Conflict and Post Conflict Study
24 September 2007
The Canadian Government must develop “Fast Track” approach to Peace in Afghanistan
Emergency NATO meeting required to Adopt New Hearts and Minds strategy
Canada must take leadership in supporting President Karzai on a peace process for Afghanistan and opposition to Chemical Spraying of Afghan Farmland
“Canadians are clear that they want the troops back home as soon as possible,” said Norine MacDonald QC, President and Lead Field Researcher of ICOS. “To ensure this can happen, the Canadian Government needs to develop a clear, comprehensive plan for fast-tracking all opportunities to stabilise Afghanistan and the Karzai Government.”
“We need a multi-faceted approach to stability in Afghanistan that addresses the shortcomings of the development, aid and counter-narcotics policies currently being carried out there.” The absence of explicit goals and objectives as part of Canada’s foreign policy in Afghanistan reflects a weak and unacceptable management approach to the war, the report stated. “This unfocused approach to Canada’s most significant foreign affairs portfolio is dividing Canadians on the one hand, and threatening the success of NATO in Afghanistan on the other.” said MacDonald. ICOS also called on Canada to convene an emergency NATO meeting to discuss a new hearts and minds strategy. MacDonald said that Canada should play a leading role in this strategy as a key element of the overall stabilisation strategy for Afghanistan. The International Red Cross has declared a humanitarian emergency in Southern Afghanistan. On the ground research indicated widespread need for food aid and medical treatment for Afghan civilians injured in the fighting.
“A new hearts and minds strategy is desperately needed,” said MacDonald. “The Taliban are currently hijacking the political agenda of the country and undermining our efforts to stabilise the Karzai government.
“Canada has to take leadership in creating a new strategy that addresses the legitimate grievances of the Afghan people. We can make our commitment in Afghanistan demonstrate our willingness to take a leading role in peace – something we as Canadians have a long history of doing.”
More NATO soldiers needed in Afghanistan: There can be no arbitrary pull-out date for Canadian troops
The Council also reiterated the need for Canadian troops to stay in Afghanistan until stability is brought to the country. Canadian soldiers are currently set to stay in Afghanistan until February 2009.
“Our mandate in Afghanistan is to bring peace and prosperity to the people there and assure that the Al Qaeda elements do not use the country as a breeding ground for terrorism once again,” said MacDonald. “The withdrawal of our troops should be linked to achieving our main goal in Afghanistan and not an arbitrary calendar date”.
“We have to stay until the job is done. To leave before we have brought peace to the people of Afghanistan not only endangers Canada’s own security for generations to come, it would be throwing away the commitment of resources and sacrifices – including lives – that we have made in Afghanistan. Pulling out before achieving victory is tantamount to giving Southern Afghanistan back to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.”
MacDonald also called on more NATO countries to take the burden off Canadian soldiers currently fighting in Kandahar. “It is imperative that NATO has more troops on the ground in the south to secure a decisive military victory,” she said. “This would reduce the need for bombing campaigns, which are causing enormous suffering and turning the local population against us.
“The lack of a sufficient NATO deployment means that the military do not have the troops necessary to hold territory. Often, when they move on to another hot spot, the Taliban simply return to areas already cleared, meaning our troops are having to go back and fight over and over again for the same territory,” said MacDonald.
No to Chemical Spraying
ICOS also unveiled its ‘No-to-Spraying’ (N2S) campaign against the US-promised chemical spraying of farmers’ poppy crops as a new crop eradication policy.
“Prime Minister Harper and the other NATO countries should openly support President Karzai in his opposition to the chemical spraying that is being promised by the US,” said MacDonald. “Not only would chemical spraying be catastrophic for Afghanistan’s rural communities, it would turn them against Canadian troops in Kandahar. This would be crossing a line as far as the trust of the local people is concerned”, said Almas Bawar Zakhilwal, Country Director for ICOS in Canada.
Bawar Zakhilwal also reiterated the calls on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to back ICOS’s Poppy for Medicine (P4M) initiative in which farmers would be licensed to grow poppy for the production of essential medicines such as morphine, rather than the opium going to the illegal heroin market as is presenting the case.
“Pilot project for poppy-for-medicine in the next planting season would help develop a vitally positive economic relationship between the Karzai Government and the local population. Through a legal economy, Afghan farmers would no longer need to turn to the Taliban as part of the sale of opium for heroin, which would have dramatic positive consequences for the support for our troops serving in Kandahar,” stated Bawar Zakhilwal.
Canada should back President Karzai in peace negotiations
ICOS called on the Canadian Government to take leadership in developing a peace process for Afghanistan with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. In the last week, President Karzai has admitted attempting to negotiate with those elements of the Taliban who can be drawn into a democratic future for the country
“What we have seen recently is President Karzai sending out a clear message to the Taliban,” said MacDonald. “He is demonstrating his willingness to negotiate with those who are fighting for economic reasons as an expression of legitimate political grievances, and who want to be part of a fully fledged Afghan democracy. The idea of these peace talks is to separate those people who could come back into the fold from the Al Qaeda element who are irreconcilable enemies of NATO and the Afghan people.”
The latest report from ICOS, released prior to the simulation game “Afghanistan: A Way Out of War”, said that creating peace was a part of the Canadian’s national identity. “Canadians are committed to building peace,” said MacDonald. “It is part of our national character and our history that sets us apart from the rest.”
“In these particular circumstances, Prime Minister Harper must take leadership on assisting President Karzai establish a solution for peace in Afghanistan. A stable Afghanistan would mean both that the troops could come home sooner rather than later, but they will have come home having accomplished their mission– and that is something everybody wants,“ said MacDonald. “There are defining moments in every nation’s history where there is an opportunity to demonstrate who we are as a nation. For us, how we conduct ourselves in Afghanistan is one of those moments.”