the end of 2009. In its report, the Committee recommended that Canada support education and infrastructure rehabilitation, citing irrigation systems as an area of need. Major projects such as the rehabilitation of the Dahla Dam, the primary source of agricultural water in Kandahar Province, will have the significant, long-term impact favoured by the Committee.

To support these priorities and projects, the Government of Canada identified and, in September 2008, announced a series of benchmarks and indicators that will help to gauge levels of progress, identify if and when adjustments to its approach are required, and report results frankly to Canadians. These priorities and benchmarks are aligned with the Afghanistan Compact, the five-year agreement that provides the framework for international community engagement in Afghanistan through to 2011. The Government will continue to present Quarterly Reports to Parliamentarians and Canadians based on these benchmarks, fulfilling the Committee’s call for “frank and detailed results-based assessments of Canadian support to the realization of internationally agreed benchmarks and timelines.” 

Departmental reporting to Parliament on costs associated with the mission has occurred regularly since the mission began through Departmental Performance Reports, Reports on Plans and Priorities and Parliamentary returns.  Departments calculate and report to Parliament and Canadians the costs of this demanding operation on a regular, open and transparent basis.  The Government of Canada has determined that using existing financial reporting processes is the best method for reporting costs to Parliament in a timely and transparent manner.  In addition, information on the financial costs of the mission is publicly available on the Government of Canada's Afghanistan website.

Canada has undertaken significant efforts to rebalance its mission in Afghanistan from one that was heavily focussed on military operations to one that emphasizes reconstruction, development and governance in an integrated civilian-military partnership. In addition to increasing its contribution of soldiers and equipment, Canada has tripled its civilian footprint in Afghanistan, with close to 100 civilian officials working in Kandahar and Kabul. Canada has appointed a senior civilian to serve as the Representative of Canada in Kandahar to direct civilian efforts on governance and development, and to work with the Commander of Joint Task Force Afghanistan to facilitate the coherent and effective implementation of Canadian objectives. The whole-of-government approach benefits from the expertise of development experts, diplomats, civilian police, corrections officials and military personnel. As civilian numbers have risen, selection processes, training and other support for civilian deployments have improved.   

Canada’s Role in the Search for Peace and Regional Security

There are clearly serious security challenges in Afghanistan and recent events would indicate that Canada and its allies face an aggressive enemy. That said, there should be no doubt that Canadian Forces (CF) personnel and our Afghan partners are successfully interdicting insurgent networks in our area of operations. The Government welcomes the statement of the Committee that “Canadians have much to be proud of in terms of the work done by members of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan” and agrees with the Committee that “the men and women deployed there have carried this out with the highest degree of professionalism.”

As recommended by the Committee, the Canadian military continues its operations in Afghanistan in line with the March 13, 2008 motion. When the military mission comes to an end in 2011, in accordance with the Parliamentary motion, the Government of Canada will maintain an ongoing presence through governance and development work. Until then, the CF will continue its efforts to improve security for the people of Kandahar, enable its civilian partners to deliver on Canada’s stated policy priorities, and train and mentor Afghan National Security Forces. Well-led, well-trained and well-equipped Afghan forces will enable the Government of Afghanistan to assume increasing responsibility for its own security. Canada’s success in training the ANSF will also contribute to lasting security, which will benefit all Afghans and allow Canada’s whole-of-government efforts to take root.

With regard to the Committee’s recommendation that the military work to avoid civilian casualties and to minimize property damage, the CF makes every reasonable effort to do so. The Canadian military operates according to clear rules of engagement and the laws of armed conflict, and strives to protect the lives of the local population. In December 2008, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) issued a directive intended to further minimize civilian casualties. Under ISAF protocols, unless it can be immediately rebutted, any credible claim of the death of a civilian is investigated. ISAF has also introduced a civilian casualty tracking system to ensure more comprehensive reporting and checking of claims and a faster acknowledgement of responsibility where appropriate. 

The Committee recommended that the Government of Canada work to “promote the creation of conditions favourable to a peace process in Afghanistan.” As noted, one of the Government of Canada’s priorities in Afghanistan is to support Afghan-led reconciliation; however, the Government also recognizes that achieving a sustainable peace requires a holistic approach, meaning that the implementation of Canada’s other five priorities is necessary to create an environment where a peace process can emerge. Although the security situation remains difficult and building trust in reconciliation is a challenge in a society divided for many years by violent conflict, Canada is working closely with the Government of Afghanistan to this end and there are early signs of progress.

There has been a renewed emphasis by the Government of Afghanistan on reconciliation in recent months, including high-level political outreach by President Karzai, and the emergence of the Independent Directorate for Local Governance (IDLG) as a focal point for initiatives at the provincial and local level. Furthermore, efforts by the IDLG to increase the capacity of, and further develop, sub-national governance structures in provinces across Afghanistan are helping to encourage dialogue between the Government and Afghan society, and increase understanding of what can and needs to be done to improve the lives of ordinary Afghan citizens. 

Canada similarly supports the UN in its commitment to Afghan-led reconciliation. Canadian officials sustain an ongoing dialogue with the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, obtaining direct information on the UN’s plans and activities in Afghanistan in order to better inform Canadian strategy and to communicate Canada’s priorities in Afghanistan, including security and reconciliation. In addition, Canada has led efforts for more coordinated engagement by the UN in New York on the issue of Afghanistan through regular meetings with representatives of the UN including Mr. Eide, relevant regional players and concerned members of the international community.

Canada has undertaken sustained engagement at the UN headquarters in New York in order to bolster the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), thereby increasing its effectiveness and ability to coordinate international efforts in Afghanistan. The Canadian Mission at the UN played an instrumental role in facilitating hardship allowances for UNAMA staff and in constructing the budget package, which, when approved in December 2008, more than doubled UNAMA’s budget. In 2008, Canada and allies engaged in Afghanistan worked hard to sharpen UNAMA’s mandate. In 2009, several of Canada’s suggested amendments to the annual resolution to renew UNAMA’s mandate were passed, including reinforcement of the resolution’s references to humanitarian issues, inclusion of a reference to alternative livelihoods in counter narcotics efforts, and strengthening the language on aid effectiveness and combating corruption.

Canada consistently engages all relevant bilateral and multilateral channels to ensure that Afghanistan remains an international priority. Canada works to obtain statements highlighting the situation in Afghanistan from such important multilateral organizations as the G8. Canada also co-sponsors the yearly non-binding resolution adopted by UN member countries expressing support for the mission in Afghanistan. Continued support as expressed in such statements is critical to success of the mission in Afghanistan, helping to ensure sustained engagement on the part of the international community.

The Government of Canada has recognized the importance of developing a regional approach to the conflict in Afghanistan, particularly with regard to Pakistan and border issues. The Government remains concerned that instability in Pakistan’s border regions may result in increased attacks in eastern and southern Afghanistan, and continues to monitor the situation closely. To mitigate the threat, Canada is working to build the border management capacity of security and border officials from both countries through the provision of training, equipment and infrastructure, while also striving to establish and strengthen mechanisms for bilateral cooperation and dialogue between the two countries. Canada has earmarked up to $32 million to 2011 to this end. As part of these efforts, Canada has facilitated the Dubai Process, a series of meetings between Afghan and Pakistani officials, which has resulted in working-level recommendations and measures to enhance cooperation in areas including customs, law enforcement, counter narcotics and managing the movement of people. At the most recent meeting in March 2009, agreement was reached on an action plan containing concrete next steps and timelines to move forward these recommendations for enhanced cooperation. 

Canada continues to engage on high-level international meetings on Pakistan and Afghanistan. In April 2009, Canada participated in the first Pakistan Donors’ Conference, co-hosted by the Government of Japan and the World Bank. 31 countries and 18 international organizations were represented at the Conference. Canada similarly participated in the Friends of Democratic Pakistan meeting, a forum for strategic discussions on Pakistan, including on governance and international development, intended to galvanize international support for the democratically-elected Pakistani Government. The meeting was chaired by President Asif Ali Zardari, who, in his statement, emphasized Pakistan’s commitment to defeating terrorism and militancy and toward achieving economic reform to enhance the stability of the country. The Government of Canada was also represented at the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan, which met May 13-14 in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Canada’s Role in Reconstruction and Development

In their recommendations on Canada’s role in reconstruction and development, members of the Standing Committee highlighted several themes, including the need to:

  • coordinate efforts with the international community, particularly the United Nations and its agencies;
  • encourage the authority of the Government of Afghanistan and, where possible, build capacity and foster economic growth by employing Afghan services and procuring from Afghan sources;
  • sponsor a variety of development and reconstruction projects in a number of different sectors, including those that have quick, visible impacts for Afghans and larger-scale initiatives that will have long-term, sustainable influence at both the national and provincial levels;
  • foster improved conditions and economic, social and political opportunities for women; and
  • create a framework for measuring progress that will enhance transparency in evaluating its assistance to Afghanistan and improving communication with Canadians on the successes and shortcomings of Canada’s reconstruction and development efforts.

The Government of Canada strongly agrees with the Standing Committee’s recommendation to coordinate international development and reconstruction efforts to achieve greater development and aid effectiveness. Canada’s development assistance is aligned with the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS). The ANDS was endorsed by donors in June 2008, as the international community’s and the Government of Afghanistan’s joint plan for promoting growth and good governance, while reducing poverty and vulnerability. Canada actively supports the ANDS process and is one of over 20 donor representatives at Joint Coordination Monitoring Board (JCMB) meetings and committees. At the invitation of the Government of Afghanistan, Canada plays a particularly active coordinating role in the education sector: Canada has established and chairs the Education Development Board, which brings together donors, civil society and the Ministry of Education, to provide technical advisors to the Ministry and improve coordination.

The Government of Canada works closely with UNAMA to help it coordinate the international community’s efforts with the Afghan Government. Through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Canada also delivers significant assistance via UN programs in the humanitarian, basic services and governance fields. For example, CIDA is a major contributor to the UN Development Programme’s “Enhancing Legal and Local Capacity for Tomorrow” project (UNDP ELECT), the principal vehicle for coordinating international support to the elections process. For Canada’s signature polio eradication project, CIDA works closely with the Government of Afghanistan and the international community, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), to coordinate the international eradication effort in Afghanistan. Canada was among the first countries to respond to humanitarian appeals from the Government of Afghanistan and the World Food Programme ((WFP) in the context of the global food crisis. Canada also works with a number of other multilateral organizations, such as the World Bank, in support of the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund.

Building the capacity of Afghans – within the Government of Afghanistan, civil society and the private sector – to increase “Afghan ownership of development” is central to the Canadian mission. Developed in alignment with the ANDS, Canada’s programming in Afghanistan responds to the Government of Afghanistan’s vision and priorities. The central objective of all of the six priorities is to build the capacity of the Government of Afghanistan and Afghan organizations to respond to people’s needs, whether it is in education or security.  Even within the humanitarian priority, CIDA has contributed to building the capacity of the Government of Afghanistan. For example, Canada recently trained 40 government officials in the South in disaster management.  This training effort was specifically noted by UN agencies as having proven highly effective and useful during flooding in Uruzgan.  Many of the international and local NGOs that CIDA supports are also implementing programs that help build the capacity of Government and civil society in Kabul and Kandahar.

A number of Canadian programs are designed specifically to build the capacity of government departments and institutions. Advisors from the Canadian Governance Support Office (CGSO),  embedded within Afghan ministries, offer technical advice and expertise. As of March 2009, eleven CGSO advisors were either working in or had completed assignments in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan Subnational Governance Programme aims to strengthen the internal audit capacity of the Independent Directorate for Local Governance so that it can, in turn, provide effective oversight of provincial and district level bodies. Canada is the sole contributor to the Governance and Development Support Program, which targets improvements of municipal governance structures in Kandahar and Spin Boldak. Canada is also assisting efforts to strengthen the ability of the Afghan Government to collect customs revenue, which currently accounts for 54 percent of government revenue collected in Afghanistan. 

Developing the private sector is also an important opportunity for building local capacity to manage the development process. A significant proportion of Canada’s programming promotes the private sector through, for example, micro-finance and the development of cooperatives. As the Committee recommends, local procurement is also a key means of helping to rebuild the Afghan economy. Since 2006, Canada has supported the Peace Dividend Trust (PDT), which seeks to make peace and humanitarian operations more effective by matching the international community's needs with the goods and services available locally. Since its inception, PDT has facilitated contracts valued over US$370 million to Afghan businesses.

Canada has made a long-term commitment to Afghanistan. However, the Government of Canada recognizes the need to simultaneously implement projects with quick visible impact on the lives and living conditions of the Afghan people, and those that have a structural and sustained legacy. Each of Canada’s six priorities seeks to strike a balance between achieving immediate impact and sustained progress over time. Canada’s three signature and development projects – the Dahla Dam, education and polio eradication – are concrete examples of high impact and high visibility projects.

To increase the Canadian capabilities with regard to quick impact projects, CIDA has scaled up the Kandahar Local Initiatives Program (KLIP), a responsive and flexible instrument giving the Canadian-led Provincial Reconstruction Team the ability to act quickly on project proposals from local Afghans. For example, under the KLIP, CIDA was able to build a perimeter wall around Kandahar University to provide a more secure learning and teaching environment. Increases to the Accelerated District Reconstruction Program also supports quick response, small-scale infrastructure projects, which are contracted locally.

Still another project, widely popular among Kandaharis, involved a Canadian contribution through public institutions to distribute 300 tonnes of wheat seeds and fertilizer to more than 5,000 Kandahar farmers. The seeds can produce more accessible and affordable food supplies for the province. For farmers, they will provide an alternative to growing poppy crops for the opium trade. West of Kandahar City, in Zhari district, Canadian aid has helped link eight small villages with new roads while fostering new capacity for local development. Several large-scale  programs at the national level are having a significant and immediate impact. The Canadian-supported National Solidarity Programme, for example, funds small-scale community-identified development projects, many of which involve productive infrastructure. Hundreds of projects have now been completed in Kandahar alone.  

The Government of Canada has also recognized the need to achieve a balance between reconstruction and development assistance delivered at the national and provincial levels. While Canada has increased assistance in Kandahar Province, approximately half of funding continues to be channeled to programming at the national level, through programs such as the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), which contribute to the day-to-day operating expenses of the Government of Afghanistan. Even with increased focus on Kandahar, Canada will remain one of the top donors in Afghanistan at the national level. Canada also continues to support initiatives in rural areas outside Kandahar Province, such as the rural development programming of Aga Khan Foundation Canada in the north of the country.

A key objective for Canada in Afghanistan is to promote economic growth and reduce poverty, through assistance to the private sector and job creation. Canada supports infrastructure projects in areas such as water, sanitation and roads; micro-finance services, initiatives to promote agricultural production such as cooperatives, markets and female entrepreneurship; and training of employable skills. Once completed, the rehabilitation of the Dahla Dam and its irrigation systems will provide a secure agricultural water supply to the majority of the Kandahari population, generate a target of 10,000 seasonal jobs, and promote agriculture by increasing the amount of irrigated land available to farmers. 

The National Area-Based Development Program, which supports the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) to fund District Development Assembly-led development projects, and the Integrated Alternative Livelihoods Program in Kandahar, are examples of projects that promote economic growth and poverty reduction at both the national and sub-national levels.

Micro-finance programs have made a real difference in the lives of Afghans, and are essential to the country's long-term economic revival. Canada is a lead donor to the Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan (MISFA). As of March 2009, MISFA supported more than 450,000 active loan clients across the country, 60 percent of whom were women.

Equality between women and men is an important objective for Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan and is strongly reflected in its programming priorities, specifically in terms of the delivery of basic services, such as education, and governance. The Government of Canada welcomes the Standing Committee’s recommendation to focus on promoting improvements for Afghan women in their social, economic and political conditions, especially in light of the recent concerns raised by the passing of the Shi’a Personal Status Law. To address these concerns, Canada will continue to undertake short-term initiatives to strengthen the legal process around the Law and support the engagement of Afghan civil society and media. In the longer-term, Canada will continue to innovate programming in the justice sector and continue to reinforce projects that currently focus on improving maternal and infant health, girls’ education, women’s literacy rates, as well as female access to the workforce and to the political arena. Canada is a strong supporter of the Afghan electoral process, including supporting female participation in the upcoming elections as both voters and candidates. 

The Government of Canada particularly welcomes the Committee’s recommendation to assist the Afghan education system. With some of the lowest educational levels in the world, the Government of Canada has recognized that teaching Afghans, especially women, to read, write and count is key to the country’s future. The Prime Minister recently announced a $6.45 million contribution to UNICEF to help fund a two-year program to improve access to education for approximately 18,000 Kandahari children, as well as to fund literacy training for women.

Canada is currently investing more than $90 million in the Afghan education sector. This contribution will help support community-based schools, recruit and train female teachers, establish women’s literacy classes, improve teacher training, and provide technical vocational training to women and girls. As one of its signature projects, Canada has committed to building, expanding or repairing 50 schools in key districts of Kandahar Province as part of the Canadian Government’s priority to help strengthen the Afghan Government's ability to provide basic services. As of March 2009, five schools have been completed and a further 25 are under construction. Canada is also the lead donor to Afghanistan’s largest national education program, the Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP). Administered through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, EQUIP supports the Ministry of Education by increasing access, quality and gender equity in Afghanistan’s education sector

As noted previously, the Government of Canada announced a series of benchmarks to assess progress in its priority areas in Afghanistan. The addition of these measurement tools has regularized and enhanced the quality of reporting to Parliamentarians and Canadians, particularly with regard to reconstruction and development. In addition to the broader assessments found in the Quarterly Reports, CIDA has an accountability system in place for all funding, which includes multiple levels of oversight. The success of Canada’s whole-of-government approach is measured against the targets of the Afghanistan Compact through joint coordination and monitoring with the Government of Afghanistan. Canada’s Afghanistan program is subject to regular audits and evaluations, and the ongoing tracking of expected results, per Treasury Board of Canada policies. At the project level, accountability is ensured through regular monitoring, results verification, audits, evaluations, dialogue, reporting and even community oversight. In the case of the World Food Programme, for example, CIDA tracks Canadian funds through monthly reports on beneficiaries and bi-annual audits on financial statements. CIDA is able to access to individual beneficiaries’ names, signatures or thumbprints to account for the food aid they received.

The Government of Canada is meeting its aid commitments. In the period from 2001 to March 31, 2008, Canada spent over $1 billion in Afghanistan on reconstruction and development. Canada stands to disburse up to an additional $857 million in Afghanistan, dependent on the complex and evolving situation, from now until 2011 for a total planned disbursement of $1.9 billion. 

It is well understood that successful reconstruction efforts, sustainable development and the establishment of meaningful governance initiatives can only occur in a secure environment. As such, the Government recognizes that successful development cannot occur in Kandahar without the support of a robust security presence, and that durable security will not be achieved without successful development initiatives. This is why Canada employs a whole-of-government approach to its mission in Afghanistan. This approach is most apparent and successful in the efforts of the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), which Canada has operated since 2005. In addition to conducting robust security operations alongside its international and Afghan allies, the CF will continue to provide the necessary security conditions to enable the operations of civilian departments and contribute to the stabilization of Kandahar until the end of the military mandate.

Canada’s Role in Addressing Democratic Governance, Institutional and State-building Challenges

In its report, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development stressed the need to develop nascent Afghan institutions and governance capacity. It noted the challenges of corruption and the negative effects of the narcotics trade, and recommended that “Canada should consider all means necessary to raise the legitimacy and effective capacity of public administration institutions.”

Alongside the UN and international partners, Canada is engaged in a range of efforts to strengthen the Afghan government’s capacity. Consistent with its priorities, Canada is helping advance Afghanistan’s capacity for democratic governance by contributing to effective, accountable public institutions and electoral processes. Canada is committed to helping strengthen Afghan institutional capacity in Kandahar to deliver basic services, enhancing the confidence of Kandaharis in their government. Key governance issues Canada is following closely include the upcoming 2009 and 2010 Afghan elections, anti-corruption efforts and human rights. It should be noted that members of the Afghan diaspora help strengthen Canadian capacity, notably Afghan-Canadians employed within CIDA’s Afghanistan Task Force.

The Government of Canada recognizes that corruption remains a concern across all levels of government in Afghanistan. While the Government of Afghanistan has taken some steps to create structures to address this issue, including the passage of the Anti-Corruption Law, and the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission (also known as the High Office for Monitoring) and the Senior Appointments Panel, meaningful application of these anti-corruption measures remains in the early stages and requires coordination. Canada stands ready to work with the Government of Afghanistan to ensure that concrete actions such as the implementation of a national anti-corruption action plan take place. Canada’s priorities in Afghanistan – including strengthening the accountability of Afghan institutions and promoting law and order by enabling the Afghan National Security Forces – will help counter corruption. 

Canada currently supports a number of programs that focus on building the capacity of government at both the provincial and national levels.  As noted previously, the Afghan Subnational Governance Program and the Governance and Development Support Program both aim to enhance local governance. At the national level, the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) contributes to the wages and benefits of government employees as well as operations and maintenance of line departments. This enables the Government of Afghanistan to maintain and expand the delivery of basic services.  The fund is a key mechanism for building the Government of Afghanistan’s capacity with regards to government planning, fiduciary controls, fiscal discipline, accountability and transparency.

The Committee specifically cited the need for Canada to support the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) in its constitutionally-mandated role as an independent monitor of human rights in Afghanistan. Promoting and protecting human rights is a core element of Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan, and a key theme under the Afghanistan Compact. Canada is contributing $7 million over 4 years to support the work of the AIHRC. In 2008, Canada was the largest contributor to the Commission. Canada continues to work closely with the AIHRC, particularly on the issue of the treatment of detainees.

With respect to the issue of transfer of Afghan detainees and the motion passed by the House of Commons on March 13, 2008, Canadian officials have consistently underscored the need for Afghan authorities to treat detainees humanely and in accordance with Afghanistan's international obligations. While the Government of Afghanistan has the primary responsibility for ensuring that the rights of detainees transferred to its authorities are respected, Canada continues to work closely with the Government of Afghanistan to strengthen their capacity regarding the treatment of detainees. The Afghan Government has informed Canadian officials that it is committed to investigating all allegations of abuse and to work with the  AIHRC. Canada has offered its assistance to enhance the Afghan government’s ability to carry out such investigations in a transparent and impartial manner. 

Canada takes its international legal obligations seriously and Canada's approach to detainee issues in Afghanistan is in full compliance with those obligations. The decision to continue to detain, transfer or release a detainee is an operational matter and normally rests with the Commander in theatre. As of May 5, 2009, Canada officials had visited Canadian-transferred detainees approximately 138 times since the May 2007 Supplementary Arrangement was put in place.

Information regarding detainees has been made public during appearances by government officials before special parliamentary committees, technical briefings and media availability sessions, and via media requests.

The Government of Canada also recognizes the significant challenge posed to Afghan democracy by the illicit narcotics trade. Tackling large-scale illicit drug cultivation in countries facing problems of poverty and insecurity is never easy, nor quick. Canada is cooperating with the Government of Afghanistan and international partners to support the Afghanistan National Drug Control Strategy (NDCS), which provides a comprehensive and coherent framework for efforts to secure a sustainable decrease in the cultivation, production, trafficking and consumption of illicit drugs. The Strategy is notable for integrating security, governance and development under a single, nationally-owned counter narcotics strategy.  In February 2007, Prime Minister Harper announced $30 million for counter narcotics efforts to support the NDCS. While Canada supports the NDCS, Canada does not participate in or support poppy eradication activities.  However, at the request of the Government of Afghanistan, the CF are mandated to conduct targeted operations against narcotics trafficking networks or processing facilities in cases where there is a clear link to insurgent activity.

While counter narcotics is not specifically one of Canada’s six priorities in Afghanistan, Canada continues to work closely with the Government of Afghanistan and international partners to fund programming under our six strategic priorities that benefits counter narcotics efforts. For example, Canada is supporting projects to support alternative livelihoods for farmers, build the capacity of Afghan security forces and the judiciary, provide law enforcement training, and strengthen border management and dialogue with Pakistan to help combat cross-border trafficking.  Canada has also allocated over $27 million (from 2005 to 2010) to support the development of alternative livelihoods in Afghanistan, $18.5 million of which is for projects in Kandahar.

The Government of Canada has made the strengthening of Afghan institutions and democratic processes a priority. On March 4, 2009, the Canada announced its contribution of up to $35 million over three years to support Afghan-led elections, making Canada a leading participant within a coordinated multi-donor effort. Canada is working closely with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the UNDP Elect project and other donors to support the democratic process. UNDP Elect supports core elections activities, such as voter registration, the recruitment and training of elections official, and the verification of results. Canada will continue to play a role in coordinating the international response to the upcoming elections.

Canada is helping Afghans reinforce policymaking, administration and service delivery in central government ministries and is contributing to the establishment of a sustainable Afghan public service by helping to improve management of the national budget, developing standard administrative and legislative systems, and training and advising government managers and employees. The Canadian Governance Support Office (CGSO), building on the successful capacity-building efforts of the CF-led Strategic Advisory Team (SAT) in Kabul, provides technical assistance to strengthen the capacity of key national institutions to plan, resource, manage and evaluate programs and services. CGSO technical advisors work in areas such as human rights, gender, education, vocational training, engineering and financial management.  The CGSO’s mandate was developed in close consultation with the Government of Afghanistan and is directly aligned with Canadian priorities.

As the Committee noted, the Government of Canada has taken a number of steps to enhance Afghanistan-related policy and operations in Ottawa, including the establishment of the Cabinet Committee on Afghanistan, the House of Commons’ Special Committee on Afghanistan, and the Afghanistan Task Force within the Privy Council Office. With regard to the Committee’s proposal to appoint a Canadian special envoy to oversee strategic coordination in Afghanistan, Canada has already put in place a senior Ambassador in Kabul. The Ambassador works closely with the High Commissioner in Pakistan to coordinate Canada’s diplomatic efforts at the regional level, and with the Representative of Canada in Kandahar to direct civilian efforts in Kandahar Province.

The Government of Canada will continue to engage national, provincial and local officials on issues of governance in Afghanistan, in order to build capacity to enhance governance, service delivery and progress in Canada's six priorities.


The Government of Canada reiterates its appreciation for the work of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development and the observations put forth in its study of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.

As noted throughout this response, the Government of Canada has made and implemented significant policy and programming decisions since the Committee’s report was first tabled in July 2008. The Government has addressed many of the Committee’s concerns through a range of initiatives, including the identification of the six Government of Canada priorities in Afghanistan, the establishment of benchmarks to assess progress, and the release of multiple Quarterly Reports. Indeed, many of our allies are now looking to Canada’s system of Quarterly Reports and benchmarks to reflect their own engagement in Afghanistan. The Government has also launched an integrated website to tell Canada’s stories from the field and to raise awareness of Canadian reconstruction and development efforts, including support for long-term projects.

The Government will continue to provide frank and frequent reporting to Parliament, the Committee, and to Canadians in an effort to communicate its ongoing assessment of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.