Below is the government’s response, from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to Ceasefire.ca’s campaign to stop the deployment of Canadian CF-18 bombers to Afghanistan. The government has yet to state that Canada will NOT deploy CF-18s to Afghanistan and CF-18s are only mentioned at the end of this form letter response:
The Office of the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister, has forwarded to me your email of May 4, 2009, concerning the nature of Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan.Canada is in Afghanistan as part of a United Nations-mandated international effort, with over 50 other nations and international organizations, to assist the Afghan government and people to rebuild their country as a stable, democratic and self-sufficient society. However, Afghanistan remains a complex environment-complicated by tribal, ideological, economic and regional conflicts-and Canadian and international goals in Afghanistan can only be achieved in the long-run. In spite of these challenges, Canada’s progress in Afghanistan and in Kandahar has been a tangible and important part of the overall international effort.
Canada has been involved in Afghanistan since 2001, and we have significantly increased our military and civilian resources to the mission since then. Currently, approximately 2,800 Canadian Forces personnel are deployed in support of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They are mostly stationed in Kandahar Province, where Canadians have commanded since August 2005. Approximately 100 civilians are deployed to Afghanistan, both in our missions in Kabul and Kandahar, where they work alongside their Canadian Forces colleagues to deliver over $300 million in aid and participate in diplomatic and joint civil-military initiatives.
In mid-2008, the Government of Canada decisively responded to the recommendations outlined in the report of the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan (The Manley Panel). After carrying out an extensive review process of Canadian goals and priorities in Afghanistan, six key strategic priorities and three signature projects were identified for Canada’s engagement from 2008 to 2011. These priorities work to guide all whole-of-government efforts, and they place a heavier emphasis on reconstruction, development and the training of Afghan security forces, as well as provide a greater focus on Kandahar province. Canada backed up these priorities by raising its ten year commitment (2001 to 2011) to Afghanistan to $1.9 billion at the June 2008 Paris Conference. We have also established a set of benchmarks to track the progress of our priorities, which is being reported publicly on a quarterly basis to Parliament. On March 13, 2008, the House of Commons passed a motion on the future of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. By passing this motion, Canada’s elected representatives agreed that Canada would continue a military presence in Kandahar until July 2011 and complete the withdrawal of its forces by December 2011. However, until then, we will continue to maximize the progress on our priorities we can make by 2011. Canada’s commitment to Afghanistan remains long term and our development and diplomatic contributions will continue beyond 2011.
Canada is supporting three signature projects in Kandahar: the repair of the Dahla Dam and its irrigation system; the construction and repair of 50 schools; and an investment of up to $60 million over three years toward the elimination of polio. During his visit to Kandahar on May 7, 2009, Prime Minister Harper reinforced Canada’s commitment to these projects.
The Government of Canada is fully committed to achieving the objectives set forth, but it is clear that achieving these goals will depend, in part, on the complex and evolving environment in Afghanistan, including the security situation. Afghanistan faces severe challenges and, after decades of conflict, it will not become a functioning and self-reliant democracy in a few short years. Reconstruction will require great effort, time and commitment.
Please be assured that your comments regarding the deployment of CF-18 bombers to Afghanistan have been carefully reviewed. I am certain that my colleague the Honourable Peter G. MacKay, Minister of National Defence, to whom Prime Minister Harper has already forwarded a copy of your correspondence, will also have appreciated being made aware of your views.
To learn more about Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan, including Canada’s six strategic priorities, three signature projects and benchmarks tracking these progress indicators, I invite you to visit the following website of the Government of Canada at www.afghanistan.gc.ca.
Thank you for taking the time to write and express your views.
The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Foreign Affairs
c.c. The Honourable Peter G. MacKay, P.C., M.P.