This paper considers lessons that can be drawn from the Canadian effort in Afghanistan, especially the challenges of trying to build security, governance and development in Kandahar. First, it examines how the Canadian Forces (CF) adapted over time, both in Afghanistan and in Ottawa. Second, it looks at the challenges presented by a minority government and what can be learned from this political context. Third, it examines what was learned about the constraining forces on Canadian defence policy — the Opposition and public opinion — and evaluates the consequences for Canada’s next military engagement. The paper concludes by developing the implications for Canada’s future missions.

The Afghanistan Papers are essays authored by prominent academics, policy makers, practitioners and informed observers that seek to challenge existing ideas, contribute to ongoing debates and influence international policy on issues related to Afghanistan’s transition. A forward-looking series, the papers combine analysis of current problems and challenges with explorations of future issues and threats.