Mr. Speaker, I will begin my comments today by acknowledging our tremendous debt of gratitude to the men and women of the Canadian Forces who risk their lives to create a safer and more secure world for Canadians and people throughout the globe.
The Liberal Party remains steadfast in our support for the Canadian Forces personnel stationed in Afghanistan as they work toward the noble goal of bringing peace and stability to this troubled region, and we recognize their accomplishments in this regard. When our forces return, we do and will afford them the appreciation and respect they have earned once again.
We are most cognizant of the lives of our sons and daughter given in combat to achieve this safer and more secure world. We do not want to undo all the good that they have done, not now, not ever. Further, we hope that the families of our soldiers who gave their lives find consolation.
I further wish to acknowledge the notable role our Canadian diplomats have played and continue to play in Afghanistan, especially Mr. Glyn Berry who made the supreme sacrifice on our behalf and on behalf of the Afghans.
It is important to realize that Canadians were also killed on 9/11 when members of al-Qaeda attacked the United States at the World Trade Centre and that these terrorists were trained in Afghanistan. If the NATO forces were to unilaterally withdraw, there is no doubt that al-Qaeda and the Taliban would walk right back in.
We have also arrested alleged insurgents in our own country, such as the 16 accused terrorists in Toronto. The entire globe is at risk of terrorist attacks, including Canada. Our involvement in Afghanistan is part of the war on terrorism. We are there to help eliminate the breeding grounds of terrorists and their activities. We are there to protect both countries and both peoples, Afghans and Canadians.
Canada made a commitment to the international community and especially to our NATO allies. Canada must honour this commitment. If Canada closed down our participation in the UN-mandated and NATO-led mission immediately, as the NDP and Bloc Québécois would have us do, we would take on the reputation of being a less than reliable ally in assisting nations that are struggling to move to democratic principles: the rule of law, human rights and the empowerment of women, including the equality of education for boys and girls.
An immediate withdrawal is also unrealistic. Deploying a replacement force in the wake of an immediate Canadian departure would be nearly impossible and would leave the Afghans at the mercy of the Taliban. We cannot abandon the people of Afghanistan as there is much to be done.
The Liberal opposition continues to support our Canadian armed forces in Afghanistan as part of a NATO force for the stated term of our nation's commitment. I believe it is important for Canada to play a role in building peace and security in the area so that reconstruction efforts can continue. This mission was initially multi-dimensional, embracing the 3D model, combining defence, diplomacy and development in a coordinated effort to bring long term peace and stability to a fragile state.
The Afghan people want peace and a future for themselves and their children. Canada must help facilitate this. I can support this kind of approach that reflects a Canadian philosophy.
All that being said, it is incumbent upon the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its member nations to preserve the rotation principle. Canadian troops have been performing most effectively, doing the heavy lifting in the combat zone of the bloody combat region. It is time for other partners to step up to the plate. Other nations must do their share. Other nations must take over these positions of responsibility. It is simply the fair, equitable and right thing to do.
In not doing so, member countries in future engagements will not take on such missions and the future of NATO itself could be at risk. I am confident, however, that our NATO partners will make the appropriate response, and we thank them for this.
The debate to this date has too often had the flavour of vicious partisanship, with more than a sprinkle of intemperate comments. It is time to tone down the rhetoric and time for all to put a little water in their wine. The Afghan issue should be above politics. It is time for a responsible change of direction.
The report of John Manley and his co-panellists have opened the door for a possible consensus, and we thank them for their contributions to the debate. We acknowledge their encouragement for greater transparency on issues surrounding the Afghanistan conflict, which will promote a better understanding of the situation by Canadians.
We must continue to be mindful of the need to respect international law and, in effecting the transfer of Afghan detainees, we must be mindful that the torture of enemy combatants by any military force cannot be tolerated.
As referenced in a recital to this motion under debate, which I feel we all can agree to, is an appreciation that the ultimate aim of Canadian policy is to leave Afghanistan to Afghans in a country that is better governed, more peaceful and more secure, and to create the necessary space and conditions to allow the Afghans themselves to achieve a political solution to the conflict.
We further recognize that in order to achieve this objective, it is essential that properly trained and equipped participants of their security apparatus, such as the army, police, judicial and correctional systems, be in place. Our military presence will help the Afghans achieve this end.
The motion calls for a continued presence in Kandahar until July 2011 on condition that the government notify NATO that Canada will end its presence in Kandahar as of July 2011 with replacement by Afghan forces and the complete redeployment of our troops by December 2011. I would have preferred something sooner, much sooner, but I am pleased that a firm mandate has been established. I would not support an never-ending mission.
Further, the condition of rotation of an additional 1,000 NATO troops into Kandahar will allow our Canadian Forces to be deployed in a more balanced way to a return to mission co-priorities of training and reconstruction, in effect, a return to the 3Ds of defence, diplomacy and development. There is no exclusive military solution to this conflict. I have reservations, however, as to whether 1,000 additional troops will allow this to happen.
The conditions that the government must secure medium helicopter lift capacity and unmanned aerial vehicles will further protect our forces.
The motion also references other prudent measures, including the need to address the issue of the narco-economy that undermines progress in Afghanistan, the need to meet the highest international standards to protect the rights of detainees and a greater level of accountability, clarity and scrutiny so that all Canadians can be sure that our nation's contributions are continuing to be effective.
There has been a huge national discussion on Afghanistan, not only in the House but throughout the country, and it is time to bring this to a conclusion while being mindful that our future path will not be easy. I feel this motion reflects common ground between the Liberal official opposition and the Conservative government and provides clear direction in terms of engagement. The NDP and the Bloc advocate a position that is simply not tenable at this time.