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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

General says Canada leaves better future in Afghanistan

I like the last line in the article....

 "In the end, (Afghans) will decide who is going to win."

ANA and the CF working together

Challenges remain as 10-year mission comes to a close


Canadian troops leave southern Afghanistan in much better shape than when they arrived, says a top commander for the last rotation of Canada's combat mission in Kandahar.

In some of his first public comments since returning from Afghanistan in July, Brig.-Gen. Richard Giguere, deputy commander for the last rotation of Canadian troops to fight in Afghanistan, described conditions as tentatively improving in the country's wartorn southern province.

"What I've seen in Kandahar in the last year was a lot of progress," said Giguere. "But I'm not saying the situation is perfect because this is a huge task to do."

Speaking at a Herald editorial board Thursday, Giguere spoke about the challenges for Afghanistan going ahead, including how the country will fare without the help of coalition forces.

Giguere spent almost a year in Kandahar, his second deployment to Afghanistan after a seven-month tour in Kabul in 2004. A career soldier and native Quebecer, Giguere said that even with four kids and a grandchild, if he were asked to return to Afghanistan tomorrow, he would go in a heartbeat.  "That's how strongly I believe in what we did there, and what we are doing there," said Giguere.  But after a decade of Canadian commitment- with 158 lives lost and more than $18 billion spent- it's difficult to say whether day-to-day life for Afghans has really improved.

There are conflicting reports regarding levels of violence. Coalition estimates suggest Taliban attacks were down slightly this year from last, while UN estimates suggest "security incidents," including suicide attacks, were 39 per cent higher.

Still, Giguere said he is optimistic about the progress being made, lauding the American brigade taking over at Kandahar as "great guys".  He joked that the American soldiers had suffered a bit in the blazing heat of southern Afghanistan - especially since the brigade had come from Alaska - "Talk about a different environment," laughed Giguere.
Shura a meeting of elders

But the soldiers taking over at Kandahar will face the same volatile and shifting enemy that the Canadians have danced with for years, especially in the ultraviolent Panjwaii district. "We couldn't recognize the Taliban in the street, they don't wear uniforms," said Giguere. "They could be farmers by day and then be putting IEDs on the road by night."

Giguere hopes the painstaking work of Canadians, including training Afghan soldiers, recruiting police and building roads, will bear up after coalition troops have left the country.  He speaks proudly of the role Canadians played in taking Afghan National Army soldiers from "uniforms with guns" to trained professional soldiers, capable of executing operations independently.  But Giguere also acknowledged the hurdles remaining as Afghans face the prospect of a withdrawal of coalition forces, potentially as early as 2014, without a competent civil service and a population crippled by devastating rates of illiteracy.

"It's going to be a long road," said Giguere.

"In a counter insurgency operation, the centre of gravity is the population. In the end, (Afghans) will decide who is going to win."
An Afghan National Army engineer smiles and expresses his pleasure in finding Improvised Explosive Devices during a search in the grapevines of a compound of Nakhonay village during Operation ARAY. Photo by : MCpl Karl McKay Photographer JTF-Afg Hires


Read more: http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/canada-in-afghanistan/General+says+Canada+leaves+better+future+Afghanistan/5547858/story.html#ixzz1bDbkhFU3

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