Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan

Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan

January 22, 2008 09:59 ET

Canada Urged to Shift Focus of its Afghanistan Mission

Independent Panel sets out conditions for extending military commitment

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Jan. 22, 2008) - Canada's future role in Afghanistan must place greater emphasis on diplomacy and reconstruction and the Canadian military focus must shift gradually from combat to training Afghan national security forces, an expert panel report today recommended to the federal government.

"We are recommending a Canadian commitment to Afghanistan that is neither open-ended nor faint-hearted," says the report by the Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan.

"We owe it to the Afghans, to our allies and to our own future security needs to give this mission every possible chance to succeed," says John Manley, Chair of the Panel. "What is evident is that the commitment to Afghanistan made by successive Canadian governments has not yet been completed. The ultimate objective is to enable the Afghans to manage their own security."

The Independent Panel says Canada's military mission in southern Afghanistan should be extended beyond February 2009, provided two key conditions are met:

1. That a new battle group is deployed by International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) partners to Kandahar province, enabling Canadian forces to accelerate training of the Afghan National Army; and

2. That the Government secure by February 2009 at the latest new, medium-lift helicopters and high-performance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

If these conditions are not met, the Independent Panel urges the government to notify Afghan and allied governments that Canada intends to transfer responsibility for security in Kandahar.

The Panel also recommends a new diplomatic push by Canada to ensure that the international effort to help Afghans rebuild their country and reconcile their differences is better coordinated and produces measurable results. The report calls on the Prime Minister to personally take charge of this diplomatic effort.

"The Prime Minister has substantial influence and we urge him to use it, commensurate with Canada's contributions," adds Manley. "Specifically, we urge efforts to make the international, civilian and military effort more coherent and more effective. Equally, there is an urgent need to reduce regional tensions and to press for stronger action by the Afghan Government to tackle corruption and deliver basic services to the Afghan people. Canada's development assistance should be revamped to bolster that objective."

The Independent Panel also says the government must do a better job of informing Canadians on why Canada is involved in Afghanistan, what are the risks and challenges of being there, and what outcomes can realistically be achieved.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper established the Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan in October 2007. It was given the task of advising Parliament on options for the Canadian mission in Afghanistan once its mandate ends in February 2009.

In addition to John Manley, the Panel includes former federal Cabinet Minister Jake Epp, former Clerk of the Privy Council Paul Tellier, former Canadian Ambassador to the United States Derek Burney, and Pamela Wallin, former Canadian Consul General in New York City.

The Panel's report is available on the internet at the following two addresses:

www.independent-panel-independant.ca

www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/afghanistan

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