In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Kandahar Reflections

Posted 4/4/2008 by Grant Mitchell


There several different kinds of bases within the Canadian area of operations in Kandahar province:

The main base is at Kandahar airport. This is the central command headquarters, which houses the operations of General Laroche who commands the Canadian forces in the province. It is where the famous and iconic Tim Horton’s is and the ball hockey arena. Of course, it’s the centre of much more serious matters. It is the operation's logistical center, contains a major hospital facility, houses the information gathering function, and is the overall command and control center.

It is also the center of Canada's civilian operations headed up by Elissa Goldberg of the Department of Foreign Affairs. She is the civilian counterpart to General Laroche and the two sides work very well together in what is becoming an effective "whole of government" approach.

Several miles away, closer to Kandahar City, is the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) at the Nathan Smith base, which is a major camp, providing security for various development projects, housing the CIMIC teams, and providing training programmes for Afghan police force personnel. CIMIC teams are comprised of soldiers who work in the communities among Afghans to establish rapport and determine what their needs are. They then work with other PRT personnel to deliver projects, such as digging wells, to communities. The PRT base supports the work of a Canadian corrections officer, a woman, who works daily in the Kandahar prison to assist in developing its structure and Afghan staff.

Then there are Forward Operating Bases (FOB), which are miles from the main Kandahar base and are in very wild areas. These bases contain fighting units, Afghan National Army and Police training groups, the newly developed Joint Development Coordination Centers where community leaders, Afghan police and army leadership and Canadian civilian and military people meet to deal with issues and plan development projects.

The FOB the Senate Defence Committee visited is situated right in the Zhari and Panjwai districts, which were the scene of the major Medusa battle of some months ago. This FOB is supervising a project employing 400 Afghans paving an important road. It also provides security for this area and supports Afghan National Army elements who are now taking the lead role in providing security for the Zhari area. Success is measured in the return of villagers to their homes and to their relatively productive farms.

Finally, there are an increasing number of Police Sub Stations that house Afghan National Police units supported by Canadian army and police mentors. The PSSs will become proper police stations as facilities are built and the ANP capabilities increase.

What you see in these various base configurations is a unique mix of fighting units which are pressing further and further to exert control over more and more land and providing  military security  for villagers and development projects; military "social work" units; army and police training units; army engineering construction groups; and support for Afghan governance structures. It is an evolving model of how we can begin to help failed states and Canada is in the forefront.

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