Evidence of meeting #16 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was afghan.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you for that excellent and interesting presentation.

I am trying to wrap my head around today's presentations. If I understand correctly, getting the Afghan people involved in the fate of their country is not out of the realm of possibility. That is what everyone has been saying for some time now. Regarding the signature project, Col. Capstick said that if the Afghan people did not commit to this initiative, it would still serve as leverage for development. I understand that you are not opposed to the signature project. Therefore, it is a matter of asking the Afghan people to pursue a project in partnership with Canada, even though several opposition parties said at the time that we needed to train the Afghan people, the soldiers, the army, and so forth.

What I understand from your message is that whatever initiatives we undertake in this country, they must include the Afghan people. With respect to the signature project, a coordinated effort is not a sure thing. In fact, you said earlier that a number of actions must be coordinated simultaneously. What do you recommend we do, as politicians, to ensure that development goals are met? This has always been one of our key concerns.

My question is for Col. Capstick.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Go ahead, Mr. Capstick.

4:55 p.m.

Col M.D. Capstick

Merci.

I think what's crucial, as I suggested in the presentation--in fact I don't think I suggested, I think I was pretty blunt about it--is that Canada needs to have a public strategy: Canada's Afghanistan strategy. It needs to be laid out very clearly what our objectives are.

It's not only soldiers that respond at the behest of the democratically elected leaders of our country. Department of Foreign Affairs officials and development officials are all under the political control, ultimately, of Parliament, where it comes together. So we need to be very clear about what we want to accomplish, what way we're going to try to do it, and what means we are going to use. Then it will start to come together, I believe.

I don't think we have time to get more specific than that.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

You stated your preference for a Canadian plan that would be carried out in partnership with the Afghan people and community. What must Canada do to sell this plan to the Afghan people and to all of the other countries?

4:55 p.m.

Col M.D. Capstick

The mechanisms to actually manage it are on the ground now. When the Afghanistan Compact was signed and the interim ANDS was presented, a whole governing structure was put in place in the government of Afghanistan. It ends with a joint coordinating and monitoring board that is co-chaired by the UN mission and the government of Afghanistan.

You can have all the structure you want, but the behaviours of the parties involved haven't changed. That's what takes political leadership, and that's what can be accomplished with a combination of a UN envoy with some influence and a prominent Canadian prime ministerial envoy, I think, who can walk into the U.S. ambassador and say that we have to get this online.

It's so complicated that a Canadian foreign service officer can do the diplomatic thing, but he can't be expected to coordinate diplomacy, development, defence, corrections, and police reform. It's a hugely complex operation.

We need the political will to make it happen.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Capstick.

You have three minutes, Mr. Carrier.

March 4th, 2008 / 4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

I too would like to congratulate you on your highly informative presentation. Each and everyone of our constituents is interested in this matter.

I was, however, surprised to learn from the Amnesty International witnesses, that there are many civilian victims, that people's civil rights had been violated and that prisoners were still being tortured. I find it somewhat discouraging to see the little good that has been accomplished during our five years on the ground in this country.

Col. Capstick recommended that a special envoy be appointed to report on all of our government's efforts. I think that would help the situation. Currently, the only information that we are getting about the war in Afghanistan is military in nature, or has to do with the soldiers who are being killed. Perhaps we could hear eventually about the accomplishments, about improved governance structures that help the country to function better. However, I'm puzzled when I hear how long it will take to accomplish this feat.

My colleague Mr. Lebel asked the question that I had in mind for you. One recommendation is to appoint a special envoy to coordinate efforts. However, what guarantee do we have that all UN countries will agree to take a coordinated approach? We may want to approach matters from a Canadian perspective, but if each country goes off in a different direction, we will not necessarily achieve the best results.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Carrier.

Mr. Capstick.

5 p.m.

Col M.D. Capstick

In my presentation, I was explicit in saying that whatever Canadian country strategy we have, it has to accord or line up with the Afghanistan Compact. It also has to support Afghanistan's national development strategy, a very comprehensive—if flawed—document. That thing was put together in a matter of months, and it demonstrates the talent that's available in Afghanistan among Afghans. It was Afghan-led. And it was absolutely amazing that they got it done in about three months—but it needs work.

What we need to be able to do is to transmit political will from Ottawa to Kabul, and to use our diplomatic skills and influence, the ability of a prominent Canadian, a John Manley kind of guy, to herd the cats in Kabul, if you will. That's the only way you're going to do it, because nobody follows orders; there is no such thing as orders.

So that's my suggestion.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Capstick.

We want to thank all of you for being with us today. I would agree with a number of colleagues from all parties that this has been one of the most informative meetings we've had on this. So we thank you for your presentations.

We're going to suspend for about one minute. We have votes, and the bells will start in ten minutes, and we do have some committee business we want to deal with.

Thanks so much for coming here.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

All right, committee, we'll call you back to order.

The first thing on the committee's business agenda is to ratify the report that came out of our steering committee.

Go ahead.

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Vivian Barbot Papineau, QC

I would like us to start by dispensing with the motion concerning the Omar Khadr case, since this is a very timely issue and the trial is currently under way.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Well, I know.

Madame Barbot, we first have to ratify this. We're going to ratify the steering committee report, and then we will go to motions.

On the Khadr motion, we will—

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Vivian Barbot Papineau, QC

I'm asking that we make an exception and that we debate the motion concerning Omar Khadr before tackling the rest.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

No, the steering committee report goes first, and then we go to the motions.