Afghan Reconciliation to be a Priority?

Canadian soldiers meet with Afghan elders.  Originally uploaded by lafrancevi.

Canadian soldiers meet with Afghan elders. Originally uploaded by lafrancevi.

In a recent article appearing in the Ottawa Citizen, Brian Hutchinson outlines comments made by the Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan, regarding Canada’s role in the country post-2011.

Ambassador Ron Hoffmann indicated reconciliation between Taliban insurgents and an elected Afghan government will be a priority for Canadians, even without a military presence in the country. Canadian resources and support would be made available at the request of Afghans, “should they find themselves in a position to move forward on a reconciliation process, and should they want Canadian help.” Despite enthusiasm for reconciliation support, Hoffmann noted there remain “many theoretical options on the table for how our civilian presence will be shaped and will look like, post-2011.”

Even with the Ambassador’s optimism for a negotiated end to hostilities, he did have his doubts as to when such a process could begin. Referencing the Taliban and the Canadian government, Hoffmann remarked “the goals still remain very different,” but that he is ““encouraged” by statements from some Taliban leaders” in distancing their own insurgency from that of al-Qaeda.

Also touched upon by Hoffmann was the role of Canada’s Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), indicating the group’s status beyond 2011 is unknown. Without a Canadian military presence, the civilian-run entity would have to rely on private companies for their security needs. Even so, the PRT’s projects “would move forward to completion, regardless of how far behind the projects might be in terms of scheduling and progress.”

Read the entire article below or visit The Ottawa Citizen.

Reconciling Taliban, Kabul priority: diplomat
Canadian civilians ready to play role in Afghan healing process, post-2011

By Brian Hutchinson, Canwest News Service May 28, 2009

Helping reconcile Taliban insurgents with an elected Afghan government will be a Canadian priority even after our troops are recalled from the country, says Canada’s ambassador to Afghanistan.

Ron Hoffmann made the comment Wednesday during a teleconference with reporters in Kandahar, in a discussion focused on the roles that Canadian civilians might play in Afghanistan after Canada’s military withdraws in 2011.

“There are many theoretical options on the table for how our civilian presence will be shaped and will look like, post-2011,” said Hoffmann. “But those decisions have not yet been made.”

However, he said that Canada would want to assist in any potential reconciliation process between the Afghan government and insurgents.

“Afghan reconciliation is one of Canada’s priorities,” said Hoffmann. “We’ve signalled to the Afghans that should they find themselves in a position to move forward on a reconciliation process, and should they want Canadian help and resources or other support, that we’re prepared to make ourselves available to them.”

He doubts a reconciliation process is about to get underway soon.

“The goals still remain very different,” he noted. But the ambassador is “encouraged” by statements from some Taliban leaders that put distance between their violent insurgency and al-Qaeda.

“I think the Taliban are really increasingly defining themselves, at least in Afghanistan, as a national force, as a national phenomenon, and distancing themselves from other global Islamicist movements. I think that’s a good starting point.”

Hoffmann reiterated Canada’s position that all of its ground forces will be out of Kandahar by 2011.

Canadian civilians who remain to work on reconstruction and development projects will have to rely on private companies to protect them, he noted.

There will be no Canadian soldiers around to protect Canada’s Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) headquarters in downtown Kandahar City.

The PRT station is a heavily fortified compound where close to 100 Canadian civilians direct development and reconstruction projects in Kandahar province.

Hoffmann said that the PRT’s fate beyond 2011 is uncertain.

His comment follows a Canwest News Service report regarding speculation that foreign-led PRTs across Afghanistan country may soon be scrapped in favour of more direct military intervention.

Questions about the Canadian PRT’s future does not mean that elaborate tax-funded “signature” projects will wither and die, Hoffmann emphasized.

He said the projects would move forward to completion, regardless of how far behind the projects might be in terms of scheduling and progress.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

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