OTTAWA — The federal government quietly released on Thursday the final report on Canada's mission in Afghanistan, a document which shows mixed results on Canada's "signature" development projects.
While efforts in education and agriculture were successful, in others fields — such as polio eradication — Canada failed outright, according to the report.
Unlike the 13 previous quarterly reports, this one includes a reflective foreword penned by Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself.
"This provides an occasion for all Canadians to pause and reflect on what Canada has achieved in supporting international security and the dreams and aspirations of the Afghan people between 2008 and 2011, and on the work that remains to be done," Harper wrote.
The report was discreetly tabled with no fanfare, at a time when the lion's share of the national media were in the budget lockup and unable to obtain it.
NDP defence critic Jack Harris described the report — particularly the timing of its release — as "largely self-serving."
"It's written in a mission-accomplished style, but everybody knows Afghanistan is very much a work in progress with an uncertain future," he said. "It basically says this is all over, when, in fact, we still have 950 troops still in Afghanistan with a great expenditure of Canadian dollars, with questionable results frankly."
While Harper declared Canada's mission a success overall, he admitted that Afghanistan is still years away from stability and prosperity.
"The challenges that the Afghan people continue to face today are formidable and the country will require years to recover from the violence, underdevelopment and poor governance that 30 years of war, turmoil, and oppression from the Taliban have caused," Harper wrote.
Canada has achieved 33 of its 44 development objectives, the report says.
The quarterly reports are a result of the Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan, which said Canadians had too little information on the mission, and needed some objective way of measuring the success of Canadian efforts.
Led by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley, the panel also suggested Canada identify a number of so-called "signature" development projects, so Canadians could have a clearer picture of Canada's non-military mission.
The most spectacular and ambitious of Canada's projects was the rehabilitation of the Dahla Dam and Arghandab irrigation system. Some 500 kilometres of canals — vital to farming — have been rebuilt, and for the first time in decades, water is running to the furthest reaches of the system.
As a result, the area of arable land in Kandahar province has grown from 17,200 hectares to 30,000 hectares, a boon for the province's long-term food stability and economy.
The project however, failed to reach the goal of creating 10,000 seasonal construction jobs, attaining only 5,000 in the end.
Canada surpassed its signature project in the education field — two more schools than the goal of 50. Goals of training 3,000 teachers and providing adult literacy training to 20,000 Afghans were also surpassed.
Canada failed outright, however, in its goal to eradicate polio from Afghanistan by 2009, the report said. Although an estimated 386,000 vaccinations were administered, only 93 per cent of children in Kandahar were reached.
Polio infections in Afghanistan increased to 80 cases in 2011, up from 17 in 2009.
But since the war began, access to basic health care countrywide has gone to 85 per cent from 10 per cent.
Signature projects aside, the report details the breadth of Canada's results in fields ranging from human rights education, justice reform, de-mining, and training of Afghan soldiers and police.
The report shows Canada made little impact on corruption and mismanagement within the Afghan government.
Harris said one of the NDP's longstanding concerns — that too much money was being spent on military matters and not enough on development — has been proven correct.
"With the same amount of money spent on the military — and a better balance — we could have achieved significant goals that would have assisted the Afghan people in having a more stable society," he said.
© Copyright (c) Postmedia News