New initiatives needed, Afghanistan experts say
Updated Sun. Jul. 8 2007 2:19 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
The Senlis Council policy group says the work of Canadian soldiers is being undermined in southern Afghanistan because development funds aren't making it to ground level in Kandahar.
Edward McCormick, the country director in Afghanistan for the Senlis Council, told CTV's Question Period that Canada needs to do more to ensure that projects are carried out in the region.
McCormick, who lives in Kandahar, said despite what is being said in the House of Commons, he is seeing few CIDA development projects carried out in southern Afghanistan.
"There may be something going on in the north where areas are more secure, where it has been possible to have schools set up for girls, but it's not happening in the south."
"Instead when I walk into the villages and refugee camps, which I do daily, I'm seeing children dying of starvation."
That kind of desperation leads to unrest.
"When we don't enhance the excellent work that the military is doing by providing a positive environment through a variety of initiatives, we are further endangering the troops there. We are undermining their efforts," McCormick said Sunday.
From the military perspective, Retired Maj.-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie said the number of NATO troops in Afghanistan needs to be doubled in order to enhance the security of Canada's soldiers and to guarantee the projects that do come about aren't destroyed by the Taliban.
"Any success we have, when we are able to secure an area, when there is another problem and we have to abandon that area and go to another area, than naturally the insurgents move in behind us. You have to keep boots on the ground," MacKenzie said.
MacKenzie said countries such as Spain and Italy need to abandon their "tokenism" efforts and start securing the country.
Increasing the number of troops is not only important in aiding development, but will also decrease the amount of civilian casualties.
"When you don't have enough troops on the ground and you can't secure an area, with what you have, often times what you're seeing are the troops that are there are backing out and calling for air strikes," McCormick explained.
"Then what we're seeing is innocent civilians being injured or killed by the bombs."
The Senlis Council is calling on a complete overhaul of the mission so that it is managed to properly complement the Canadian military's efforts in Afghanistan.
International Co-operation Minister Josee Verner maintains evidence of redevelopment is abundant in southern Afghanistan.
"Since last year, we have increased a lot of development projects in Kandahar. I went there in April and I could see the results at that time," Verner told CTV's Question Period on Sunday.
"Of course it's difficult; of course we face challenges in Kandahar, but what I can say is we have increased a lot of our funding in Kandahar this year. As an example, last year only $5 million was spent in Kandahar, but this year it is close to $39 million."
MacKenzie contends that despite the increase in funding, Afghan civilians can't see the progress on the ground and are becoming frustrated.
"CIDA's strategy in the past doesn't play necessarily well in Afghanistan in the hearts and minds direction in that they are funding long term efforts through other large international organizations like the UN for example. So, when the money shows up in the UN, the Canadian flag disappears from it and it becomes a project of someone else," MacKenzie said.