Evidence of meeting #14 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 taliban.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

General  Retired) Paul Manson (President, Conference of Defence Associations
Marc André Boivin  Deputy Director, Francophone Research Network on Peace Operations
Seddiq Weera  Senior Advisor, Independent National Commission on Strengthening Peace and Senior Policy Advisor, Minister of Education, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, As an Individual
Colonel  Retired) Alain Pellerin (Executive Director, Conference of Defence Associations
Kamran Bokhari  Director of Middle East Analysis, Strategic Forecasting, Inc

3:30 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Welcome, colleagues.

This is meeting 14 of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, on Thursday, February 14, 2008.

Today we will continue to look at our study on Afghanistan. Actually, we'll return to our ongoing study of Afghanistan.

In our first hour we will hear from Paul Manson, the president, and Alain Pellerin, the executive director of the Conference of Defence Associations; and from the

Francophone Research Network on Peace Operations, Marc André Boivin,

deputy director. Appearing as an individual, we have Seddiq Weera, senior advisor, Independent National Commission on Strengthening Peace, and senior policy advisor to the Minister of Education in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

In our second hour--he's with us here today--we will hear from retired General Lewis MacKenzie, appearing as an individual; and from Strategic Forecasting Inc., Kamran Bokhari, director of Middle East analysis.

We welcome you here. We look forward to your testimony. I'm not certain if all of you have appeared before our committee in the past. It's fairly simple. We listen to you, and then you, hopefully, will answer some of the questions our committee may have.

Mr. Manson, you have approximately seven minutes, I believe. Then we'll go into the first round of questioning.

Thank you.

3:30 p.m.

General Retired) Paul Manson (President, Conference of Defence Associations

I thank you for this opportunity to appear before your committee this afternoon to talk to you about Afghanistan.

I am the president of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute, which is the research arm of the CDA itself. The CDA is Canada's oldest defence organization, going back 75 years.

I am accompanied this afternoon by my colleague, Colonel Alain Pellerin, who is the executive director of the Conference of Defence Associations, as you just mentioned.

In this short time available, allow me to present several points regarding Canada's mission in Afghanistan that I believe to be of particular importance at what is, after all, a critical juncture.

First, and perhaps most important, our detailed study of the situation in Afghanistan over the past five years leads us to believe that contrary to the pessimistic view that's taken by many in Canada today, things are actually going quite well in Afghanistan. To be sure, there is yet a long way to go, but the country is seeing some remarkable improvements as it recovers from the devastation brought about by 30 years of conflict.

On the military front, the Taliban are not occupying ground in the way they did in the mid-1990s, when, in a brilliant military campaign, they came to power following the Soviet withdrawal and the ensuing political vacuum that existed at that time. This time around, the Taliban forces have been soundly defeated every time they've met coalition forces head-on in battle, and they've given up trying to conduct any form of conventional warfare. Instead they have resorted, as we know so well, to suicide bombings, roadside bombs, assassinations, and kidnappings. In my view, these are last-resort measures that will not win victory for them in Afghanistan, and they're certainly not winning the hearts and minds of the people of that country.

Looking at the important matter of development, the picture is encouraging here too. At the macro level, the gross national product of Afghanistan is increasing at a rate that's reminiscent of China's, albeit starting from a very low base. Education is burgeoning throughout the nation, with millions now attending schools, many of them young women who were not permitted to get any formal education whatsoever under the Taliban regime. It is particularly interesting to note that the Taliban have been burning down schools by the hundreds and murdering teachers who dare to allow girls into their classrooms. Clearly, education is anathema to the insurgents. But in spite of their destructive efforts, progress continues. Imagine the long-term impact of massive education on the nation's governance, respect for the rule of law, industry, health care, infrastructure, the media, and other elements of an emerging and enlightening society.

In these early days, development efforts are starting to make a difference—mostly at the local level—and even in Kandahar province, where the Taliban are doing everything they can to disrupt development projects.

A measure of success in helping Afghanistan get back on its feet will be the extent to which freedom of movement allows local enterprises to thrive and to spread, offering the benefits of a free market economy to all citizens, especially those who live outside of the more secure city areas. Here again, there is a long way to go, but the beginnings are increasingly evident.

I don't want to paint too rosy a picture, but before I touch on some of the key problems that must be faced, it is important to hear from the Afghan people themselves. Recent polls indicate that about 85% of the people of that country support the presence of the coalition forces and more than 90% oppose a return to power by the Taliban.

Canadian troops are in Afghanistan under a United Nations mandate, as part of a coalition operating the international security assistance force under NATO auspices. Together with our 35 allies, we are wanted and we are needed.

There are problems in this huge international undertaking, of course. Some of them are very difficult and rather evident these days. Here are the principal ones, as we see it. First and foremost is the security challenge posed by the insurgency forces, loosely referred to as the Taliban. They are nasty, murderous people who are not bound in any way by the Geneva conventions or international humanitarian law. So they have an enormous tactical advantage over our soldiers. They don't wear uniforms, they hide behind civilians, they use booby-traps, and they employ unimaginable brutality against their own people. Yet, as I pointed out earlier, they are not winning.

Secondly, there is a problem of a massive and illegal narcotics industry, the profits of which feed drug lords, warlords, and the Taliban itself. Elimination of this plague can occur only when a strong measure of central government authority is exercised over the poppy-producing regions, which are almost exclusively in the southern string of provinces in Afghanistan.

Third, closely related to the poppy problem is the matter of corruption. This is not a new phenomenon in the region, of course, but the vast profits from the heroin market have allowed a culture of corruption to exist at all levels of government, and it must be corrected.

Next, Pakistan has emerged as a source of difficulty in the battle against the Taliban, for reasons that are perfectly well known and are reported daily at this critical time.

Finally, and this brings the whole matter back to Canada, there's a political question about the future of the Canadian mission. The Manley report has offered Canadians an excellent summary of the situation in Afghanistan, and it proposes what I think is a reasonable way ahead for Canada's involvement in that land.

Here, I would like to make two simple but important points, which I hope you will consider in your deliberations.

It would be a disastrous error, in my view, for Canada to announce a fixed deadline for its military mission. That would be handing the Taliban enemy victory on a platter. Unless other NATO nations were willing to move in to Kandahar to fill in this large void left by Canada, which seems unlikely, that vital ground—and that term is important, it is vital ground—would be lost, with military, political, and psychological consequences that could be very severe indeed. So you can imagine, incidentally, the impact that such a move would have on Canada's international reputation: from being a much-admired leader in the war, we would be seen as having initiated a negative turn in the struggle to get Afghanistan back on its feet.

The political answer, in my estimation, is simple: set a new mandate to 2011 or 2012, but allow the government of the day to review the situation at that time before deciding upon the next step. No one—no one—can predict what the situation is going to look like two, three, or four years downstream.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, honourable members, its very troubling to note the calls for Canada to limit its military involvement to training or self-defence, with no so-called search-and-destroy mandate. That makes no military sense. Even worse, it would place our troops in the field in an impossible position. Rules of engagement would be so complex and inhibiting that they simply couldn't operate effectively, and it would likely expose them to greater risk. Furthermore, it's naive to expect that Canadian troops could tutor Afghan army personnel in the comfort and security of a garrison and then send the Afghan troops out into the field on their own. It doesn't work that way. Side-by-side operations, sometimes involving combat, are essential if this mentoring process is to be effective.

Mr. Chairman, members, there is so much more I could add on what is an immensely complicated and sensitive subject. For example, I didn't even touch on the question of the impact on Canada's national security interest from a withdrawal of Canadian Forces from Afghanistan, but at this point, at the end of my seven minutes, I'll bring my remarks to a halt and say that Colonel Pellerin and I are now prepared to answer your questions.

Thank you.

3:40 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much, Mr. Manson.

Actually, you were at the beginning of your ninth minute, but I let you go.

We'll take the next testimony, and we will proceed to Monsieur Boivin.

Mr. Boivin, you have seven minutes.

3:40 p.m.

Marc André Boivin Deputy Director, Francophone Research Network on Peace Operations

Good afternoon.

My name is Marc André Boivin and I am Deputy Director of the Réseau francophone de recherche sur les opérations de paix. I have previously had occasion to go to Afghanistan. I personally conducted interviews, in particular of people from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, NATO and Operation Enduring Freedom. At the invitation of NATO, I also did a tour that took me to Islamabad, Herat, Kabul, Kandahar and Mazari Sharif. I was somewhat able to see both sides of the coin, that is to say the civilian and military sides.

For the purposes of today's discussion, I intend to focus on Canada's role in Afghanistan, even though there are many other things to say.

In 2007, Afghanistan stands at the 174th rank in the 178-country human development index published by the UN. The misery of the Afghan people, in itself, justifies Canada's involvement, yet it would be shortsighted to think that this is a sufficient explanation for the level of resources put by Canada in this country. After all, there are many other countries at the bottom of this ranking in dire need of help.

The actual core reasons behind Canada's intervention in Afghanistan lead back to the attacks of September 11, 2001. Now, it is easy to castigate the W. Bush administration's disastrous response ex post facto, but there was at the time a genuine international outcry for action against such a display of international terrorism's extreme and indiscriminate violence. Related to this, there was also pressure on U.S. allies to overtly display their solidarity in a time of turmoil.

This was deeply felt in Canada. The two countries are interlocked in a form of uncomfortable symbiosis, where keeping the United States' goodwill is far more important to Canada than the other way around. The governmental apparatus of the U.S. and Canada are intertwined, and even more so in security-related matters. At times, this means that the U.S. pressures on the Canadian government can be exerted not only through traditional channels but also by directly conveying the message through key Canadian public servants.

In a report on Afghanistan's insurgency in the south, published in November 2006, the International Crisis Group writes:

Indeed, troop presence in Afghanistan often appears to be about demonstrating an alliance with the U.S. rather than meeting the country's needs.

This is certainly true when we look at the motives behind the sustained high level of engagement Canada has had in Afghanistan.

A second motivation also gradually gained importance: the need for the Canadian government to heighten its international profile. Despite its flamboyant rhetoric, Canada has a mixed record when it comes to its actual role in conflict management. While Canadian officials complain of assuming an undue share of the burden in Afghanistan today, many countries blamed Canada, for most of the Cold War, for being a free rider and not fulfilling its commitment to NATO allies in the defence of western Europe. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, this situation was made worse by drastic cuts in government spending that especially targeted National Defence, Foreign Affairs, and CIDA.

Now, Canada's participation in crisis management missions was, by the end of the 1990s, mostly in ex-Yugoslavia, and even its modest contribution was proving a severe strain on the military. If anything, 9/11 was a rallying call for the importance of international security issues. Canada wanted its own signature and relevance to be recognized. Accordingly, military spending was significantly increased, with a special focus on expeditionary capabilities, and Foreign Affairs got special attention from the Prime Minister's office.

Despite being virtually absent from UN peacekeeping since the mid-1990s, Canadians cherish a mythological image of themselves as the world's foremost peacekeeper and the honest broker to whom people turn to negotiate peaceful settlements. Adept at exploiting this image, successive governments used it to sell their foreign policy agendas. In turn, it became a bit of a self-intoxicating political slogan.

Now Canada needed to regain its international standing, and peacekeeping was its way. Afghanistan was to be the proving ground for this renewal.

I'm going back to the core reasons behind the length and intensity of our commitment in Afghanistan because they should serve as real reference points for all thinking about the past, present and future of Canada's presence in that country. However, we can only acknowledge that the government has made little sincere effort to explain the reasons underlying its commitment, which is full of consequences, in Afghanistan. The repetition ad nauseam of a series of achievements and the unqualified picture of Canada's positive role in Afghanistan may be interpreted as a blindness verging on ignorance or, even worse, a latent contempt for the judgment of the Canadian public. Let's hope that the frankness of the picture provided in the Manley report opens a new chapter in this area.

Furthermore, in the stormy debates caused by a divided Parliament and increasingly skeptical public opinion, it is easy to forget these core objectives. The deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan and the high tension among Canada's partners threatens them directly. If we stand back a little and evaluate, slightly more than six years later, the impact of Canada's intervention in Afghanistan, we see that there have been advances and setbacks.

With regard to advances, Canada has definitely obtained a certain degree of recognition from the United States for the scope of its commitment, but also for its ability to absorb hard hits in Kandahar without flinching. This is all the more true following the lesson in humility that the Americans received in Iraq. The Canadian Forces are definitely perceived as more serious, and Canada's voice will count in discussions of interventions in crisis situations. On the other hand, this exposes the government to more international pressure. Canada now has a more credible military tool; it remains to be determined what it wants to do with it.

The appointment of General Hillier to the head of the Canadian Forces came with an ambitious reform plan. The purpose of that plan is to shift from a Cold War structure to a more flexible structure suited to the ad hoc crises of the post-Cold War period. The major investments accompanying those reforms have enabled the government to establish a military instrument maximizing Canada's weight on the international stage, an advance with an impact that goes beyond Canada's involvement in Afghanistan.

At the same time, however, the costs of that involvement in the toughest areas of the world have put the Canadian Forces under serious pressure. Today, more than 85% of troops overseas are posted to Afghanistan. Signs of attrition, such as the increased use of reservists, a large number of physical and psychological injuries, and the start of a third rotation for certain contingents, should encourage Canadian leaders to adopt a certain reserve.

As for reversals, Canada's intervention in Afghanistan has largely evolved at the pace of a project dominated by the defence pillar. Everyone agrees today that there is no military solution to Afghanistan's problems. However, the Canadian presence in the field is still dominated to date by its military component.

Advances have been made with the very recent establishment of a coordinating body reporting directly to the Prime Minister. It is disturbing to note the extent to which the preeminence of civilian power over the military has been compromised in key decisions on Canada's mission in Afghanistan. The government definitely has a duty to be more vigilant and to ensure that its foreign policy priorities are reflected in overseas troop deployments.

3:50 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Monsieur Boivin, you're following the text, are you? We're at about nine minutes, and you're about halfway through. Can we just have a summary, and then we'll move to our next guest? Maybe some of what you say in your testimony that's in print here we can leave and put into the record, and you may even want to touch on some of that in the questions.

3:50 p.m.

Deputy Director, Francophone Research Network on Peace Operations

Marc André Boivin

Yes, I'll jump to the recommendations.

What is necessary now is to strike a fair balance in order to achieve these objectives and to attempt to improve the fate of the Afghans.

If I must stick to essential recommendations, I would say that the task for Canada is, first, to ensure it obtains significant military support in Kandahar from one or more other countries. I believe that things are already being done to that end at the present time.

Second, there must be a plan for a gradual reduction of Canadian troops in Afghanistan to achieve a sustainable level and to allow the Canadian government a reserve for other crises or needs.

Third, efforts must be rebalanced for the benefit of the diplomacy and development pillars.

Fourth, it must be ensured that civilian authority is preeminent over the military apparatus. As I've already noted, measures have already been taken in that direction.

Fifth, we must be transparent and provide full and relevant information to the Canadian public.

Sixth, provision must be made to require the Canadian government to hold debates in the House in the event of any significant troop deployment overseas.

Seventh, internationally, the Afghan government must be required to meet its obligations in the areas of human rights, freedom of the press and freedom of association and to fully shoulder its responsibilities to its population.

Eighth, support must be provided for the appointment of a senior international officer responsible for both the UN and NATO missions.

Ninth, pressure must be brought to bear for the UN mission in Afghanistan to clearly assume leadership of international efforts, thus restoring the precedence of political rather than military management.

Lastly, it must be ensured with U.S. authorities that anti-terrorist activities do not undermine other missions in Afghanistan.

3:50 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Merci, monsieur Boivin.

We'll move to our final guest, Mr. Weera. Welcome.

3:50 p.m.

Seddiq Weera Senior Advisor, Independent National Commission on Strengthening Peace and Senior Policy Advisor, Minister of Education, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, As an Individual

Thank you.

Honourable committee members, I'm thankful for the opportunity to share my observations and the results of my research and work on Afghanistan. This comes from my living in Afghanistan. I was born there, lived there, studied there, worked there. I am living in Burlington now, but I have a job in Afghanistan and have worked for the last six years with the Government of Afghanistan.

My observations and opinions do not reflect the position of the Afghan government. Rather, they come from my involvement with the peace movement, my career at McMaster University, and negotiations and talks I have had with members of the Taliban and their supporters, Hekmatyar, political leaders, and a network of people with access to cabinet members, including the president of the country.

I would like to start by saying that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won without a peace track, a political track. Why? Because there is a big political component in the conflict in Afghanistan, and a political component cannot be resolved through war alone. The political component has at least two dimensions: one is the unresolved civil war; the other is the regional factor in the conflict.

I want to take you back to pre-September 11, 2001. In Afghanistan, before September 11, there was a nine-year-old civil war and a five-year-old conflict between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. These parties and factions were not much liked by the public. Both parties, both factions, were seen as failed, whether viewed as governments, parties, or groups.

Both sides of the civil war committed crimes against humanity and violated human rights. There was no al-Qaeda or war on terror then, but there were two parties killing each other's members. This created a deep political fragmentation. Later, it became predominantly ethnic. Ethnicity was not really part of the agenda, but the composition of the groups that were fighting each other became more and more ethnic.

My observations take into account the government and the politics around the government. The civil war is hampering governance and civil service reform. Good governance is impossible to achieve unless this conflict is resolved. There is a winning side and a losing side: the winning side is in and around the government; the losing side became affiliated with al-Qaeda in 1996 and is still fighting against the government.

Not everyone who fights against the government and its international allies is a terrorist. There are hundreds who do not share the objectives and the vision of al-Qaeda and international terrorism. There are national grievances. They feel they have been treated unjustly. They're not included in the Bonn agreement, the Bonn peace process. Their enemy won, and the international community is supporting their enemy. They are not treated as citizens of this country, and they are discriminated against because of their identity.

Now, I want to turn this discussion to the Manley report, a great work. Lots of issues are brought to light, including recommendations for diplomatic efforts.

I want to remind everyone here that the war in Afghanistan is not continuing because we have 1,000 fewer troops. It's not going on because we have less coordination among allied forces. It's not going on because we have too few helicopters. It's going on because of a mixture of determinants, one of which has not been addressed. To fight poverty is quite a reasonable effort. Lots of investment and meeting the basic needs of the people is good. Improving development is very good. Improve governance, yes. But unless you create a political track, you're not going to win the war. Why? Because you're fighting a mix of ordinary Afghan citizens who are in the hands of Al-Qaeda and terrorists.

With war alone we are producing, most likely, more recruits for Al-Qaeda. We may be supporting Al-Qaeda by not breaking up the lines of Taliban and Hekmatyar followers, those who are not terrorists and those who are interested in peace negotiations. There is no medium or mechanism for peace negotiations that can address the issues. What are the issues? Which issues can we resolve without compromising the values and the accomplishments we've had?

Going to the regional dimension, in the civil war, Afghanistan had support for the warring parties from Pakistan, India, Iran, Russia, and the Arabs. That surrogate war, somehow fought in Afghanistan, is still affecting the dynamic. Pakistan, India, and Iran all have some legitimate concerns, and there is no medium or mechanism to address those. There is no way, no dialogue, no process, no team, no mandate for the United Nations to develop and establish a peace track to try to find peaceful resolutions for those who are not terrorists.

What do I mean by peace track? First of all, you may know that the UN is not mandated to do peace work in Afghanistan. The UN mandate is not war, but it's not to lead peace negotiations and peace processes either. Afghanistan needs multi-level dialogue with those who are interested in peace and have no agenda--who have no terrorist and Al-Qaeda agenda--to integrate them into the political system.

Remember, we did integrate half of one side in the civil war in Bonn in 2001-02, and they were as good or bad as the Taliban or Hekmatyar in terms of ideology, in terms of the Islamist view they have. Sayaf is an example; Rabani is an example. They were brought into the political system. They are doing okay. They are shouting in their parliament instead of shooting on the mountain. The others will be okay, too, we can safely assume. So one level of dialogue is for integration.

The other level of dialogue is to bring the parties in the civil war to a reconciliation. The winning party is destabilizing the government, and they might do more of that if they feel they're going to lose their monopoly on power--because they know only one thing, that the Taliban is on one side of a win-lose game. Either you win and have everything or you lose and have nothing. So the winning side is also nervous, and both sides have been put in a very helpless position: the winning side has to stay in power and keep the enemy away and sabotage the peace processes, and the losing side has to fight, no matter who they get weapons from. If it's Al-Qaeda, so be it.

The third level addresses the regional dimension. We have no mechanism except military coordination between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and NATO for that.

The last point is that without the political process, war is not going to win. Why? Because you are fighting against non-terrorists, against people who are ordinary Afghans in the south. And they feel that their warlords and criminals are treated unjustly. While the other side's warlords and criminals are generals and marshals and are in the government, our criminals are treated differently. That's why you will not have public support in winning peace and stability, and when you don't win peace and stability, how can you do development? Because of the tension between the two parties, the winning party is now using all its energy to keep itself powerful so it can survive. That's why the governance is not going to happen.

My last point is that Canada can take the lead in creating a peace track, a political track, for political resolution. That might require revising the mandate of the United Nations in Afghanistan to make it a mandate for peacemaking. That might require revising the blacklist, because we have people who deserve to be on the blacklist, and they are on the government side as well. We have to treat everybody across the board in the same way. Those who are interested in a political solution might need to be removed from the blacklist temporarily.

4:05 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much, Mr. Weera.

We're going to go into our first round of questioning. If it's all right with the committee, just given the time, we're going to cut the rounds to five minutes instead of seven, and then I think we'll be able to stay.

Mr. Wilfert.

4:05 p.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, gentlemen, for coming.

Having been to Afghanistan, I can say there's no question that our troops are doing a phenomenal job. I wanted to make an observation and ask you to comment on it, given what you've said.

The Manley report, on page 28, recognizes that “no insurgency—and certainly not the Afghan insurgency—can be defeated by military force alone”. They certainly look at the issue of an immediate impact, reconstruction, better coordination, etc. They conclude on page 35, that “a successful counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan requires more ISAF forces”.

A Department of National Defence October 2007 report entitled 3-D Soviet Style: A Presentation on Lessons Learned from the Soviet Experience in Afghanistan makes two interesting observations at the end. Under the military, it says that the “Red Army's technical superiority and battlefield victories could not be translated into strategic success”. The other was that “the policy of 'National Reconciliation”—which speaks to the last speaker--is “more successful than military operations”.

I'll put that on the table.

My colleagues have a couple of quick ones.

4:05 p.m.


Raymond Chan Liberal Richmond, BC

Again, I would like to ask some questions about how long our participation there needs to be.

To Mr. Manson, based on your optimistic and a pessimistic scenario, how long do you think we need to be there before they can provide security for themselves?

Secondly, do you have any comments about the number of troops we have there? There are a lot of reports saying we don't have enough. I would appreciate it if you could comment on that.

4:05 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Chan.

Just so our guests know, when we have a five-minute round, that's for questions and answers, so make them very concise and precise.

You have one, too?

All right. I will cut him off at five minutes.

4:05 p.m.


Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you all for being here.

Gentlemen, if you cannot answer this question within the time, if you wouldn't mind writing it to the committee, we'd all be grateful.

Mr. Weera, could you march us through what the political reconciliation process would be like to resolve the issue between the Northern Alliance and the Pashtun?

General Manson, if you could give us some indication of how you would amend the Liberal Party motion in order to make it more realistic--

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

4:05 p.m.


Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

--or how you would amend the Liberal Party motion, we'd be grateful.

Thank you very much, General Manson.

4:05 p.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Boivin, you talked about advances and setbacks, but I especially want to talk about the setbacks. You mentioned that everything was controlled by the Defence Department. The other “Ds”, that is diplomacy and development, currently aren't part of Canada's intervention in that country. I'm not going to ask you for an answer today, because it would be much too long, but I would like to know how development should be carried out in the Kandahar region.

Thank you.

4:05 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much, Mr. Patry.

Mr. Manson, the first question was perhaps directed to you and Mr. Weera. It was the question of Mr. Wilfert.

4:05 p.m.

Gen Paul Manson

Yes, counter-insurgency has been around a long time. It's not a new form of warfare, but the type of counter-insurgency that's being encountered in Afghanistan today is really very different.

It's sometimes difficult to bring past experience to bear in military tactics and strategy, but there are some examples. In Malaya, the British forces fought an insurgency there and were really very successful. It took 14 years—which comes to answer an earlier question about how long we might be in Afghanistan.

The problem of national reconciliation ties into counter-insurgency as well, and this comes to the points that were made by two of my colleagues at the table here about just how we might bring a peace process into action in Afghanistan. Everyone around the table acknowledges there is no military solution to the situation in Afghanistan. It's necessary, but not sufficient, to establish security before other things can take place, such as development and peace negotiations, but it is not sufficient to solve the problem. That's something that has to be borne in mind.

Counter-insurgency is tough business. It does require military activity of a very special kind, and in itself, it is not the solution to the problem.

4:10 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Manson.

Mr. Weera, I think there were a couple of questions directed to you.

4:10 p.m.

Senior Advisor, Independent National Commission on Strengthening Peace and Senior Policy Advisor, Minister of Education, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, As an Individual

Seddiq Weera

Yes, I would like to answer the question on reconciliation between the two sides, which are ethnically dominated by Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns.

It's not a war between the people, but a case of the majority of parties happening to be made up of one ethnicity.

If it were done without having international recognition of the need for a peace process, through private processes, the person or team doing so would automatically endanger their lives by being labelled. If you were from the Taliban side and wanted to talk to the north, they would be suspicious. If you wanted to talk to the Taliban and you were in the government, you'd automatically be labelled as pro-Taliban.

A mechanism for a peace process is required, but how can it be done? There are a lot of worries. One could start with a UN mechanism, for instance. What are their fears and concerns? What is the damage and harm that has been done to you? And how can you live together on the foundation that has been established by this government?

I have, on a micro-level, talked to the leaders of the Northern Alliance, and you will see that they have a lot of issues that go back 250 years, from the royal family being Pashtun. There are grievances and stories of oppression of non-Pashtuns by the royal Pashtun family. And it has been the same over the last 30 years, as the Taliban, Hekmatyar, and their supporters among the Pashtuns would also say there has been political injustice.

I just want to tell you that one senior Taliban guy was telling me, we want to return with dignity. I asked, what do you mean? They responded, oh, we were ministers in the cabinet, so we should be something in the government. And the other one said, we don't want to be labelled on the blacklist as terrorists; if there is accountability, it should be for all of us, all parties, all sides. And the other person would say, we want safety when we return and a political presence, a political party.

These are the types of things that, without compromising all of the accomplishments today in Afghanistan, could be accommodated.

4:10 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Weera.

We'll move to our second round and the Bloc.

Mrs. Barbot, you have five minutes.

4:10 p.m.


Vivian Barbot Bloc Papineau, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you for being here today, gentlemen.

Mr. Manson, I was a bit surprised to hear your description of what is currently going on. You tell us the situation has vastly improved. However, I've seen a map representing the present situation in Afghanistan. We could see on it that the Taliban were much more dispersed across Afghanistan than originally. So I was a bit surprised, particularly since you say that war is not the solution, that we won't succeed by military means. When you talk about Afghan troops who no longer carry on a traditional, but rather an underground war, that makes me think more of Vietnam. However, we all know what happened in Vietnam.

In these conditions, tell me how you see the “solution” contemplated by the present government, that is to say to send in another 1,000 soldiers. If the situation can't be resolved militarily, how can this initiative change anything?

Furthermore, you said—and correct me if I misunderstood—that a search and destroy type of war should be conducted. So the idea isn't to train soldiers. In other words, Canada will be there forever.

I'd like to hear your comments on that subject.

4:15 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Madame Barbot.

Mr. Manson.

4:15 p.m.

Gen Paul Manson

I'm going to defer to my colleague, Colonel Pellerin, who is an expert in these matters and can elaborate on some of the things I said and can help to answer your questions.

4:15 p.m.


Vivian Barbot Bloc Papineau, QC

So, it's not fair.