Matthews: What is the biggest lesson Canada can take from its experience in Afghanistan?

By: /
1 May, 2012
By: Kyle Matthews
Executive director, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies

The biggest lesson, at least in my mind, is that you cannot do foreign policy on the cheap. Canada leapt into Afghanistan with little to no understanding of the region, its politics and the dangers lurking behind the scenes. While we had a sizable embassy/high commission in neighboring Pakistan, most of the work being carried out their was related to immigration. Very few resources and staff were committed to strategic analysis and tracking threats to our national interests. In the 1990s budget cuts saw an exchange program that sent Canadian military officials to a Pakistani military academy in Quetta was axed. In hindsight, how valuable would it have been to know how much military equipment donkeys could transport from there to the Afghan border? We are doomed to make similar mistakes if we do not invest in our capacity to understand the world in a strategic manner.

Before you click away, we’d like to ask you for a favour … 


Open Canada is published by the Canadian International Council, but that’s only the beginning of what the CIC does. Through its research and live events hosted by its 18 branches across the country, the CIC is dedicated to engaging Canadians from all walks of life in an ongoing conversation about Canada’s place in the world.

By becoming a member, you’ll be joining a community of Canadians who seek to shape Canada’s role in the world, and you’ll help Open Canada continue to publish thoughtful and provocative reporting and analysis.

Join us