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Supporting The Call For More Development

Supporting the call for more development

Recently the Senlis Council's Norine MacDonald presented its position to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

The Senlis Council is not a newcomer to the Afghanistan debate. Until now however, with Senlis moving beyond their traditional focus on global drug issues, Ruxted has seen little common ground with this group. We are pleasantly surprised with, and strongly support, the opinions in their presentation.
First: Ms. MacDonald understands that development only starts when security is in place. This quite obvious fact is obscured in Canada because some high profile, national political leaders and some institutes are spreading disinformation to the effect that we can cease combat operations and switch to development, aid and traditional peacekeeping – that’s unadulterated rubbish. Ms. MacDonald affirms that the Canadian Forces are doing good and essential work in Kandahar – work which cannot be subject to simple-minded “out now’ or, more stupidly, “out in Feb 09” slogans such as those offered by irresponsible opposition parties.

Second: Ms. MacDonald understands that development, accomplished through visible and visibly Canadian development projects, is vital to the success of Canada’s aims in Afghanistan – aims defined by successive Canadian governments. If Canada is failing in Afghanistan it is not attributable to Defence efforts, but in the Development and Diplomacy arms of Canada’s 3D strategy.

One of Ms. MacDonald’s key recommendations is to get CIDA (the Canadian International Development Agency) out of the business in Afghanistan and replace it with something that will get the job done. In this she echoes previous parliamentary recommendations that CIDA be disbanded based on its abysmal African failures. While foreign aid delivery is beyond Ruxted’s scope our BS detectors rang loud and clear when International Cooperation Minister Josée Verner appeared on CBC Radio following the Senlis' charge of CIDA ineffectiveness. Verner's litany of Afghan "accomplishments" were primarily military (PRT) projects for which she grabbed the credit because they were ‘development,’ hence CIDA.

Yes, development money flows through CIDA’s hands, but providing accounting services hardly equates to doing anything useful for the mission in Afghanistan. The Ruxted Group believes that CIDA needs to be booted out of Afghanistan. The money needs to flow through the Ambassador in Kabul and the PRT commander in Kandahar, to support projects identified by the local Afghan leaders and then delivered quickly and visibly by Canadian personnel - Canadian-advised contractors, NGOs, and soldiers. With security continuing to be extended, increased development funding will be necessary, but maximizing the return demands an efficiently not possible with CIDA in place. The key is that the diplomats must take ownership of the development project, find the money in Ottawa, and shepherd it through the system to Afghanistan.

Third: Ms. MacDonald understands that ‘winning’ requires winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. Burning their only cash crop (marijuana and opium poppies) is counter-productive. Maybe there are better ideas than those offered by Senlis, but the current drug eradication policy is not one of them. Canada should tell ISAF: keep your drug eradication programme off our turf; the drug trade obviously harms both Afghanistan and Canada, but there has to be a way to reduce the flow of drugs without hurting the people we are trying to help – the local farmers.

Canadians need to understand that drug eradication is not Canada’s policy or programme. While US-supported, it is a Government of Afghanistan project. And although well within the Afghan leadership's ambit, Ruxted recommends that our Ambassador and advisors in Kabul persuade President Karzai to try other solutions, particularly in Kandahar province.

A final point raised by Senlis, with which Ruxted sympathizes, is that extensive aerial bombing, often compensating for the limited number of troops on the ground, harms local support. The solution, however, is not to simply stop using it. Given the realities of troop strength on the ground, combat commanders have to balance risk to troops in contact with risks to the mission's aim -- and they are, each and every day . Our military leaders are well aware of the impact of firepower on the hearts and minds issue; this was one of the factors for deploying the Leopard tanks, which can provide accurate fire support, especially where non-combatant civilians are present. But we must be very, very clear: less air support means more flag-draped coffins returning to Canada.

The Senlis Council’s brief to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs deserves a good, serious read by Canadians and a good, serious debate should follow.

The Ruxted Group affirms: troops should stay until Canada’s national aims are accomplished; accomplishing our aims will happen only when ‘development’ is bigger and better than now – CIDA is part of the problem, not part of the solution; and winning against insurgents involves a bargain, of sorts: we must offer the ordinary Afghan people something better than what they have now and something better than what is on offer from the insurgents. Burning their best cash crops and bombing their villages doesn’t make things ‘better.’ The Senlis Council’s solutions may not be the best but Ruxted supports the thrust of their views.

Finally, The Ruxted Group reaffirms its call for the Government of Canada to, as Senlis says, “articulate its goals” in Afghanistan. Canada’s mission in Afghanistan is, as we have said, a 'a good war' – a just cause - part of our ‘Responsibility to Protect.’ Canada’s mission is, as we have also said, 'winnable' if we use the best tactics in the field and if we have support at home. It is the responsibility of the Government of Canada to tell Canadians, to convince Canadians of the worth of the mission. Thus far it has failed to do so.


The Ruxted Group on : We agree, again

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About six months ago The Ruxted Group was pleasantly surprised to find that we and the Senlis Council were in rough accord on the need for more development in Afghanistan, delivered in a more effective manner. Once again we find ourselves in broad accor


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E.R. Campbell on :

Please see this editorial from today’s ‘National Post’ -

The Post, which, is “philosophically opposed to some favoured Senlis policies,” says, however: “The basic idea is simple: Opium is medicine, so why destroy it? In an age of rising global prosperity and life expectancies, the medical demand for opioids such as codeine and morphine is rising all the time, and indeed is outstripping supply according to UN measures. Yet there are no legal arrangements for Afghan farmers to produce licensed opium legally for the international pharmaceutical market.”

I agree. Let's help the poor, war ravaged Afghan farmers grow and sell their opium poppy crops – one of the few profitable crops which will grow easily in their poor soil.

The US ‘war on drugs’ and the drug eradication projects which are an integral part of it has, thus far, failed to accomplish much and, in Afghanistan, is counter-productive. We need a new policy – if not for Afghanistan then, at least, for Kandahar and if not for ever at least for a fair trial – say a decade.

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