A colleague forwarded this article around the office, and I thought it was worth sharing further. It makes a very strong argument for why Canada’s role in Afghanistan is critical, and why we should plan on being there well after 2009. [full Maclean’s Article]
Everyone has seen the recent statistics of Canadian soldiers killed. These numbers, combined with the cost of keeping our troops active have added up high enough to cause Stephen Harper to announce that unless parliament supports an extension, the government will pull out of military duty in the country and continue only with development funding.
Sometimes, however, the math is meaningful, because there are other important developments in Kandahar. The Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (KPRT) working with the Afghan government and aid agencies is the “build” part of the equation. Lt.-Col. Bob Chamberlain is the commander of the KPRT; he and his staff offered up some startling statistics. First, a polio vaccination program has nearly eradicated the disease in Kandahar province and throughout southern Afghanistan. Second, infant mortality in the region has taken a dramatic downturn. In my travels, I also noticed more and more children in evidence, many around the ages of 4 to 6, possibly the results of a post-Taliban baby boom. In other words, the next generation has a higher assured survival rate than the previous one, which was severely depleted due the effects of nearly 30 years of war. Even an Afghan friend of mine who lost both legs last year in an ambush is the proud father of a baby girl.
The need to nurture and protect this generation is obvious if Afghanistan is to survive as a viable nation. Co-operative aid projects with the Afghans might well make that possible, and these are finally getting to the areas where Canada has been most active. Bob Chamberlain’s KPRT force protection company, from the 1st Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment, is the “delivery system” for the Foreign Affairs, RCMP, Correctional Services Canada, CIDA and USAID representatives who either mentor the provincial government, assist Afghan agencies in assessing the state of affairs, or deliver direct aid. Known by the Afghans as “the Tabernac people,” sorties of Van Doos, over here from their base in Valcartier, Que., probe into an ever-expanding number of rural districts, at great risk. This is part of a new approach designed to help the Afghan people become partners and not merely aid recipients.
I am also amused by the Van Doos being known as “the Tabernac People.”