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Haidari urges Canada to remain in Afghanistan

The McGill Tribune

 By: Ali Withers   


Last Thursday, Afghan political analyst Ashraf Haidari urged Canada to "stay in Afghanistan beyond 2009 and even 2011 to provide human security". Haidari, a counsellor on political, security and developmental affairs with the Afghan embassy in Washington, discussed the values and roles of Canadian troops in his native country.

His lecture, entitled, "Should Canada stay? Human Security in Afghanistan," was part of the week-long event, "Afghanistan in Focus: A Week of Images and Discussion on Canada's Role," hosted by the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, and the McGill Human Rights Working Group.

Haidari was optimistic about Canada's contribution in Afghanistan. He noted the nation's historic role as an international peacekeeper but explained that a shift in Canada's military focus was imperative.

"There is very little peace to keep in Afghanistan and much to build," he said.

While the challenges for Afghanistan's security are multi-faceted and daunting, he emphasized that "Canada is not alone in its efforts," as there are presently over 70 nations contributing to the restoration of stability.

Haidari explained that although Afghanistan has not always been supportive of an international presence, the present force has the approval of the Afghan people.

At a basic level, Haidari cited that Afghan people still face ubiquitous poverty, poor health care, water security issues and unique challenges regarding women's rights.

He also described the security situation in Afghanistan as highly precarious. Human Rights Watch declared 2007 as the most dangerous year in Afghanistan since Coalition troops entered the country in 2001.

He stressed that the resurgence of opium production in Afghanistan has created destabilizing conditions for the country's unique security problems. Calling for international action, he stated that "global demand for opium cannot be fought from the supply side".

While most Afghanis may generally be supportive of their government and the international presence. Alex Dobrota, Law-1, who worked as a reporter for the Globe & Mail in Afghanistan was less optimistic. From his observation, he described the relationship between villagers and the Canadian forces as one of a "lack of trust".

His photo display, which accompanied the week-long event, displayed the tension and the challenges Canadian Forces are currently experiencing.

Haidari remained supportive of the future of Canada's mission in Kandahar. Lamenting the fact that achievements for human security are often neglected in the media, he applauded Canada on their role and success.

"Canada's aid and effectiveness should serve as a model for others," he said.

He indicated that a democratically elected government, a progressive constitution and increasing accessibility to basic services such as education and health care were important milestones for Afghanistan. Yet he indicated that "a lot of Afghans don't know their rights. They don't know they have a constitution."

Accordingly, the international community, including Canada, must continue to work with the Afghan government and invest more to build capacity and restore security. His parting message stressed that the Coalition must, "stay the course until [Afghans] can stand on their feet".

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