Today the Times & Transcript published another typically partisan rant by MP Brian F. P. Murphy. Among his many noteable misrepresentations were the following:
“…the Liberal Party of Canada has been calling for a firm termination date and a shift in focus from strictly military operations to training, security and reconstruction”
“…key commitments on development and diplomacy have been absent from the government’s position on our involvement in Afghanistan since the beginning of the mission.”
“…the Liberal amendment on the government’s Afghanistan motion which called for a refocusing of the mission toward reconstruction and development. “
The clear implication is that the Conservative government wants our efforts in Afghanistan to be strictly military in nature. The further inference is that Conservatives are to blame for Canadian casualties because of the “combat nature” of the mission. Both of these assertions are patently untrue.
Mr. Murphy knows very well that the mission in Afghanistan had been founded on three pillars since its inception: Diplomacy, Defense and Development. Our Diplomatic efforts began with recognizing the democratically elected government of Hamid Karzai, and has extended to building relationships with regional governors and even local village and tribal leaders. Without the cooperation of local Afghans, our troops would be in danger at every turn. On the other hand, we have to give those local leaders the assurance that our soldiers will provide them security, otherwise they risk death from the Taliban for cooperating with western forces.
The Development efforts have also continued in tandem with diplomatic efforts. Six million children are now going to school in Afghanistan; more than ever in its history. Afghanistan is the largest recipient of Canadian development assistance. Canada’s pledge of $1.2 billion until 2011 for development and reconstruction puts Canada among the top five donors in Afghanistan.
Our support is for programs that ensure local ownership, accountability and community-based engagement as well as those that rebuild necessary infrastructure. This approach is designed to re-equip Afghanistan with the tools and expertise it will need to sustain itself and flourish for generations to come.
Canada has had remarkable success to date in the following areas:
- access to education: particularly for women and girls, helping to establish thousands of community-based schools and supporting literacy and vocational training programs;
- economic development: Canada is the lead donor toward microfinance, which allows Afghans to start their own businesses and achieve self-sufficiency;
- community development and infrastructure: we work with the Government of Afghanistan (GoA) to improve the management of rural and national development programs, including the GoA-led National Solidarity Program, which encourages community-led development with projects in such areas as transport, irrigation, electricity, education, rural development, health and agriculture; and
- health: we are making great strides toward eradicating polio, improving obstetric care and maternal health.
A complete list of Current Projects and Recent Successes is posted on the CIDA website. Mr. Murphy is either admitting ignorance of the significant and ongoing development, or he is deliberately misleading the public in hopes that they won’t go looking for the facts!
The Defense component of our efforts in Afghanistan is a tremendously important underpinning to the entire mission. The Liberals and NDP have tried to score points with the public by emphasizing the amount of money spent in this area, compared to development and diplomacy. The reason for the imbalance in cost is obvious, unless you want to distort public opinion. First of all, the most important new diplomatic contacts are actually forged by our troops as they secure new areas from the Taliban. That means that our investments in security are also paying off in diplomacy. Secondly, it doesn’t take much thinking to understand that the logistics of moving, supplying and supporting a modern high-tech army are enormous. For every soldier on the ground, there has to be command and control, supply, communications, transportation, etc. This requires a much higher cost than a diplomat in their office in Kabul.
Most importantly however, development cannot take place without security. If Mr. Murphy would take the time to read the newspapers, he would not need to be convinced that the mission of the Taliban is nothing more than to kill innocent people and destroy new infrastructure that gives the Afghans hope.
These are pictures of the Taliban’s most recent handiwork, burning a newly constructed school. To the credit of the indomitable Afghan spirit however, they simply cleared away the rubble and went back to school the next day! You see without security there can be no schools built, and there can be no children in school. That is the same for wells, irrigation ditches, hospitals, roads and all the other amenities of life that we take for granted here in Canada.
Our mission in Kandahar is not “strictly military,” neither is “development and diplomacy absent,” nor does the mission need to be “refocused towards reconstruction and development.” All three elements are present and active but until peace and security can be established, the diplomacy and development play a somewhat subordinate role. As we continue to train more Afghan police and army volunteers, development is accelerated and diplomacy is increasingly handed over to local democratic government. Those are the realities of rebuilding a nation from the rubble of a terrorist, oppressive regime.
MP Murphy’s partisan rhetoric does a disservice to the bravery of our troops and the Afghan people. Furthermore, it is a disgrace to the honorable mission of delivering an oppressed people from tyranny that kept them in the Stone Age. When Canada succeeds in making the south as stable as the rest of Afghanistan already is, it will be no thanks to Mr. Murphy and those of his ilk. The men who helped liberate France, Poland and Germany from a despotic Nazi must be rolling over in their graves listening such reprehensible drivel.