In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Kandahar Base

Posted 4/3/2008 by Grant Mitchell

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Kandahar base is a remarkable testimony to the depth of international commitment to the Afghanistan challenge. Immediately upon disembarking from the military transport plane, dressed in flak vest and helmet, you are struck by the immensity of the base, the number of military vehicles and the intense bustle of military personnel. Immediately upon meeting them, you are struck by the professionalism, competence and decency of our Canadian military personnel. They are clearly well led by commanding officer General Laroche.

This is an inhospitable geography; dusty, pretty much void of anything green, a desert with small, but rugged hills cropping up periodically. The sense you get as you begin to meet Afghan people is that they greatly appreciate our being there and have a sense of hope that all this effort is helping them forge a better future.

We met with a wide range of people while there: military leaders, regular soldiers, sailors and air force personnel, aid workers, Afghan elected provincial leaders, ordinary Afghanis (although their lives are anything but ordinary), CIDA and other Canadian public servants, and Canadian police officers.

To be sure, there is plenty of military activity, sporadic fighting, concerted patrolling and the ever-present threat of IEDs. But much of the military activity, if not a majority of it, is in providing protection for aid workers and development projects. The Provincial Reconstruction Team model, which supports many projects, also involves soldiers going into Afghan communities to talk with the local people, establish rapport and relationships, and determine what we can do for them. It is an interesting evolution of military initiative; soldier social workers who can do that work while being able to defend themselves if needed. It is a new kind of soldiering that may well be the new face of peacekeeping. It is very easy to be immensely proud of all our Canadian personnel.

There is a huge amount to be done, but progress is being made and development in this country will occur only with security support for some time to come.

Canada and Canadians are playing a lead role in this 21st century foreign policy challenge, helping to fix failed states and helping some of the most desperate people in the world. In Afghanistan, some of the very most desperate are women and children.

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