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Prime Minister Harper must dramatically overhaul Canadas strategy development, aid and counter narcotics policy in Afghanistan

Prime Minister Harper must dramatically overhaul Canadas strategy development, aid and counter narcotics policy in Afghanistan 27 May 2007

Canada must stay in Afghanistan – ICOS calls for Special Envoy to replace CIDA in Kandahar

ICOS to testify to Foreign Affairs Committee
OTTAWA– In the lead-up to testifying to the Canadian Foreign Affairs Committee on May 29, ICOS called on Prime Minister Harper to undertake a major overhaul of Canada’s strategy in Afghanistan.

The policy paper released noted the extreme poverty of southern Afghanistan, the growing disenchantment of the local population with the international presence, and called for a dramatic overhaul of Canada’s development, aid and counter-narcotics polices there.

“Canada’s development and aid failures in Kandahar are endangering our military successes there,” said Norine MacDonald, QC, Founder and Lead Field Researcher for ICOS, who has been living and working in Kandahar for the past two years. “We are still spending over ten times more on security and military projects than we are spending on humanitarian aid and development. We need a major and immediate management overhaul of our approach in Afghanistan – the government must be clear with the Canadian people what our objectives are and what our critical success factors are.”

The recommendations called on the Canadian government to relieve CIDA of its responsibility for development efforts in Afghanistan. CIDA would be replaced by the appointment of a Special Envoy to Afghanistan to coordinate development, aid and counter-narcotics policy, with a development and aid budget equal to the military budget.

“As Prime Minister Harper recently said, Afghanistan represents Canada’s most important foreign policy endeavour. Therefore, to efficiently co-ordinate all of Canada’s resources and efforts in Afghanistan, a Special Envoy should be appointed to ensure a successful mission, with the resources sufficient to get the job done. The crisis situation in Afghanistan is beyond politics – we need proper management and financing of the development and aid budget to ensure that our troops are properly supported in Kandahar. Without winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, we will continue to win battles, but we will not win the war.”

Afghan people living in extreme poverty; easy prey to Taliban propaganda

Kandahar has seen a sharp rise in support for the insurgency in recent months. The province’s refugee camps are full of starving people, and have become easy recruiting ground for the Taliban. Civilian casualties continue to fuel local resentment against the foreign presence in Afghanistan. Kandahar’s hospitals are completely inadequate to deal with the war zone casualties or the basic health needs of the local population.

Employment opportunities remain extremely scarce, and there has been no substantial food aid into Kandahar since March 2006.

According to an ICOS Afghanistan survey of 17,000 Afghan men, over 80% of the men of southern Afghanistan worry about feeding their families, and live in extreme poverty.

The survey also indicated that 50% of men in southern Afghanistan now believe that the Taliban will defeat the international troops.

United States plans chemical spraying in Afghanistan

The United States has taken the lead on counter-narcotics strategies in Afghanistan, with a forced poppy crop eradication programme. The United States is now pushing for chemical spraying operations for the next planting season. To date, forced crop eradication in Afghanistan has left the poorest farmers with no means to feed their families, and overall opium cultivation levels have gone up.

“We believe chemical spraying will add to the growing hostility against the international presence in southern Afghanistan. There should be no crop eradication, manual or chemical, until the poverty stricken farmers have other means to feed their families,” said MacDonald.

Poppy for Medicine – a practical solution for southern Afghanistan’s opium crisis

ICOS calls for the implementation of a Poppy for Medicine project, under which the Afghan farmers would be licensed to grow opium as part of a legal economy for the medicines morphine and codeine. Poppy grown in Afghan villages would contribute to the supply of the essential pain killer morphine for which there is a global shortage. A similar system has been in place for decades in Turkey and India, where it has successfully contributed to drug control.

“Our field research indicates that a village-based Poppy for Medicine project is feasible, but the only way to find out if it really works is to test it in carefully selected villages in Kandahar,” said MacDonald. “We are willing to fund such a pilot project in Kandahar, and to share the research findings and expertise with the Canadian government and the international community.”

“These proven counter-narcotics initiatives will trigger the economic diversification necessary to phase out illegal poppy cultivation,” said MacDonald. “To bring peace, Canada should be concentrating on laying the groundwork for sustainable economic prosperity in Kandahar.

Millennium Development Goals can chart necessary course for economic prosperity

The report recommends that Canada adopt the UN Millennium Development Goals as critical success factors to assist in managing and measuring progress of the mission in Afghanistan

“Canada needs measurable critical success factors for our mission in Kandahar. The UN Millennium Development Goals can provide that and allow Canadians to be clear about our objectives in Kandahar, and when we have accomplished those goals.” said MacDonald. “The achievement of these key Millennium Development Goals is pivotal to bringing peace and economic prosperity to the people of Kandahar, and helps ensure that they are immune to the anti-West Taliban propaganda.”

“The fact is that we have failed to convince the local population that we are there to help. We need a well organized development and aid surge to show the Afghan people we are on their side, and that supporting the international presence will lead them to peace and prosperity,” said MacDonald. “As well as providing immediate food aid, mobile field hospitals are needed to deal with civilians casualties along with the immediate renovation of Kandahar’s Mirwais hospital.”

Canada should be clear about its goals for Kandahar – and stay until the job is done.

“Canada must stay in Afghanistan,” said Norine MacDonald. “What happens in Afghanistan in the next year will have an impact on our own security for generations to come. We have to be clear what our objectives are and how we will measure our success. We should stay until the job is done.”

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