By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Dec. 17, 2009 - The demonstrated bravery and resolve of the nearly 3,000 Canadian forces serving in Afghanistan reflects the commitment necessary to achieve success there, the commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan said in the Canadian capital yesterday. Canadian forces' efforts in mentoring Afghan security forces and their work in infrastructure development projects in southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province are greatly appreciated, Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal said at the Conference of Defence Associations Institute in Ottawa.
"The courage and determination of Canadian forces are an inspiration to our coalition," McChrystal said, noting that Canada, with about 2,800 forces in Afghanistan, one of the 44 coalition nations that have devoted considerable resources to the effort. Canada has lost 133 soldiers, three civilian employees and a diplomat supporting operations in Afghanistan.
Though challenging, the mission is Afghanistan "is achievable," McChrystal said. The Afghans, he added, are determined to defeat the Taliban and view coalition forces as partners in that endeavor.
The coalition's core strategy "is to partner with Afghanistan to provide them the time and space to assume their own security, and to shape their own future," McChrystal explained. "We're going to do this by disrupting and degrading the Taliban's capacity, denying them access to the Afghan population and strengthening Afghan security forces."
President Barack Obama directed an extra 30,000 U.S. troops be deployed to Afghanistan in coming months. NATO countries pledged to provide 7,000 additional forces.
"With the decisions made recently by President Obama and other members of the coalition, we have forces moving forward now," McChrystal said. "By this time next year, I believe we'll have indicators across the country – hard reflections, metrics – that will make it clear to us that the insurgency will be defeated."
By the summer of 2011 "we can make that same progress clear to the Afghan people, that the insurgency will not win," McChrystal said.
Canada's contributions in Afghanistan "have in some respects foreshadowed how our capability will be employed in the months ahead with the integration of civilian and military expertise," McChrystal said.
For example, the general said, the primary mission focus is to separate the insurgents from the Afghan people, particularly in the south of the country.
"And, that's where the bulk, of course, of the Canadian forces have been," McChrystal said.
Some Canadian forces serve as mentors to Afghan security forces, McChrystal said, while others employ different skills in development efforts performed by provincial reconstruction teams, which work on development initiatives that provide jobs and education that advance prospects of long-term economic growth for the people of Afghanistan, McChrystal said.
"Canada has made a particular investment in education, with the expansion and repair of 50 schools in Kandahar," McChrystal said. The Canadians also oversee programs, he added, that train teachers and increase female Afghan enrollment and literacy. Canadian engineers also are helping to renovate the 50-year-old Dahla Dam, the largest dam in Kandahar province, and the second-largest in Afghanistan. The dam is about 21 miles north of Kandahar City. When the project is completed, it's expected to double the amount of irrigated land in the region.
Afghanistan has plenty of water, McChrystal said, but it lacks the ability to transport the water where it is needed for agriculture. With proper water management, Afghanistan can become "an absolute net exporter of food," he said.
The general emphasized commitment as the key component to achieving success in Afghanistan.
"Increased capability translates to credibility in the minds of Afghans," McChrystal said. "They want to know that our intentions are to help them." Delivering on promised projects will provide that credibility, he added.
Meanwhile, the commitment displayed by coalition nations has been key, McChrystal said. "And that resolve will be critical in the months ahead," he told the group.