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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

Alex Neve  Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada
Hilary Homes  Campaigner, International Justice, Security and Human Rights, Amnesty International Canada
Grant Kippen  Principal, The Hillbrooke Group
M.D. Capstick  Associate, Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, University of Calgary
Gerald Schmitz  Committee Researcher
Clerk of the Committee  Mrs. Angela Crandall

4:40 p.m.

Principal, The Hillbrooke Group

Grant Kippen

I agree with what Mike is saying, in the sense that the institutions need to be built out. I think Afghans themselves need to understand what the system is going to do for them.

The international community came in along with the senior Afghan officials, presented democracy, and said this is the best thing since sliced bread; we had elections, now let's move on. One election does not a democracy make. We have to stay for the longer term. We have to facilitate that understanding, education, and build up the capacity. I think there are a lot of expectations from the international communities about what they would like to see Afghans do in terms of their own governance, etc., but I think we've been woefully inadequate in providing the skills and the knowledge and the capacity to make that happen.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Can I ask Colonel Capstick about signature aid projects?

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Ten seconds.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

I take it you're against signature aid projects.

4:40 p.m.

Col M.D. Capstick

No, I'm not. What we need to do is understand what we're doing when we do a signature aid project and ensure Afghan capacity is being developed.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Okay, thank you very much.

We'll go to Mr. Khan now for five minutes, second round.

March 4th, 2008 / 4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Wajid Khan Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, gentlemen. It's been a very informative and frank conversation. It's been one of the better presentations.

I will not dwell too much on the developmental side, but I will point out that most of the work that is being done in Afghanistan relates to human rights. Whether it's education, economic capacity-building, community development and infrastructure, health, clearing of mines, eventually rule of law, supporting of the Afghan National Police, freedom of expression, they all fall under the same category of providing a building capacity towards human rights, of providing human rights in different fields, in different areas.

I am a little perplexed that we focus on one area and not appreciate the rest. I want to compliment the government for increasing over $200 million of aid towards development. It is a difficult country, if we can call that a country. It is a difficult task. I would suggest that we need not only look at the grass and the bushes, but also look at the forest. Look at the country as a whole as to what has been achieved.

By no means am I saying this is great, everything's been perfect--not at all. But we should at the same time not diminish the efforts of the international community, and particularly of Canada. When I visited Afghanistan I met the minister of rural development and I was delighted to see that the Canadian PRT people were taking that minister out to areas where the Afghan government did not have the ability to go. In those dangerous areas the Canadians were out there helping the minister.

Also, when I met with General McNeill, who was the ISAF commander at that time, he had tremendous praise for Canadians. He said we are one of the only people...that the development people move along with the military as far as Kandahar is concerned. We can laugh or joke about these things, but we must not forget that without the establishment of order there can be no security, and with no security there can be no human rights that we all want.

Without much further ado--I don't have a whole lot of time, but I could speak a lot--I have a question for Mr. Kippen as well as Mr. Capstick.

You mentioned the elections in Pakistan. Since 1947 there have been three dictatorships and several governments, as you know. I think the people of Pakistan have sent a very clear signal. Whenever there is a free and fair election, which this one, I think, was--maybe not 100%, but to a great degree--the religious parties, the fundamentalist parties, have been rejected completely, which is a wonderful thing. The government has been voted out; the secular parties have won. I think at this time we should also give a little credit to the new chief of the army staff, General Kayani, who instructed all corps commanders and intelligence agencies, right down to people working as nasims, as we call them--mayors in small places--that if anybody intervenes he will take very serious action against them, particularly the military. Therefore they will only be there to assist and maintain law and order; they will not intervene. That is one of the key reasons we had this election.

What I'd like to ask you, Mr. Kippen, is what the next step should be.

And very quickly, Colonel, we abandoned Afghanistan back in 1989, which I think has brought us to this stage today. What would happen to Afghanistan if we abandoned it today?

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Khan. You've left about ten seconds for an answer.

Mr. Kippen.

4:45 p.m.

Principal, The Hillbrooke Group

Grant Kippen

In terms of next steps, I covered that in my remarks. I think there's a tremendous opportunity for Canadian parliamentarians and the Government of Canada to develop professional working relationships with the new parliamentarians, both at the national assembly and at the provincial assemblies, particularly in Beluchistan, which borders, as everyone knows, on Kandahar province. I think the time is short and I think the opportunity needs to be grasped very quickly in order to do that.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Kippen.

Colonel Capstick.

4:50 p.m.

Col M.D. Capstick

My answer, as succinctly as I can put it, is that it would be an absolute tragedy to abandon Afghanistan. Chaos would ensue.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Capstick.

We'll move to Mr. Wilfert now. He has five minutes.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I'm sorry I missed the presentations, but it couldn't be helped.

Colonel Capstick, with regard to your final comments that I did catch, you talked about the lack of strategic vision and the need to focus priority on legitimacy for the Afghan government down the road, to try to correct some of the strategic errors, which will take time.

This is a NATO-led mission, which has more caveats in it than pretty well any NATO mission before. Do you believe that there is a political will to succeed in Afghanistan, both by NATO and by the Afghan government?

And secondly, what is your view on the issue of building capacity at the village level? We have done a lot of work at the national level, but the failure to inculcate values dealing with issues such as clean water, jobs, etc.... At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what the government in Kabul does, it's what is going on at the village level that matters, in my view.

Could you comment on that?

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Wilfert.

Mr. Capstick.

4:50 p.m.

Col M.D. Capstick

I think we have to be clear here on the structure of the Afghan mission. The Afghan mission is a UN-led mission. The United Nations assistance mission in Afghanistan are the people who are supposed to be coordinating the governance and development pillars.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

They're supposed to be.

4:50 p.m.

Col M.D. Capstick

NATO is in charge in the security pillar, so it's not NATO running development and governance.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

I should have said “NATO-led”, in terms of the execution.

4:50 p.m.

Col M.D. Capstick

Only on the military side, though. On the rest, it's UNAMA and the big multilateral organizations like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund--that whole alphabet soup that's involved there.

Is there political will? Well, you're the folks who can answer that.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

I'm referring more to political will in Afghanistan and among the NATO partners.

4:50 p.m.

Col M.D. Capstick

Well, that's very hard for me to judge. I believe there is a political will in Afghanistan. It was expressed during two elections. It's expressed in opinion poll after opinion poll. And it's expressed by the really good people who are working in the Government of Afghanistan at every level.

You know, we get an image sometimes that everybody is corrupt, a criminal. That's just not true. There are great people working there, trying to move it forward.

I'd be careful on this caveat thing, and I've used this example before. I commanded the Canadian contingent in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the NATO stabilization force in 1997-98, and I needed the approval of the Minister of National Defence to move an infantry company across the boundary to support the British battle group that was next to us that was under the same divisional command. So we have to be very careful about slinging mud on this caveat thing. We're not pure as the driven snow.

On the village thing, you're right. Afghans need to see the results of their government serving them where they live--at the village level. But even more important than that is establishing that sense of human security I spoke about. You can build all the wells in the world, but if buddy is still afraid to send his kids to school, you've built wells but you haven't planted the seeds for sustaining it.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you.

Mr. Kippen, did you want to jump in on this, or not?

4:50 p.m.

Principal, The Hillbrooke Group

Grant Kippen

No. I totally agree with what Mike has said.

I would say that I don't believe we've done everything we can at the national level yet. I think more needs to be done. But as we all know, the need is so vast and great in Afghanistan. How do you divvy up the resources that the international community is prepared to expend there?

We need to be doing more at the village level. The national solidarity program and the community development councils are perfect examples. Unfortunately, particularly with this national solidarity program, there's limited money in the fund that will allow multiple or recurring projects in a particular village. Right now, once they have money for a project, they're off. They're waiting for the next phase.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Kippen.

We will move to Mr. Lebel.