Ministers Cannon, MacKay and Oda Announce Canada’s New Role in Afghanistan

(No. 365 - November 16, 2010 - 1 p.m. ET) The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, and the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, today announced a new role for Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan that will build on significant progress in the areas of security, diplomacy, human rights and development.

“Building on strengths and accomplishments over the past years, Canada is committed to helping build a more secure, stable and self-sufficient Afghanistan that is no longer a safe haven for terrorists,” said Minister Cannon. “The combat mission will end in 2011. As we continue to work alongside the Afghan people and the international community, Canada will continue to play an important role in supporting efforts toward a better future for all Afghans.”

Canada’s new non-combat role will focus on four key areas: investing in the future of Afghan children and youth through education and health; advancing security, the rule of law and human rights; promoting regional diplomacy; and delivering humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.

After 2011, Canadian Forces personnel will be deployed as part of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) to continue training Afghan National Security Forces in a non-combat role, until March 2014. Canada will provide up to 950 military trainers and support personnel. Canada will work with allies to determine how proven Canadian expertise can further contribute to a disciplined and effective Afghanistan security force, which is essential for the security of Afghans and the rebuilding of Afghanistan.

“Since this mission began, Canada, along with our international partners, has helped to train and mentor about 50,000 Afghan troops. The post-2011 non-combat training mission will further contribute to the goal of preparing Afghans to assume responsibility for their own security,” said Minister MacKay. “The legacy of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan will endure in a professional Afghan National Security Forces capable of providing a more secure and stable environment for the Afghan people.”

This chapter in Canada’s engagement will also include contributions aimed at improving the lives of Afghan women, as well as support to the G-8 Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.

“The future of Afghanistan resides in the hands of women, children and youth,” said Minister Oda. “Thanks in part to our investments, we have achieved significant progress in helping improve life for women and children, but more progress is required, especially in Afghanistan’s education and health sectors. Canada will continue to place an important focus on women in its development work in Afghanistan.”

In making the announcement, the ministers paid tribute to the enormous contributions and sacrifices Canadians have made in all areas of endeavour in Afghanistan over the decade, from security and development to governance, institution building and diplomacy.

- 30 -

The following backgrounders provide more information on Canada’s new role in Afghanistan.

For further information, media representatives may contact:

Melissa Lantsman
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Jay Paxton
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of National Defence

Isabelle Bouchard
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of International Cooperation

Backgrounder - Canada’s Four Themes for Afghanistan: 2011-2014 (November 16, 2010)

Canada’s new role in Afghanistan will build on the accomplishments of Canada’s mission over the past 10 years. Our objective in Afghanistan remains the same: to help build a more secure, stable and self-sufficient Afghanistan that is no longer a safe haven for terrorists.

Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan post-2011 will be centred on Kabul and will focus on four key areas:

  • investing in the future of Afghan children and youth through development programming in education and health;
  • advancing security, the rule of law and human rights, including through the provision of up to 950 trainers for Afghan security forces;
  • promoting regional diplomacy; and
  • helping deliver humanitarian assistance.

Based on Afghan needs and the international community’s efforts, these priorities have been identified as areas where Canada can make a significant further contribution to tangible progress in Afghanistan. In addition, these initiatives will contribute to improving the lives of Afghan women.

Canada is committed to helping the Afghan people build a country that is better governed and more secure. The facts on the ground indicate that the Afghan security forces need further training. At the Kabul Conference in July of this year, the Afghan government and international allies, including Canada, agreed that training is the key to transition. Without training there can be no transition. By continuing to train more and better Afghan security forces, the goal is to hand lead responsibility for security back to Afghans after 2014.

Canada will continue its involvement by delivering training programs at NATO training facilities. Ours will be a non-combat training role.

Canada’s renewed engagement builds on Canada’s experience and investments in Afghanistan to date, supports Afghan-developed priorities, and sustains progress in key areas essential to Afghanistan’s future.

The estimated cost of Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2014 is $700 million a year over three years, although final costs will not be known until after 2014.

Children and youth

Children and youth are Afghanistan’s greatest resource. Using effective and accountable development assistance, Canada will continue to invest in education and health, building on our significant contribution to date in these areas.

Education: Canada will continue to play a lead role in enabling the Government of Afghanistan to improve access to quality primary and secondary education for Afghans, especially for girls and young women. We will also continue to help improve the transparency and accountability of the Afghan national educational sector to help foster a safe learning environment.

Health: Canada will assist the Government of Afghanistan in improving maternal, newborn and child health. Canada will also continue to be a leading donor to polio eradication in Afghanistan. This support includes Canada’s commitment to the G-8 Muskoka Initiative, launched in June 2010, to reduce the number of maternal, newborn and under-age-5 child deaths in developing countries.

Security, rule of law and human rights

We will build on our expertise and leadership in security and the rule of law, as well as our reputation as a respected partner in the promotion and protection of human rights. Canada will remain committed to advancing gender equality, a core Canadian value, through development programming and diplomatic engagement.

Human rights and justice: Respect for the rights of Afghan citizens and equal access to institutions that uphold these rights is fundamental to Afghanistan’s security, the Government of Afghanistan’s accountability, and the strengthening of Afghan civil society. Canada will build on its investments in human rights promotion and protection, and justice sector capacity building, through targeted initiatives with a particular focus on the needs of women.

Civilian police: Providing effective police services to local populations not only addresses security concerns, but also builds trust between the community, the police and the government. Canada will help strengthen institutional capacity, support anti-corruption efforts, and improve civilian policing skills.

Security forces capacity: The Canadian Forces (CF) will support training of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) by providing up to 950 trainers and support personnel to the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan at facilities centred on Kabul. This training mission will build on the CF’s established expertise in ANSF development, thereby contributing to the goal of preparing Afghans to assume responsibility for their own security.

Regional diplomacy

Canada will continue to facilitate dialogue and advance concrete activities to improve cooperation among the countries in the region, in particular between Afghanistan and Pakistan. As the G-8 president in 2010, Canada launched the Afghanistan-Pakistan Border Regional Prosperity Initiative, building on the successful Canadian-led Dubai Process, which supports border cooperation between the two countries, including enhancing customs, immigration, law enforcement and counter-narcotics arrangements. Canada is well placed to continue this leading role and will further support projects that counter violent extremism in border regions.

Humanitarian assistance

Millions of Afghans still remain vulnerable to chronic food insecurity and natural disasters. Therefore, support for emergency and food assistance remains a necessity. Canada’s investment in Afghanistan’s mine action program will continue to protect innocent civilians and return land to Afghans for productive use. Non-food humanitarian assistance will provide additional assistance to meet the immediate needs of vulnerable Afghans affected by conflict.

Backgrounder - Canada’s Military and Police Training Role in Afghanistan: 2011-2014 (November 16, 2010)

A significant part of Canada’s contribution to security in Afghanistan to date has been the training and mentoring of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

The Kabul Conference, held in July 2010, launched the process of transition to Afghan-led responsibility for security by 2014. However, this requires both an increase in the numbers of Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) officers, as well as an improvement in their professional and technical abilities.

By continuing to train the ANA and ANP, Canada will be helping to build the kind of disciplined and effective security force needed to ensure stability and promote peace and economic development for the Afghan people. The facts on the ground indicate that the Afghan military needs further training. Achieving Canada’s ultimate objectives in Afghanistan depends on improved security. That is why Canada’s training efforts will continue until March of 2014.

The Afghan government and international partners have agreed on the development of a transition process to enable Afghanistan to assume lead responsibility for security after 2014. Canada will continue its involvement in training by delivering training programs centred on Kabul in the context of the NATO mission. Ours will be a non-combat training role.

Military training

The Canadian Forces (CF) will support ANSF training by providing up to 950 trainers to the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan (NTM-A). This training mission will build upon the CF’s established expertise in training the ANSF, thereby contributing to the goal of preparing Afghans to assume responsibility for their own security.

Police training

Providing effective police services to local populations not only helps address security concerns, but also builds trust between the community, the police, and the central government. Canada will deploy Canadian civilian police officers and policy advisers to strengthen institutional capacity and support anti-corruption efforts.

Civilian police: Through the deployment of up to 45 civilian police officers, Canada will continue its involvement in police reform by leading training programs, promoting the establishment of accountability and civilian oversight mechanisms, and advancing institutional reform and capacity building.

Still and video b-roll of NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan imagery is available in the NTM-A gallery at Canadian Forces Image Gallery.

Backgrounder - Canada’s Achievements in Afghanistan to Date (November 16, 2010)

Canada is in Afghanistan as part of a UN-mandated, NATO-led mission with more than 60 other countries and international organizations, at the request of the democratically elected Afghan government. Canada’s objective is to help Afghans build a more secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan that is no longer a safe haven for terrorists.

Canada’s contribution in Afghanistan has focused to date on:

  • enabling the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to sustain a more secure environment and promote law and order;
  • strengthening Afghan institutional capacity to deliver basic services, including health and education, and to promote economic growth;
  • providing humanitarian assistance for vulnerable people, including refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons;
  • enhancing border security through facilitating bilateral dialogue between Afghan and Pakistani authorities;
  • building national institutions that support democratic processes;
  • facilitating Afghan-led efforts toward political reconciliation;
  • three signature projects: building and repairing 50 schools in Kandahar province, rehabilitating the Dahla Dam and its irrigation system, and contributing to the eradication of polio across Afghanistan.

Canada has made a positive difference in the lives of the Afghan people. Although Afghanistan remains a volatile and challenging environment, we have made real progress. Our key achievements so far include:

Training and mentoring

  • Following the overthrow of the Taliban, the Afghan National Army (ANA) was officially instituted in 2002. In eight years, the ANA has grown from roughly 17,000 troops to 134,000 and is on track to meeting its expansion goal of 171,600 troops by October 2011. Canada, along with our international partners, has helped to train and mentor about 50,000 Afghan troops. In Kandahar Province today, three ANA brigades totalling 10,500 soldiers are now bringing security to the population and, alongside international forces, are demonstrating their capability to plan and conduct operations every day.
  • The Afghan National Police (ANP) now numbers almost 116,000, more than the 2010 goal of 109,000 set by the Afghan government and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. It is also on track to meet its 134,000 growth target for 2011. Canadian civilian police and military police mentors have helped to train and guide over 2,800 police officers since 2008. Through this work, Canada has provided necessary funding for building police stations, paying police salaries and equipping officers. As a result, a growing number of Kandaharis say they feel safer in their communities.
  • In addition, Canada has provided professional training to well over 100 corrections personnel in Kandahar. Nearly 150 customs officials have also been trained by Canada at the Afghan National Customs Academy in Kabul.
  • Nevertheless, training remains a key Afghan need moving forward.


  • The Canadian Forces (CF) have made an enormous contribution to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the NATO-led, UN-sanctioned security mission in Afghanistan.
  • From 2005 to 2009, with less than 3,000 troops, the CF had ISAF lead-country responsibility for holding the ground in Kandahar Province and preventing the Taliban from re-taking what had been its strategic heartland.
  • The CF managed to secure populated areas despite the growth and increased complexity of the insurgency. The CF’s “population-centred counter-insurgency” model has been adopted as a model by other ISAF forces.
  • Thanks to Canadian training and mentoring, the improved capacity of the ANSF to conduct large security operations has also helped contribute to a growing perception of security. As a result, a growing number of Kandaharis say they feel safer in their communities—a situation that is creating real opportunities for peaceful progress in all elements of Afghan society.


  • In 2001, only 700,000 Afghan children, almost none of whom were girls, attended school. Today, over 6 million young people are enrolled in school, and one third of them are girls.
  • Canada has contributed to helping establish 4,000 community-based schools and accelerated learning centres in rural and remote areas across the country. In Kandahar Province, Canada has helped build, expand or repair 26 schools to date, with the goal of completing 50 by 2011.
  • There are now 158,000 teachers in the country, up from 21,000 in 2002. Of this number, 29 percent are women; this allows more girls to attend school.
  • Canada has provided literacy training to over 23,500 people and vocational training to over 5,900.
  • Canada is the single biggest donor to the multi-donor World Bank initiative in support of Afghan education priorities. We are working with the Afghans to strengthen the Afghan Ministry of Education, develop curricula, train teachers and increase access to education for students.


  • Today 66 percent of the Afghan population has access to primary health-care services within two hours’ walking distance of their homes. That is up from 9 percent in 2000.
  • Canada, alongside its international partners, has provided polio vaccinations to over 7 million children.
  • The infant mortality rate has been reduced since 2000 through Canadian-funded projects such as UNICEF’s Maternal and Child Health Program, which is improving the availability and the quality of emergency obstetric care in 37 health facilities and four provincial hospitals in southern Afghanistan.
  • Canada has trained over 1,450 health workers, including doctors, nurses, midwives and community health workers.

Economic development

  • A signature contribution by Canada has been the repair and rehabilitation of the Dahla Dam and the Arghandab irrigation system. After being in ruins for decades, water is flowing again and Afghan farmers have renewed opportunities to return this area to a major centre of food production for their country and the region.
  • To help provide community economic development opportunities to Afghans, Canada, alongside its international partners, has provided more than 1 million microfinance loans. Of the 430,000 existing clients, two thirds are women.

Humanitarian assistance

  • In 2009 alone, Canadian funding helped the World Food Programme (WFP) provide more than 275,000 tonnes of food to 9 million Afghans in need. Canada is currently the second-largest donor to the WFP in Afghanistan.
  • More than 500 square kilometres of land have been released back to Afghans, free of mines and remnants of war.
  • Since 2007, more than half a million vulnerable Afghans living in mine-affected areas have received mine-risk education.


  • Canada is helping local, provincial and federal institutions in Afghanistan by providing support to:
    • local governance, through the development of community development councils;
    • financial management and administration, through support to key ministries;
    • human rights, through support to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission; and
    • the electoral system, through support to the Electoral Complaints Commission and the Independent Election Commission.
  • The first Afghan-led presidential and parliamentary elections since the fall of the Taliban were held in 2009 and 2010. Although flawed, the elections remain a significant achievement for a country still engaged in conflict and suffering from 30 years of strife. Canada has played an important part in helping build new democratic institutions and bringing about electoral reform, including by providing election support materials and training to more than 250 female parliamentary candidates.

Regional diplomacy

  • Canada has been working to build confidence and understanding between Afghanistan and Pakistan through the Dubai Process. Through talks facilitated by Canada, the two governments are now developing an agreement to open their three legal crossing points seven days per week and are working on developing a customs-to-customs agreement.
  • Other concrete actions include an agreement for reciprocal visits of immigration officials and a timeline for drafting agreements on law enforcement, counter-narcotics and the movement of people. As the G-8 president in 2010, Canada launched the Afghanistan-Pakistan Border Region Prosperity Initiative, building on the success of the Dubai Process.