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Troops bid adieu to fallen comrades as senator sounds alarm

'We won't win' unless aid money flows

Daniel Le Blanc, Globe & Mail, 5 Oct 06

 

OTTAWA -- Canada's military mission in Afghanistan will fail unless Ottawa's aid money gets to Kandahar province where most of the troops are based, a Senate committee said yesterday.

 

"If we don't get aid in there, then we won't win militarily," said Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, chairman of the Senate committee on national security and defence.

 

"It's also important for the safety of our troops that local Afghanis associate the patch they see on the shoulders of Canadian troops with good things happening in their community," he said as he released an all-party report, entitled "Managing turmoil."

 

MILNEWS NOTE: The Senate Standing Committee on National Defence and Security's latest report "Managing Chaos" is available here (.pdf, 2.8M), with an executive summary available here.

 

The committee also released a letter from International Co-operation Minister Josée Verner that says Canada cannot track its aid in Afghanistan, because it gives a lump sum to the Afghan government which then decides how and where to spend it.

 

"Some of these programs are active in Kandahar province; however, at this stage, we cannot give specific figures as to how much of Canadian money in support of these programs goes to Kandahar province," Ms. Verner says in her letter to the Senate committee.

 

Ms. Verner says Canada prefers to let local officials determine the best destination for the funds. Canada gives Afghanistan $100-million a year in aid.

 

"The funds that the Canadian International Development Agency provides to national-level programs are not earmarked for Kandahar province, as we support the aid principle of the recipient government setting their own priorities, making it difficult for CIDA to track its funds to the provincial level," she writes.

 

Mr. Kenny said that because of a lack of aid, Afghans do not know whether Canadian troops are "occupiers or liberators."

 

Former prime minister Paul Martin, whose Liberal government authorized the Afghan mission in 2005, was quoted recently as saying he does not approve of the way the military mission is unfolding. The original goal of rebuilding the country has been obscured by increasingly intense fighting, he said.

 

Forty Canadians have been killed in this mission, more than half of them in the past three months.

 

The senators also said that Prime Minister Stephen Harper should go on television to sell the mission to Canadians.

 

"We think there needs to be a very clear statement about what the government expects to get for putting the lives at risk and spending all of that money," Mr. Kenny said. "It's up to the government to make that case and we think, if the case is made well, there will be a significant amount of public support for it."

 

The Senate committee report calls for an increase in Canada's military budget, from $14-billion a year to $20-billion, as well as doubling Canada's foreign-aid budget, from $2.6-billion to $5.2-billion.

 

Mr. Kenny said that in terms of military and development budgets, Canada lags far behind other industrialized countries. "Why are we being cheapskates?" he asked.

 

The committee of Liberal, Conservative and Progressive Conservative senators unanimously called on Canada to relaunch talks to participate in the American anti-missile shield as well as to join the race to put weapons in space.

 

"The truth is that there is nothing inherently evil about weapons, just as there is nothing inherently sacred about space," the report said. "To some critics, the idea of putting weapons in space is unthinkable. To this committee, what is really unthinkable is waiting so long that potential adversaries are allowed to gain an advantage in space that might be insurmountable."


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