Caution: this is a long article crammed full of facts; facts which will contradict the ‘stories’ being put about by politicians, journalists and anti-military academics and ‘peace activists.’ It might be dangerous, even subversive because it may cause some readers to actually understand what is happening in Afghanistan. It may shatter some belief systems because the cold, hard facts are at odds with the prevailing 'wisdom' in Canada.
A few days ago The Ruxted Group provided a rather bleak assessment of the likely consequences of a precipitous (early 2009) Canadian withdrawal from combat operations in Afghanistan.
Today we offer a counterpoint: a catalogue of the ‘good news’ items which, we fear, are not sufficiently ‘newsworthy’ and fail to make it on to our TV screens and, therefore, do not ‘inform’ Canadian public opinion. It is a long list but it barely scratches the surface. There is so much aid and development going on that we are persuaded that journalists and NGO workers and officials must be tripping over the projects. Even in deadly dangerous Kandahar where, admittedly, less is being done because the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghans National Police (ANP), supported by Canadian combat troops, have not, yet, managed to bring sufficient security to that province – not sufficient, yet, to satisfy the ‘requirements’ of the NGOs who remain hard at work in the relatively peaceful North.
At the national level the NATO led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) development work has ensured that:
1. Millions of girls are back in school with 400,000 new female students starting school for the first time this year;
2. Over 100,000 women benefited from micro finance loans to set up their own business;
3. Over a quarter of parliamentarians are women;
4. Over 7 million girls and boys are in school or higher education;
5. 83% of the population now has access to medical facilities, compared to 9 percent in 2004;
6. 76% of children under the age of five have been immunized against childhood diseases;
7. More than 4000 medical facilities opened since 2004;
8. Over 600 midwives were trained and deployed in every province of Afghanistan;
9. GDP growth estimates of between12-14% for the current year;
10. Government revenues increased by around 25% from 2005/06 to 2006/07;
11. Income per capita of $355, compared to $180 three years ago;
12. Afghanistan is one of the fastest growing economies in South-East Asia;
13. Over 4000 km of roads have been completed;
14. Work has begun on 20,000 new homes for Afghans returning to Kabul;
15. Over 1 billion square metres (roughly 32 km X 32 km) of mine contaminated land cleared;
16. 10 universities are operating around the country, against one (barely functioning) under the Taliban; and
17. 17,000 communities benefited from development programmes such as wells, schools, hospitals and roads through the Government’s National Solidarity Program (NSP).
Most of those projects have some, often substantial, Canadian components: money, management and personnel. Some, like (13) new roads and (17) new wells and schools, are the work-a-day projects of the Canadian soldiers in the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) who are managing or doing the building and rebuilding using funds provided by the Canadian International Development Agency.
Further, the creation of the sorts of institutions which will make it possible for Afghans, themselves, to address their own political problems in their own ways – but free of dangerous fundamentalist propaganda – is also underway in the form of communications and information technology development which facilitates the free exchange of ideas and information:
18. 10% of Afghans now own a mobile phone, compared to 2 lines per 1000 people in 2001;
19. 150 cities across Afghanistan now have access to mobile phone networks and internet provider services; and
20. 7 national TV stations (6 private); numerous radio networks, plus a diverse and increasingly robust and professional print media are up and running.
That's 20 out of a much longer list of ISAF projects.
CANADIAN (CIDA) PROJECTS
There are some important Canadian projects underway too – not all of them in Kandahar. Examples, from long, long lists, include:
1. Canada is contributing $20+ Million to the National Solidarity Program – item 17, above, which is the Afghan Government’s primary program for community development. It aims to reduce poverty by empowering communities to take initiative, improving local governance and increasing social, human and economic capital. This is key to strengthening local governance and citizen participation, and to increasing the Government of Afghanistan’s legitimacy and capacity. Specifically, in Kandahar, these are just a few of the completed projects:
• over 55 km of irrigation canals dug or rehabilitated;
• More than 120 km of rural roads have been rehabilitated in Kandahar to allow market access for Afghan villagers;
• over 1,200 kW of diesel electrical generating capacity installed; and
• over 1,100 shallow wells dug.
2. Canada is contributing even more, $23+ Million, to the National Area Based Development Program. In Kandahar province, alone:
District Development Assemblies (the base for free political decision making) have been established in each of the 17 districts in Kandahar. In total, over 1,200 men and 250 women participated in the process of establishing these assemblies; and
These Assemblies can now ‘direct’ the PRT (and Canadian development aid) to projects like: the rehabilitation of 21 karezes, traditional Afghan irrigation tunnels; the establishment of 136 village drinking water wells; and the procurement, installation and maintenance training of solar powered household lighting systems.
3. Canada is contributing $6+ Million to a project which has trained 75 prosecutors in juvenile justice, financial and gender crimes; 68 law graduates as public defenders; and 90 judges (16 women) in civil, commercial, criminal law/procedure, plus 75 judges have been trained in specialized civil, commercial, criminal law/procedures and 20 judges have been trained in Trainer-Of-Trainer courses, and a year-long training course for 50 public defenders is underway.
4. $14+ Million goes towards a project which aims to establish up to 4,000 community-based schools, as well as after-school learning programs and to provide training for 9,000 schoolteachers, at least 4,000 of whom will be women. About 120,000 schoolchildren in 11 provinces (including Kandahar Province) will benefit from this project (85 percent of them girls).
The Ruxted Group wonders if Canadians understand that:
A. The National Solidarity Program (NSP) is the largest community development program in the history of Afghanistan.
B. The NSP is based on the Afghan traditions of:
• “Ashar” – community members working together on a volunteer basis to improve community infrastructure;
• “Jirga” – councils comprised of respected members of the community; and
• Islamic values of unity, equity and justice.
C. Less than one percent of the initiatives launched through the National Solidarity Program have been destroyed or targeted by insurgents.
CANADIAN PRT PROJECTS IN KANDAHAR
In Kandahar Province, the PRT has assisted in the election process of 437 Community Development Councils (including 110 for women). These councils – of which there are now 14,558 in Afghanistan, now officially constitute the first level of government representation in villages. Through the National Solidarity Program, each Council is allocated up to $60,000 US dollars to select and carryout community projects of greatest need. More than 700 such projects have been carried out in Kandahar Province. Of note, only one such project is believed to have been attacked by insurgents because the projects are community projects which the communities themselves own and carry out the work required – the PRT only guides and advises. Examples of projects include water supply, sanitation, irrigation, dams, bridge construction, power supply and education.
Canada has committed troops, resources, development and political effort to help the Afghan government secure a better future for its people. It’s working – not, to be sure, as quickly or as well as most Canadians wish; the Afghan people and their elected government, supported by tough, brave Canadian combat troops, are redeveloping their own country in their own way and, in the process, they are changing the nature of many of their traditions, especially those regarding equality for women.
Here is a rather lengthy list of Kandahar PRT projects – the very projects too many politicians and journalists say are not happening:
1. Nine Village Medical Outreach (VMO) visits were organised in conjunction with the Battle Group around Kandahar Province. More than 2000 Afghan people received basic medical care and material assistance in remote areas from Panjwayi to Mienishin. In conjunction with the Afghan Ministry of Health, local doctors and dentists provided the treatment. In addition to giving out medication, the material distributed ranged from tools, school supplies, food, blankets and clothing, toys, carpets and radios. (Approx. $80,000 CAD)
2. The KPRT participated in International Women’s Day and supported the celebration. Other initiatives were started. Two Women’s wellness sessions took place. One at at the Directorate of Women’s affairs building and one at the Kandahar Prison. The goal of these sessions is to improve quality of life of women and inform them on Government activities.
(Approx. $1000.00 CAD)
3. The KPRT distributed more than 6,000 donated school kits to children around Kandahar Province and donated 100 bicycles to the Ministry of Education for the end of year awards.
4. The KPRT continued and improved on the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul program to support the Afghan National Police. As a result, local Afghans received training and are working to repair Afghan National Police (ANP) vehicles. More vehicles mean more patrols, and more patrols mean better security for the people of Kandahar. (Approx. $100,000)
5. Twelve brand new Toyota pick up trucks were donated to the ANP.
6. Solid waste disposal truck and medication were donated to Mir Wais Hospital located in Kandahar City. (Approx. $ 26,000)
7. The KPRT improved the plumbing system of the Kandahar City Prison (Approx. $5,000). A prisoner transfer van was purchased for the Ministry of Justice to transport prisoners from the prison to the courthouse and is available to move sick prisoners to Mir Wais Hospital. (Approx. $8,400 CAD).
8. The KPRT donated computers and constructed a water distribution system for Kandahar University. The KPRT also purchased a generator to provide enough power for courses to carry on during days where there is no electricity in the City. ($80,000 CAD)
9. The KPRT purchased a generator for the Cloak of the Prophet shrine ($12,300 CAD) in Kandahar City and is building an ablution facility for the EID GAH Mosque (Part of Kandahar University Project).
10. The KPRT employed more than 100 Afghans and engaged many local businesses for projects at Camp Nathan Smith, which represented approximately $3 million CAD spent in the local economy.
11. A new ammunition and weapon storage facility was constructed at the Afghan National Police Headquarters. This is an essential force protection enhancement providing a centrally controlled; secure storage solution for the ANP. (Approx. $63,000 CAD)
12. In cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme’s Disarmament Demobilisation and Reintegration Initiative, an Ammunition Consolidation Point was constructed at the Afghan National Army’s Camp Shirzai to secure ammunition and store it securely. This removes another source of explosives that can be used to create Improvised Explosives Devices that threaten the lives of our soldiers.
13. The ANP HQ also had a 100 Call Centre added which is similar to the 911 system found throughout North America to further enhance security. (Approx. cost $8,000 CAD)
14. The community surrounding the KPRT received a number of improvements to its road network, power and water supply. (Approx. $40,000 CAD)
15. A plastic bottle and aluminium cans recycling program was initiated at the KPRT. A local businessman agreed to collect the material, which created local employment and a cleaner environment. (Approx $ 500 CAD initial cost)
16. The KPRT donated $6000 CAD worth of medical supplies and linens to the Afghan National Police hospital in Kandahar City.
17. The KPRT assisted three shop owners whose livelihoods were devastated by the 22 August IED attack that killed Cpl David Braun to reopen their businesses through the purchase of building supplies and tools such as scales, a butcher’s block, knives, a cash register, etc.
18. The KPRT donated baby formula and baby bottles and delivered school supplies donated by Girl Guides from Maple Ridge, B.C. and hand-knit stuffed animals donated by a knitting circle in Dartmouth, N.S., to the Mir Wais Hospital paediatric ward on 26 September, 2006.
19. The KPRT donated 100 sets of diagnostic equipment to the nursing school at the Mir Wais Hospital in Kandahar City for use by student nurses on 21 October, 2006 (Approx $ 37,000 CAD).
20. On 21 October 2006, the KPRT celebrated Eid-al-Fitur with Afghan employees at Camp Nathan Smith, members of the Afghan National Police who assist with camp security and families who live in the vicinity of the Camp.
21. The KPRT donated school supplies, stuffed animals and candy to the Shaheed Abdul Ahad Kham Orphanage on 26 October, 2006 during a reconnaissance to determine the feasibility of several projects the orphanage has requested.
22. The KPRT renders support to tactical operations throughout the Province of Kandahar, spending more than $26,000 CAD to date. The activities include:
o $10,000 CAD for repairs to the Shams-U-Dinkakr High School at Panjwayi Bazaar, including a water supply system, doors, windows and general repairs.
o $4,500 CAD to supply cellular phone cards to local leaders in Panjwayi and Zharey districts.
o More than $12,000 CAD in “cash for work” projects, such as clearing irrigation canals and picking up rubble and garbage, designed to provide temporary relief for those who have had their livelihoods disrupted, and other, smaller initiatives
Development is happening. Those who say it is not are either ignorant or dishonest or both. Those who call for a pull out want all this good work to stop; their aim is no more ‘good news’ for the Afghan people. They want us to abandon Afghanistan’s women and school-girls and return them to the sort of slavery the Taliban wants to re-impose.
The ‘good news’ is readily available from NATO and CIDA. We continue to wonder why Canadians are not hearing it. Ruxted has suggested that a combination of ‘news’ imperatives and bureaucratic ineptitude are, partially, to blame but we also suggest that there is veritable ‘stampede’ towards failure in Canada and that some journalists, a few academics, many anti-military busybodies and too many opposition politicians are ‘driving the herd’ towards a precipice
Canada, as part of NATO/ISAF is making a difference, right now, in Afghanistan – in Kandahar, too. There is more, much more, to be done but, especially in Kandahar, that ‘more’ cannot happen until NATO helps the ANA and ANP bring a much higher level of security to the province. If NATO fails – as it likely will if Canada withdraws – all of Canada’s good work and all those tens, even hundreds of millions of dollars will be wasted.
The Ruxted Group urges Canadians to tell each other – including the media and academics and politicians – the ‘good news’ about Afghanistan and to decide, for themselves, to ‘do the right thing’ (stay the course on development) and ‘do things right’ (continue the combat mission to ‘save’ Kandahar and sustain the gains made by Afghanistan’s women and children).
The Ruxted Group on : The Manley Report
The Manley ReportThe Report of the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan (hereafter the Manley Report or just the Report) has been published, and Ruxted is, generally, pleased with the results. In particular, we are happy to see endors