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Senator Pamela Wallin Addresses Senate Re: Afghan Delegation

STATEMENT: Afghan Delegation

Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
2nd Session, 40th Parliament,Volume 146, Issue 59
Thursday, October 8, 2009

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Hon. Pamela Wallin: Honourable senators, this week the Afghanistan Chief of the General Staff General Mohammadi and an Afghan delegation are in Ottawa. This afternoon, they will lay a wreath at our National War Memorial, in tribute to Canadian men and women who have given their lives to protect and assist the Afghan people. Tomorrow, they will participate in exercises at the Petawawa military base.

Mentoring, training, teaching, leading by example and building infrastructure, all over and above combat and counter-terrorism – this approach is what has set apart our troops, special forces and civilians.

For eight years, our civilian volunteers – secured and supported by our military – have built dams and schools, and vaccinated thousands of children.

Our ambassador recently explained how Canada’s efforts on governance, monitoring and security have allowed thousands of Afghans to vote. Perhaps their election does not meet our western democratic standard, but let us not let perfection become the enemy of progress. Two elections in eight years – after 30 years of Soviet invasion and a decade of Taliban terror in a country bombed back into the dark ages and ruled by fear and threat of execution – a vote, even with its taint of corruption or uncertainty, is better than the circumstances of the last 40 years.

This is not the time to take the coward’s stand and call for a retreat or to conjure up comparisons to Vietnam – cheap shots designed to sideswipe our Canadian military, or worse, embolden our enemy. This war is a different war, where the people of Afghanistan have asked us for help. Why would we choose to turn our backs on the people who have asked us for our help? Why would we ignore the fact that this mission is a UN-sponsored, NATO-led mission? Finally, why would we want to leave ourselves vulnerable here at home?

While President Obama reconsiders a change in strategy, his own hand-picked political and military advisers have asked him – and I am paraphrasing – to put a little more Canada in their plan. U.S. General Stanley McChrystal has argued for more boots on the ground and equipment to arm and move them, but he said those measures alone are not the answer; that winning hearts and minds, along with sophisticated war fighting, is how one wins battles.

Canada is leading the way with new counter-insurgency strategies. Lt.-Col. Joe Paul from the Van Doos recently explained how our troops’ intelligence strategy is influencing operations on the ground in a positive way. He said:

The intent of the operation was to have a Canadian company living in the town on a permanent basis. Not simply a patrol done once a week or once a month but to live there in permanence, and Bravo company is going to do it . . .

Instead of clearing an area and moving on, Canadian troops in complements of about 100 are now setting up in “platoon houses” and living in the villages.

The goal, Lt.-Col Paul said, is “to really interact with the local population.” Those who are on the ground report that this change in tactics has boosted morale among the troops, who know – because they see it in the faces of the children – that they are offering security to help the Afghans to stand up and lead their own defence.

A safer, more secure Afghanistan means a safer, more secure Canada.