By Brandon Currie (in Waterloo, Canada)
In a presentation at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), Canadian Forces Colonel Roch Lacroix, the former Deputy Commander of Canda’s military forces in Afghanistan from February to November 2009, and Tara Denham, the current Chief of Staff of the Canadian civilian representative in Kandahar, outlined several positive developments coming out of the troubled country. The pair was in Waterloo as part of the Government of Canada’s recent effort to showcase the success stories and ongoing challenges of the Afghan mission to the Canadian public.
"I would suggest that the average Canadian only knows five percent of what’s going on in Afghanistan,” said Lacroix, former deputy commander of Canadian and NATO Forces in Kandahar Province.“I don’t mean that in a negative sense; that’s reality. Most Canadians get their information from the media, which focuses on bad news… What Canadians don’t hear is the 95 percent of the good work military and civilian folks are doing right now in Afghanistan."
The presentation hinged on a time period from February to November 2009, when Canada’s civilian and military efforts in Kandahar were overhauled to create a “unity of thought, purpose and action.” Following John Manley’s 2008 report on Canada’s role in Afghanistan, the mission in Kandahar became more focused on security, governance and economic development, according to Denham. She pointed to 80 percent polio eradication, the establishment of 12 schools (and training of 200 teachers), corrections reform at Sarpoza Prison and the ongoing development of the Dahla Dam project as success stories coming out of the province.
Similarly, Lacroix explained that 2009 was also a turning point for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kandahar. With an influx of American troops in the region and a new mentality that saw ISAF soldiers become more integrated in the villages in and around Kandahar City, Lacroix said his forces were able to better secure up to 85 percent of the province’s population. While acknowledging the challenges that remain in training the Afghan National Army, Lacroix praised its growing tactical abilities and tenacity.
Brandon Currie is an Online Content Editor at CIGI.