Mr. Speaker, this is for me a very special occasion to participate in this important debate on Canada's mission in Afghanistan. Not since the former Yugoslavia and Korea has our flag been placed in a zone of conflict where, by terms of engagement, there has been a full application of military force by Canadians.
We want to remember why we are in Afghanistan. There did exist and perhaps still exists an international terrorist conspiracy based there, which was aided and abetted by the government in Afghanistan. Out of that conspiracy came an attack on New York and Washington. There have been other attacks in other locations around the world as well.
In the New York attack, approximately 3,000 people died, some of whom were Canadian. The United Nations could not allow Afghanistan impunity by allowing this group to act and it was necessary to act, in the view of this House, Canada and the United Nations, to uproot the terrorists and bring them to account. That is why the United Nations, NATO and our American cousins are active militarily in Afghanistan at this time.
As a member of Parliament, I had the privilege of being embedded with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan a couple of years ago. It was certainly a memorable experience. I was proud to be there with a very impressive group of Canadian armed forces personnel. At the time, they were based in Camp Julian in Kabul. I was there the night that the first convoy moved to Kandahar. It was troubling.
Mr. Speaker, I should say that I will be splitting my time with the member for Welland.
One night, and I will not say what time it was because we are not supposed to say what time things happen, but at some point in the middle of the night the engines started up and it woke up the whole camp. Some in the camp were aware that the convoy was moving out. There was a sense then, as there still is today, that the mission, in moving from Camp Julian in Kabul to Kandahar was to be a very serious commitment with very serious risks. I recall at the time being concerned about the possibility of an ambush on that particular convoy as it made its way for the first time down what I think is called Highway 1 from Kabul to Kandahar.
During that time with the forces, which I was very proud to experience with two other parliamentarians, I bounced around in an Iltis and on the back of a LAV-3, a light armoured vehicle, as a flying sentry. We moved around Kabul and in the rural areas of the region. I was proud to be with the Canadian Forces as I eyeballed the people and places and breathed the dust of Afghanistan in trying to understand all that is there. It is a complex piece, indeed.
I certainly found, as have some who have gone there, that at times one can be optimistic and at other times pessimistic about prospects for the future. I recall when the president of Afghanistan was here, I was particularly optimistic when I listened to his speech. When I was there, the obstacles to progress, economic development and peace seemed huge, but with the presence of the international community, occasionally one sees a glimmer of hope.
There are two things I took away from that particular stint in Afghanistan. First, the Afghan people themselves are resilient and industrious. There is no question about that. It gives reason for optimism. Everybody seemed to be working at something, at least the men. The women and the young girls were less visible, often in the home, but the men and the boys all seemed to be working at something. However menial the task, they were working. They are industrious. They will build their country. I came away with that very clear conclusion.
The second thought that I came away with was the high level of heroin production in the south of Afghanistan, which by itself, the hugeness of it, the scope of it, and the amount of money involved is so large that it will impair the evolution of good governance. It is essentially one big huge implantation of organized crime in the south of the country. It is a problem that Afghanistan and the Afghans will have to deal with. It will distort the evolution of the economy and the politics and the good governance of that country. It is not intractable, but it is a big problem.
I will move to some conclusions. Of course, if 9/11 had not occurred, we would not be in Afghanistan. Afghanistan would be evolving as Afghanistan always has in the will of the Afghanistan people. However, we are there, and it is probably true that we will not be there forever.
The resolution that we have crafted in the House appears to be a rough consensus. The international community may always have some presence in trying to assist Afghanistan now that we are there, but there appears to be a sense that there must be a rotation among our allies for this purpose.
The motion we have before us frames the next many months as a three year commitment. It is our hope that the Afghans will continue to construct a civil society infrastructure within an envelope of security and over time that responsibility for security and the full package will evolve to the Afghans, as it should be.
I want to pay tribute to our Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. I want to pay tribute to the people of Afghanistan. It seems that the people of Afghanistan have put up with soldiers, guys with guns, for decades and decades and decades. I only have to go back half a century or so to notice the Russians, their own civil war, the Taliban, and now NATO, also with guns.
I want to pay tribute to the Afghan police and the Afghan army as they evolve to take on this very large task of providing security for their civil governance. That is an ongoing task.
I pay tribute to our own Canadian Forces with NATO. Often not mentioned are our special forces, JTF2. I pay tribute to them tonight. They have been on the job there for quite a while. They are not mentioned because most of what special forces do is classified. Our provincial reconstruction teams are there, and I pay tribute to them.
Last, I say that there will be no military solution. The military application of force is tactical, intended to allow Afghans an opportunity to develop and to rebuild their system of governance.
We are not going to be armchair generals in this place. The motion that we may approve, and I hope we will approve, says that we are not armchair generals. We will give to our forces the orders. We will tell them what we want them to do and then we will let them do it, using appropriate military procedures as they see fit, but the term will come to an end.
In the hope that we will rotate and continue to contribute to the development of Afghanistan with our NATO allies, I hope that this resolution as negotiated on both sides of the House will be adopted.