Manley commission member says Afghans need Canada to stay the course

The future of Canada’s military role in Afghanistan remains uncertain and is a topic of serious political debate. In tandem with the release of the Manley report, Pamela Wallin, journalist and Canada’s Consul General to New York City, spoke recently at the University of Toronto about Canada’s “moral responsibility” to the country.

Discussing her role as a member of the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan, also known as the Manley Report, and after visiting the country, Wallin said the Canadian military presence in Afghanistan is necessary to protect aid and development workers and to ensure that there will be continued community building in the country.

“You can’t do all the good things that Canadians are involved in doing if you don’t have security,” she told about 200 people at Innis Town Hall, on Jan. 29. “The military is there to offer security and protection so that these things can happen.”

Canadian troops are also being used in Afghanistan to train the Afghan military and police to eventually take over control of their country.

Wallin voiced strong support for the Canadian mission and said there is definitely a need for security and humanitarian aid.

“If you have said to people: ‘We want to come to your country, and we want to help, and we want to be there, and we want to fight with you and teach you, and train you and be part of this fight that’s going on,’ then you don’t leave because the going gets tough,” she said.

The Manley Report has recommended Canada pull out of the country if it doesn’t get the support of another 1,000 soldiers from its NATO allies by 2009.

Wallin believes that there are no other peacekeeping missions for Canada to take part in other than in Afghanistan, and thinks we should embrace the role there.

She asserted that Canada is not a hostile occupying force and said the people of Afghanistan appreciate Canada’s presence in the country because they are afraid of a return to Taliban rule.

Wallin said, Afghans told her they “are so sorry that your men and women are dying for us … but we need you here to help us.”

The Afghanistan government is low on money, men and equipment after 25 years of fighting Russia and each other, and they want us to train them, she said.

But “training is fighting,” Wallin said. So as long as Canada is providing aid to the country, we will have a hand in combat.

When civilians told Wallin that they were sorry Canadians were dying for their cause, she told them “it is our cause too.”