Government Response to the first Report of the Standing Committee on National Defence
Canadian Forces in Afghanistan
The Government of Canada has carefully considered the First Report of the Standing Committee on National Defence on the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. The Government has taken note of the 19 recommendations contained in the committee’s Report.
This response provides a concise overview of the Government’s position with respect to each recommendation, and is intended to provide the committee with a sense of the multidisciplinary nature of Canada’s overall mission.
The Government of Canada would like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on National Defence for their work leading to their report on the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan.
Detailed Responses to the Recommendations
The government should review regulations governing the disbursement of reconstruction and development funding through the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team, to ensure project funding can flow at the rate necessary to meet the requirements of the mission and establish a process of financial and project accountability.
The Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) is a key component of the Government of Canada’s whole-of-government effort to promote long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan. Since Canada assumed responsibility for the PRT two years ago, its strategic and operational approach has evolved significantly to ensure that project funding is flowing at an appropriate rate while maintaining effective financial and project accountability. The Government has also taken specific action to increase the PRT’s overall effectiveness by adding personnel, expanding the number of partner organizations and the variety of its programs, decreasing the transfer time for disbursements and monitoring disbursements more closely. This whole-of-government effort has resulted in an almost eight-fold increase over the past year in reconstruction and development programming in Kandahar province.
This is a whole-of-government effort. The Government is in the process of expanding the number of officials posted to the PRT to as many as seven Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) officers (up from three officers), which, in conjunction with a recently increased Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) deployment (from one officer to four), will improve response times and augment the PRT’s ability to plan and implement programming. At CIDA headquarters, the Afghanistan program now includes dedicated policy, research and communications teams. These new capacities enable officers at the PRT to focus on effective and accountable disbursement of development and reconstruction funds. The Department of National Defence (DND) is assisting CIDA and DFAIT to accelerate expenditure of funds by making use of DND’s administrative capacities in theatre for contracting, invoice processing and project management. Through CIDA’s policy and research capacity, the Government will continue to develop new procedures to improve civil-military cooperation in reconstruction and development.
The Government of Canada has implemented innovative, responsive and effective programming through the PRT. For example, CIDA supported the creation of the Kandahar Local Initiatives Programme, which was designed as a flexible, responsive mechanism providing support for local communities by developing skills, enhancing the role of women and girls in society, supporting the inclusion of marginalized groups and improving rural livelihoods. The PRT has authority to access and approve disbursements from a $4.9 million fund for these local initiatives. As well, DFAIT’s Global Peace and Security Fund is supporting the implementation of projects responding to direct needs identified on the ground in police, justice and corrections reform, as well as support to key government institutions in Kandahar province. For its part, the DND Commander’s Contingency Fund (CCF) provides development and reconstruction project funding to bridge the gap between existing projects funded by other donors and planned CIDA program funding. For example, CCF funded projects include Afghan National Police facilities and equipment, Kandahar University Campus enhancements, and equipment for the Kandahar Fire Department.
The number of Canada’s partnerships in Kandahar has significantly increased over the past year. The scale of Canada’s programming has also increased significantly. For instance, disbursements through the World Health Organization have doubled and now cover all the major districts in Kandahar province.
In accelerating the disbursement of funding through the Kandahar PRT, Government departments have had to address and successfully resolve issues including the following:
- the operational challenges of setting up an unprecedented whole-of-government development and reconstruction mechanism;
- a lack of professional organizations willing to work in Kandahar’s current security environment;
- the challenging security environment;
- the need to achieve progress at a rate that is sustainable for Canada’s Afghan and other partners; and
- the limited number of officials on the ground to design, implement and monitor further programming.
In short, programming conditions have improved over the recent past at the PRT to meet mission requirements.
The timely disbursement of reconstruction and development funding to the field is not only important in Afghanistan, but in all of Canada’s international operations. Therefore, the government should review regulations governing the dispersal of reconstruction and development funding in all international operations, to ensure project funding can flow at the rate necessary to meet mission requirements and establish a process of financial and project accountability.
Delivering timely and effective development assistance is a priority in all of Canada’s international operations. Given the complexity of working in fragile states, such as Afghanistan, balancing timeliness and effectiveness with robust accountability can be particularly challenging.
The Government has recently reviewed and adjusted some of the terms and conditions governing the disbursal of funding for international development assistance, to ensure both balance accountability and timely disbursements. In March 2007, the Treasury Board approved these renewed terms and conditions for the Canadian International Development Agency’s (CIDA) international development assistance. In addition, work has begun to review the delegation of financial authorities within CIDA to improve the timeliness and effectiveness of Canada's development assistance by relying more directly on field offices.
As well, the Government recently adopted a three-point program on aid effectiveness to improve the focus, efficiency and accountability of Canada’s international assistance. The Government’s commitment to improving aid effectiveness includes seeking to be more responsive, making better choices on the ground, and ensuring the greatest possible impact for international assistance. Canada works closely with the Government of Afghanistan and local partners to design programming suited to local needs. This programming is generally delivered by locally-based staff and Afghan nationals, which maximizes the impact of Canada’s assistance.
The Government also uses a variety of implementing arrangements in order to ensure Canadian project funding flows at the rate necessary to meet mission requirements. For example, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and the Department of National Defence (DND) have developed legal and financial frameworks to implement projects on the ground in Afghanistan and in other international operations, including, for example, a Memorandum of Understanding between DFAIT and DND which provides a cooperation framework at the Provincial Reconstruction Team, with DFAIT benefiting from DND resources and expertise in support of Global Peace and Security Fund projects. In fact, the Government’s accountability framework includes specific measures and conditions regarding the pace and capacity of implementation. In addition, the Government employs grant agreements with low-risk recipients, such as international organizations of which Canada is a member. The ability to offer grants has enabled the Government to be more recipient-focused, ensuring that Canada’s international assistance and programming is delivered in a consistent manner, reducing complexity and the administrative burden on trusted partners with established track records while maintaining accountability. Canada’s membership in such organizations also provides access to the relevant audit and evaluation information produced by those organizations.
While the disbursement of reconstruction and development funds are routinely accounted for in Departmental Performance Reports and responsible Ministers may be requested to appear before Parliamentary committees to report on such expenditures, the Committee feels that audits of international development funds should ensure that project funding is transparent, effective and efficient and establish a process of financial and project accountability.
The Government of Canada has in place a rigorous international assistance accountability mechanism. These procedures provide effective accountability and oversight from project design to final implementation and allow the Government to ensure progress towards development results, assure appropriate risk management and financial reporting and make necessary project adjustments on a timely basis.
The Government’s management framework and accountability regime includes appropriate management tools and oversight mechanisms to ensure that development assistance funds are used for the intended purposes in a transparent manner to achieve the stated results. The Government’s recent commitment to improving aid effectiveness also included pledges to examine options to ensure independent evaluation of Canada’s aid program, to provide parliamentarians and the public with an objective assessment of results achieved and to provide Canadians with reporting on a more frequent basis that is easier to understand. For instance, the Government has improved and augmented its publicly accessible, internet-based reports on Afghan development and reconstruction Ensuring accountability and transparency is a whole-of-government effort, including all Departments and Agencies involved in the mission in question. As the Government’s lead agency for development assistance, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) plays a key role in ensuring accountability for development assistance funds. CIDA’s tools and oversight mechanisms include independent audits and evaluations of country programs, evaluations and monitoring at the project level and project financial audits.
As the administrator of Global Peace and Security Fund (GPSF) programs, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) also has audit and evaluation capabilities through its Office of the Inspector General. The Office annually develops and updates a multi-year audit and evaluation plan. Audit and evaluation plans and reports are also subject to review by the Treasury Board Secretariat to ensure that plans are duly carried out and to determine the adequacy of the Department’s management of the program. In addition, DFAIT’s Senior Financial Officer reviews and provides financial attestation of all GPSF programs on an annual basis. Further to the audit and evaluation mechanisms, GPSF projects are delivered according to Standard Operating Procedures, which include robust monitoring of both activities and financial records throughout the life of the project.
As well, the Department of National Defence (DND) administered projects, including the Commander’s Contingency Fund projects in Afghanistan, are governed by both Government-wide and DND-specific regulations, policies and delegated authorities. These procedures are subject to periodic review by DND to ensure compliance and that a due diligence accountability framework is being exercised.
Furthermore, Canada’s accountability mechanism applies even if the Government is not directly delivering programming. NGOs and other development partners agree to work according to Canadian parameters, thereby raising accountability and oversight for all phases of development assistance.
The Government’s accountability mechanism requires that each individual initiative includes provisions to target specific results and measure performance for audit purposes. For its Afghanistan program, the Government has a comprehensive plan to conduct monitoring, evaluation and audits on an ongoing basis and to publicly report results. The Government has also improved and augmented its publicly accessible internet-based reports on Afghan development and reconstruction.
The government should hold a debate on the Canadian mission in Afghanistan without delay, to provide Canadians with an accurate and up-to-date understanding of the aim and status of the mission, Canada’s role in it and to inform government decision-making relating to the mission deadline in February 2009.
Since 2006, the Government has provided several opportunities for debate in Parliament, including three take-note debates and two opposition days. More importantly, a debate and vote on the extension of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan was held in May 2006; Parliament voted in support of the two year extension of Canada’s commitment in Afghanistan.
As noted by the committee, Canada’s development commitment will extend to at least 2011; in addition, a Canadian diplomatic presence will undoubtedly continue. However, the Prime Minister has been clear that any extension of Canada’s military commitment beyond February 2009 would be brought before Parliament for a vote.
DND should review the need for some sort of flexible decompression programme for soldiers going home on midtour leave.
The Department of National Defence currently runs an end of tour Third Location Decompression program to provide personnel with an opportunity to achieve a sense of closure to the mission and to prepare them for their return home. Building on pre-deployment briefings, this program increases awareness of operational stress injuries and provides information on what type of help is available. However, five years of research, literature reviews and experience in the area of deployment health indicate that there is no evidence in the scientific literature to suggest that a decompression program decreases the probability of developing, or increases the chance of recovering from, an operational stress injury. National Defence is continuing to evaluate the benefits of the end of tour Third Location Decompression program.
Equally, there is no evidence that a program to prepare soldiers for mid-tour leave would have any significant impact on their chances of developing, or recovering from, an operational stress injury. Moreover, instituting a mid-tour decompression program would create logistical and operational concerns. Currently, the Canadian Forces aim to have personnel going on mid-tour leave spend a minimum of one day at an intermediate staging base located in Southwest Asia before starting their leave. This allows soldiers a period of adjustment from the high operational tempo and stress in a secure environment. Health services and personnel support are available during this time if soldiers require assistance before their departure. As soldiers on a six month tour receive 18 days of mid-tour leave, the Government believes this short break offers soldiers accessible support if needed without unnecessarily reducing the time spent with their friends and families.
The government should recognize the critical and growing work done by the Operational Stress Injury Social Support Network and support it with appropriate funding and other resources, so that it can keep up with the growing need of caring for returning Afghanistan Veterans and their families.
The Government recognizes the critical work being done by the Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) network and has allocated additional resources to support the program’s growing needs.
Since the launch of the OSISS network in February 2002, Department of National Defence (DND) funding for OSISS initiatives has increased every year. To meet the rising demand for services, the Government approved a 25% increase in DND’s funding for OSISS for fiscal year 2007-2008, bringing the total to $2.6 million. This increased funding will allow OSISS to hire two new peer support coordinators for military members and veterans, six new family peer support coordinators, four regional coordinators, and one speakers’ bureau coordinator.
Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) also contributes $500,000 annually to support on-going OSISS operations and to contribute to the management and delivery of the program. Furthermore, Budget 2007 provided an additional $1 million annually to VAC to allow OSISS to hire additional family peer support coordinators and support staff, demonstrating the Government’s commitment to this worthwhile program.
The government should actively encourage other appropriate Canadian entrepreneurs to increasingly participate in support of Canada’s overseas missions.
There are difficulties in operating morale and welfare outlets in an operational theatre, and unique supporting arrangements are required. The nature of a theatre of operations is such that unrestricted access by commercial ventures is not possible. For this reason, the Canadian Forces Personnel Support Agency (CFPSA) operates all the retail outlets in the theatre, including the Tim Hortons. The same is true of the other “commercial” ventures located on Kandahar airfield.
Other nations’ counterparts to the CFPSA operate these outlets either directly or through licensing arrangements with commercial companies. In no case is there the opportunity for a commercial organization to unilaterally establish an operation on Kandahar airfield. Canadians are encouraged to support Canada’s overseas missions through donations to Canadian Forces’ programs such as Operation SANTA CLAUS, the annual Christmas package program, and other in-theatre morale and welfare programs. This participation often includes individual entrepreneurs and others from the business sector. These programs are promoted on the CFPSA website, www.cfpsa.com, which CFPSA identifies in its various communications pieces (CFPSA brochures and media releases, the CFPSA annual report, presentations to stakeholder groups, display banners produced for outreach, and Support Our Troops flyers, etc.) as the primary place to find up-to-date information on CFPSA programs.
Recognizing its moral responsibility, the federal government should strongly encourage the provincial and territorial governments to provide the resources needed to address the mental health support required by military families.
Families of Canadian Forces members, as contributing citizens of the communities in which they live, are entitled to access all the health, educational, social and recreational services available through provincial and territorial governments. Recognizing that the provision of health care to the families of military personnel is a provincial responsibility, the Department of National Defence (DND) works closely with provincial and territorial authorities to ensure that the specific needs of military families are addressed.
DND also provides support to military families through the Military Family Services Program. The community-based Military Family Resource Centres monitor and respond to expressed community needs, identifying and maximizing available resources to ensure military families have access to required services, including mental health support. Where services specific to the requirements of military families (including mental health support) are not available, the Military Family Services Program works with local service providers and the provincial or territorial government to ensure those needs are met.
The government should accelerate its effort to expedite the delivery of medium-heavy lift helicopters to support combat operations of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan and ensure that the helicopters acquired are effective in both domestic and international operations.
Public Works and Government Services Canada and the Department of National Defence are working diligently to contract for the delivery of medium-heavy lift helicopters to provide the capability for the safe and effective movement of personnel and equipment in all Canadian Forces operational environments, including combat operations. A delivery timeframe will be identified upon contract signing. However, these helicopters are not expected to be delivered before the end of the current military mission in Afghanistan in February 2009.
The government should rebalance the diplomatic, development and defence components of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, to increase the focus on diplomacy and development.
Achievement of the governance and development goals of Canada’s strategy in Kandahar and across Afghanistan is, in large part, dependent on a stable security environment. As such, the Government believes that the current balance is appropriate to the present situation in theatre. The Government has made recent enhancements to diplomatic and development initiatives, with new mechanisms for whole-of-government coordination under Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) leadership, a significant increase in development assistance and enhanced civilian presence in Canada’s Embassy and in the field. The Government will continue to seek ways to adjust its operations to meet evolving local conditions and to focus on delivering results.
Canada’s security, governance, and development objectives are in line with those of the Afghanistan Compact, an international agreement that provides the roadmap for stabilization and reconstruction in Afghanistan up until 2011. Challenges in Afghanistan are often multi-faceted, taking into account security, governance, and development, and therefore demand an integrated response. For example, increased security and law enforcement capacity is required to end the illegal narcotics economy, but better infrastructure such as roads and irrigation systems constructed with Canadian funds is also needed to provide farmers with real alternatives. Long-term economic growth in Afghanistan depends on better education, including basic literacy, and better child and maternal health care, all areas where Canada is playing a role and making a difference.
To achieve these objectives, Canadian defence, development, and diplomatic resources need to work together seamlessly. Building on the success of the 3-D (development, defence, and diplomacy) approach, the Government of Canada is moving beyond 3-D to pursue an integrated whole-of-government strategy in Afghanistan that calls for close cooperation and coordination among a number of federal departments and agencies. Canada’s efforts are structured according to the expertise and resources of lead departments and agencies (including Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Department of National Defence, DFAIT, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Correctional Services Canada (CSC)) on a given issue. Canada’s Ambassador in Afghanistan oversees the coordination of all aspects of Canada’s engagement. To work more effectively with the Government of Afghanistan and allies in Afghanistan, as well as to better deliver assistance and monitor results, Canada has doubled its diplomatic and civilian presence in Kabul and in the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar, including adding a Senior Civilian Coordinator post in Kandahar.
Canada is committed to achieving development and reconstruction results in Afghanistan. Significant development results have already been realized. For instance, Canada’s micro-finance program has assisted some 360,000 people (over 70% of whom are women) by providing the funds necessary to launch their own businesses. Canada’ s contributions to the National Solidarity Program have facilitated improved access for over 12,700 communities to drinking water and sanitation, irrigation, transportation, power supply, agriculture and education. International support for health programs has also resulted in a remarkable 26% decline in child mortality. These results have been obtained in the context of Canada’s leadership role in Afghan development and reconstruction, which includes $1.2 billion over ten years (to 2011) to support national and provincial projects and initiatives. In February 2007, the Government of Canada announced an additional $200 million contribution, with $30 million dedicated to counter-narcotics efforts and $20 million for much needed police salaries. As well, approximately 2,500 Canadian Forces personnel, deployed as part of the NATO-led, UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force, are helping improve the security situation in Afghanistan by stabilizing the southern region so that development, reconstruction and governance can occur. In addition, since September 2005, Canada has provided a Strategic Advisory Team of military planners and advisors and a CIDA official located in Kabul. The team members assist the Afghan government in building its capacity to develop and implement key national strategies by working directly with Afghan officials in government ministries and agencies.
In addition, Canadian police are working with international partners to facilitate Afghan Security Sector Reform by building the capacity of the Afghan National Police so that they may carry out their policing responsibilities in accordance with democratic principles and international human rights conventions. Finally, CSC is contributing its significant expertise to help establish a sound correctional system in Afghanistan that respects international human rights standards and is responsive to the rule of law.
The government should conduct regular televised, public briefings, at meaningful intervals, to accurately inform Canadians about the status, activity and effect of the mission in Afghanistan.
The Government has already held three media technical briefings on Canada’s role in Afghanistan; these briefings involved officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The first two, which were held in September and October 2006, dealt with reconstruction, community-based development and Canada-Afghanistan bilateral relations. The Government held a third briefing in January 2007 to mark the first anniversary of the Afghanistan Compact; Canada’s Ambassador to Afghanistan was available via teleconference to respond to questions. The Government is coordinating further media technical briefings from DFAIT, DND and CIDA. Canada's Ambassador to Afghanistan and officials from other government departments, as required, will also participate. These media briefings will supplement ongoing televised operational briefings given by National Defence and other Government of Canada officials to the Standing Committee on National Defence.
The Minister of National Defence should appear at least four times a year before the Standing Committee on National Defence, to provide a televised situation report, outlining the status, activity and effect of all Canadian Forces operational missions being conducted at the time.
The Government recognizes and supports the principles of ministerial accountability and responsibility to Parliament, including responding to parliamentary committee questions on the Government’s policies, programs and activities. The Minister of National Defence has always worked to accommodate committee requests for appearances and will continue to do so in the future. However, designating a specific number of appearances in advance would be arbitrary and, depending on the tempo of CF operations and developments in Afghanistan, may not be the most effective way to provide information to the Committee. The Government of Canada, including DND, is firmly committed to keeping the Standing Committee on National Defence properly informed of the status of the mission in Afghanistan.
In months during which the Committee is not traveling and in which the Minister does not appear, a Canadian Forces senior officer should continue to appear before the Committee to present a briefing on the mission status, activity and effect of all ongoing Canadian Forces operational missions since the last report and provide a view of what can be expected in the next month.
During the last year, National Defence accommodated the committee’s request to provide a senior officer to deliver bi-weekly and later monthly operational briefings to the committee. National Defence will continue to provide such briefings to the committee.
For the life of the current Canadian Forces mission in Afghanistan, or in the future case of a similar mission, the Standing Committee on National Defence should make an annual visit to NATO Headquarters in Brussels, to receive detailed briefings on the NATO mission in Afghanistan and meet with the North Atlantic Council to discuss multilateral strategic coordination issues and other items of mutual interest.
While the Government supports the principle of the committee receiving the information necessary to do its work as per its mandate, regular visits to NATO Headquarters are not a matter for the Government to decide. Approval for travel must be sought from the House of Commons and the travel funds are part of a separate budget request. Furthermore, accommodating a committee visit request would be NATO’s decision.
In addition to the visit to NATO Headquarters, the Committee should attempt to annually visit Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), which oversees all NATO operations, and/or Joint Force Command (JFC) Brunssum, which oversees ISAF operations, to receive detailed strategic and operational level briefings of the NATO operation in Afghanistan. If a visit is not possible, alternate means of communication such as video-conferencing or invitations to SHAPE/JFC Brunssum officials should be considered.
While the government supports the principle of the committee receiving the information necessary to do its work as per its mandate, regular visits to NATO Headquarters are not a matter for the Government to decide. Approval for travel must be sought from the House of Commons and the travel funds are part of a separate budget request. Furthermore, accommodating a committee visit request would be NATO’s decision.
The Standing Committee on National Defence should visit the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan at least once annually, at an appropriate time, in order to review the status of the mission at that time and any progress being made.
Approval for travel must be sought from the House of Commons and the travel funds are part of a separate budget request. While the Government supports the idea of annual visits in principle, operational and security considerations may affect the timing of any visit. For example, increased operational tempo could limit the availability of personnel the committee might wish to meet, thereby making it difficult for the committee to achieve the strategic objectives of its visit at that particular time. Visits may also be affected by the availability of air transport and accommodation, and be subject to modification due to operational priorities. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is the lead department for consideration of any VIP travel within a nation outside of Canada, including Afghanistan. The Department of National Defence works to implement travel requests to theatre as approved by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and must respect other restrictions as dictated by the Government of Afghanistan or NATO.
When visiting Canadian Forces international operations, the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence should be accorded early and full support by DND, to ensure that the full Committee and necessary staff are able to complete the trip and their work.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is the lead Department for consideration of any VIP travel within a nation outside of Canada, including Afghanistan. The Department of National Defence works to implement travel requests to theatre as approved by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and must respect other restrictions as dictated by the Government of Afghanistan or NATO. Within this framework, both departments will work with the Committee to meet its needs to the full extent possible.
The government should attempt to convince NATO to establish a general arrangement with the Government of Afghanistan to ensure the consistent treatment of detainees, but in the meantime, the Government of Canada should ensure that, in all combined operations conducted by Canadian and Afghan military and/or police forces, all detainees captured by Canadian Forces are treated in accordance with the December 18, 2005 and May 3, 2007 arrangements between the Government of Canada and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in the spirit of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture.
The government should attempt to convince NATO to establish a general arrangement with the Government of Afghanistan to ensure the consistent treatment of detainees.
Canadian Government policy and actions are consistent with this recommendation. Canada is in constant dialogue with NATO allies and partners on all aspects of our mission in Afghanistan, including on detention policy. The Minister of Foreign Affairs raised the issue with his NATO colleagues at the April 2007 Oslo NATO Foreign Ministers meeting. The Minister of National Defence has also discussed the topic with his NATO counterparts on several occasions.
NATO has successfully developed and implemented ISAF-wide detention standard operating procedures, consistent with international law, for the treatment of detainees while in custody of ISAF forces. In addition, NATO is supportive of initiatives by individual or groups of allies to assist Afghan authorities in implementing international standards for detention. There is an increasing coherence in the approach of allies regarding the transfer of detainees and their expectations of the Afghan Government in its treatment of those detainees. Canada is discussing detainee and detention facility information-sharing with its partners in Regional Command (South).
the Government of Canada should ensure that, in all combined operations conducted by Canadian and Afghan military and/or police forces, all detainees captured by Canadian Forces are treated in accordance with the December 18, 2005 and May 3, 2007 arrangements between the Government of Canada and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in the spirit of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture.
During the course of combined Canadian Forces operations with Afghan forces, individuals who are detained by the Canadian Forces are subject to Canadian Forces procedures. As a matter of policy, the Canadian Forces treat all detained persons humanely in accordance with the standards of treatment and care set out by the Third Geneva Convention (the Prisoner of War Convention). All Canadian Forces personnel are trained to this standard. Canada also notifies the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and the International Security Assistance Force chain of command of all detainee transfers from the Canadian Forces to Afghan authorities. In instances when individuals are detained by Afghan forces, Afghan forces are required to follow their own domestic procedures and are obliged to comply with Afghanistan’s own international legal obligations, including international humanitarian and human rights law, concerning the humane treatment of detainees.
To complement existing and future Afghan capabilities to follow-up with and monitor detainees transferred by the Canadian Forces to Afghan authorities, rigorous post-transfer follow-up measures by Canadian officials are in place. These include un-announced random visits to those facilities at which Canadian-transferred detainees are held to assess the conditions of detention, and to see and interview Canadian-transferred detainees. These visits by Canadian officials complement ongoing monitoring by Afghan authorities, including the AIHRC, and Canada has taken steps to build AIHRC capacity in this respect. These have included logistical support for AIHRC-led workshops and human rights seminars with the Afghanistan National Security Forces and National Directorate of Security personnel. Canada is looking at ways to provide further support, including logistical and technical assistance, to help the AIHRC carry out its important work.
The government should increase the Canadian Forces contributions to Afghan National Army training so that, as the Afghan National Army grows and matures, higher level collective training of new kandaks can be conducted prior to real operations.
One of Canada’s three strategic security objectives is to assist the development of Afghan National Security Forces to enable them to provide a stable and secure environment without the support of international security forces. To that end, a considerable – and growing – portion of Canada’s military effort is devoted to training the Afghan National Army (ANA). The transition over time to Afghan-led security operations is fundamental to gaining the trust of Afghans in the integrity and authority of their central government. Canada has supported the Afghan National Training Centre (ANTC) since 2005, and currently contributes trainers to the Centre. This support has been a key component of the ANTC’s success. Throughout 2007 the pace of Afghan National Army recruitment and retention has improved to the point that the ANTC is accepting 3000 recruits per month resulting in battalions (Kandaks) and brigade-sized units being filled quickly throughout Afghanistan.
The Government recognizes the importance of increasing its contribution to Afghan National Army training; the conditions are now right for Canada to redouble its training and mentoring initiatives and to focus that effort on achieving results in Kandahar Province to reinforce our security, development and reconstruction achievements. Since 2006, Canada has fielded a large Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT) in support of the 1st Kandak of the 205th Brigade based in Kandahar Province. With newly formed Kandaks arriving in Kandahar Province in July 2007, Canada augmented its contributions to ANA training by increasing the number of OMLTs to six and assigning them responsibility for three infantry Kandaks, a Combat Support Kandak, a Combat Service Support Kandak, and a Brigade Headquarters. These new OMLTs will be instrumental in raising the operational effectiveness of the recently arrived ANA units to measurable proficiency standards such that they can first participate in International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) missions in support of Joint Task Force Afghanistan, and in time, lead security operations.
Each OMLT provides training and mentoring support to company and battalion-sized elements, instilling the skills necessary to operate as effective and coordinated organizations in operational scenarios. The OMLTs also liaise between ANA and ISAF forces, coordinating the planning of operations and ensuring that the Kandaks receive enabling support not currently resident within the ANA, to support independent operations. This training will serve to reinforce the success of initial ANA recruitment and training at ANTC, and will enhance ANA capacity building initiatives. The Canadian effort is fully consistent with recent calls by NATO for increased contributions to ANA capacity building, in particular through the provision of Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams. NATO has expressed its satisfaction with Canada's increased efforts in this respect.
Decisions regarding future levels of Canadian contributions to ANA training will be determined by the ANA’s progress and capacity, CF operational requirements and assistance being provided by allies.