Mr. Speaker, Canada is in Afghanistan as part of the UN-sanctioned mission, as was mentioned, at the request of the democratically elected Afghan government and in company with our NATO allies.
Members of the House approved the current military commitment to the mission in Afghanistan and again voted their strong support in favour of its extension to 2011. We are in constant consultation with our allies in NATO and outside NATO on that issue.
NATO and its allies, including Canada, are constantly assessing the needs and requirements of the ISAF mission. We are all working toward the same goal, enduring stability and security in Afghanistan.
Canada is committed to achieving development and reconstruction results in Afghanistan and we have been doing that from the start. However, because security and developments are irrevocably linked, this could only happen with the support of our men and women in uniform who continue to work alongside the Afghanistan National Security Forces to build a stable security environment.
As the record shows, we have consistently requested additional troops and I can tell members that we are very pleased with recent developments on this front. The Dutch government has agreed to extend its military commitment in the south of Afghanistan by two years. It should also be noted that in 2007, the UK also expanded its commitment to ISAF and a number of NATO allies, including Australia, Denmark and France enhanced their ISAF presence.
Most recently, over 2,000 U.S. marines were deployed to the south of Afghanistan, and are expected to be in place until November 2008. In addition, the U.S. announced at the Bucharest summit that it would commit an additional 1,000 troops to southern Afghanistan for the longer term.
These commitments represent an important contribution to our ongoing security and training efforts in the south of Afghanistan. Clearly the commitments made by our allies at the NATO summit in Bucharest are good news for Canada and good news for NATO. More important though, the additional troops are good news for the people of Afghanistan who are working hard to rebuild their lives.
An additional battle group in Kandahar will expand NATO's presence and allow Canadian troops to consolidate and expand stability and security in the province, which will further allow our development and governance efforts to take root.
Having a second battle group working alongside our troops post-2009 meets the conditions set forth by both the Manley panel report and the motion carried in the House, and is fully consistent with what NATO has been calling for in Kandahar province.
In the absence of a second battle group in Kandahar, our military has conducted their operations within available resources in light of the realities on the ground. The Canadian Forces, along with our Afghan and NATO allies, have conducted and will continue to conduct a focused and strategic campaign at Kandahar to secure key districts.
Of course, this is a complex and challenging operation, but when we consider the progress that has been made in a short period of time, our success is quite remarkable.
The Canadian Forces have supported the disarmament and demobilization of 63,000 former combatants. In doing so, we have helped collect and secure 85,000 light weapons and 16,000 heavy weapons. Over 650 Afghan National Police have received training through the Kandahar provincial reconstruction team.
Canada has helped to build 11 Afghan National Police checkpoints and six substations, allowing the Afghan police to establish presence and conduct operations in and around Kandahar city.
Consider that in less than five years, the Canadian Forces have helped train over 35,000 new Afghan soldiers and our mentoring efforts continue to provide excellent results. We are now seeing competent Afghan National Army battalions deployed in Kandahar province. In addition, we are seeing better recruitment and retention of new Afghan soldiers, which is a very good sign that our efforts are working.
It should be highlighted that Canadian Forces, with the assistance of our allies and the Afghanistan National Security Forces, have kept key districts in Kandahar province secure. Without a doubt, these accomplishments are contributing to positive change in Afghanistan.
The helicopters and UAVs are on the way. We are working consistently with our NATO allies every day, both in the field in Afghanistan and back in places like Brussels, to ensure everybody is on the same page and everybody knows the progress we are making and the fact that we are going to get the job done.