Canada’s war in Afghanistan cost Ottawa at least $18 billion, with more than 40,000 members of the Canadian Forces serving there from 2001-2014, helping to overthrow the Taliban and chase out al-Qaeda. Many other Canadians spent time in the country working in a government capacity, doing development work with NGOs, or bearing witness as journalists. Battles were fought and blood was spilled — 158 Canadian soldiers and thousands of Afghan civilians lost their lives — in an effort to stem corruption, shore up human rights and build schools and dams.
Today, Canada’s combat role is over, and our focus is on training Afghan forces and contributing to development projects. A delicate democracy exists in Afghanistan and many women enjoy a freedom unknown under the Taliban. But levels of violence are frighteningly high, poverty and corruption are widespread, and human rights advances seem fragile at best.
In this series, we revisit Canada’s war effort in Afghanistan, and ask what role we may still have to play in the country. Naheed Mustafa reminds us we still need a national conversation over our impact there. In advance of Canada’s defence review, Steve Saideman lists the lessons that can be learned from the mission, and, in his history of occupation in Afghanistan, John Duncan reminds us that military failure there isn’t new. An excerpt from former minister Bill Graham’s memoir gives insight into the Canadian government’s decision to take command in Kandahar, and reporter May Jeong visits the province to look at what became of the promises Canadians made there. Former diplomat Bruce Mabley renews calls for an inquiry into the detainee scandal, while an interview with the former director of human rights for the United Nations in Afghanistan, Georgette Gagnon, explores the gains – however tenuous – that were made on Afghan human rights.