Listen Now

Woo: How has Canada’s experience in Afghanistan changed Canadian foreign policy?

By: /
27 June, 2011
By: Yuen Pau Woo
President and CEO, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada

Afghanistan has both dominated and distracted Canadian foreign policy in the last decade.  Despite the enormous sacrifice of Canadian soldiers and civilians, our military engagement in Afghanistan has come to an ambiguous conclusion. Canada’s involvement in the war has been good for many people in Afghanistan, but it has not improved Ottawa’s standing in the world.  The reason, in part, is that while NATO was bogged down for nearly ten years in Afghanistan, the rest of the world was focusing on a global power shift to emerging countries. Canada’s preoccupation with Afghanistan left little room for foreign policy development (or spending) on other priorities. In this sense, the question is not whether Afghanistan has changed Canadian foreign policy, but whether Canadian foreign policy will change now that our military engagement in Afghanistan has come to an end.

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


Journalism in Canada has suffered a devastating decline over the last two decades. Dozens of newspapers and outlets have shuttered. Remaining newsrooms are smaller. Nowhere is this erosion more acute than in the coverage of foreign policy and international news. It’s expensive, and Canadians, oceans away from most international upheavals, pay the outside world comparatively little attention.

At Open Canada, we believe this must change. If anything, the pandemic has taught us we can’t afford to ignore the changing world. What’s more, we believe, most Canadians don’t want to. Many of us, after all, come from somewhere else and have connections that reach around the world.

Our mission is to build a conversation that involves everyone — not just politicians, academics and policy makers. We need your help to do so. Your support helps us find stories and pay writers to tell them. It helps us grow that conversation. It helps us encourage more Canadians to play an active role in shaping our country’s place in the world.

Become a Supporter