The Canadian Presence in Afghanistan

Tasneem Jamal

The Ploughshares Monitor Spring 2006 Volume 27 Issue 1

Canada sent four military ships to the Persian Gulf in late 2001 in support of the Bush Administration’s “war on terror,” and in February 2002 added a battle group that was sent to Kandahar for combat duty and airfield security as part of the US-led coalition, Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). During this operation four Canadian soldiers were killed when they were mistakenly bombed by American forces. In August 2003 Canada joined the UN-authorized International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), established to meet a requirement of the internationally brokered deal in Bonn in late 2001 on a new interim government. The Canadian contingent assisted in maintaining security in the capital, Kabul, and the region around it. Support for ISAF continued until October 2005, with Canadian general Rick Hillier, now Chief of Staff of the Canadian Forces, serving as ISAF Commander for a six-month rotation beginning in August 2004. Two successive deployments of single Canadian patrol frigates in 2004 and 2005 joined American naval forces in the region.

Now the Canadian Forces are deploying their largest contingent yet. Based in Kandahar, some of the Canadian forces are rejoining Operation Enduring Freedom, in part to manage the transition of the southern operation into the now NATO-commanded ISAF. Canada is supplying headquarters personnel for a multinational brigade, as well as a battle group for two six-month tours of duty. Up to 100 Special Forces of the Joint Task Force 2 are also deployed to the Kandahar region. As well, Canadian forces lead a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) that includes CIDA, Foreign Affairs, and the RCMP. The PRT is tasked with extending the authority of the Afghan Government, establishing security, and rebuilding in one of the least stable regions of the country. The PRT attempts to advance security and reconstruction by building cooperation with local communities. Returning from one such effort on January 15, 2006, Canadian Glyn Berry, the senior PRT diplomat, was killed and three Canadian soldiers were seriously injured by a suicide bomber attack.

All told, more than 2,000 Canadian Forces personnel will be in Afghanistan once the deployments are complete. Since 2001 Canada has also provided more than $600-million in non-military aid to Afghanistan.

The UN mandate

Action in Afghanistan is clearly authorized by the United Nations. In fact, the legality of the US military action against Afghanistan that began in October 2001 has never been in serious dispute. The wisdom of that action, with its focus on driving the Taliban from power in Afghanistan rather than on bringing the perpetrators of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States to justice, was and should certainly be questioned, but not on legal grounds. UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1368 (Sept. 122/01) recognized “the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence in accordance with the Charter,” implicitly endorsing NATO’s invocation of Article V, and went on to call “on all States to work together urgently to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these terrorist attacks.”

In UNSC Resolution 1386 (Dec 20/01), the Security Council “welcome[ed] developments in Afghanistan” (that is, the defeat of the Taliban), endorsed the establishment of a provisional government through the Dec 5/01 Bonn Agreement, and authorized a UK-led International Security Assistance Force, as called for in Annex I to the Bonn Agreement. Resolution 1386 “authorizes the Member States participating in the International Security Assistance Force to take all necessary measures to fulfill its mandate … to assist the Afghan Interim Authority in the maintenance of security in Kabul and it surrounding areas, so that the Afghan Interim Authority as well as the personnel of the United Nations can operate in a secure environment.”

In October 2003 (UNSC Res 1510, Oct 13/03) the Security Council expanded the ISAF mandate “to allow it, as resources permit, to support the Afghan Transitional Authority and its successors in the maintenance of security in areas of Afghanistan outside Kabul and its environs.” The resolution also called upon ISAF “to continue to work in close consultation with the Afghan Transitional Authority and its successors and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General as well as with the Operation Enduring Freedom Coalition in the implementation of the force mandate.”

In August 2003, NATO “assumed command of ISAF indefinitely” (see UN Secretary-General’s report A/60/224-S/2005/525, para. 68) and in Resolution 1510 the Security Council acknowledged the receipt of a letter from NATO to the UN Secretary-General “regarding a possible expansion of the mission of the International Security Assistance Force.”

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