Three more Canadian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan this week, prompting Canadians to question the role of their country in Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, the Centre of Military and Strategic Studies at the U of C sponsored "Defining Success in Afghanistan-- Perspectives from the Canadian Ambassador," a public presentation with outgoing Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan, Arif Lalani.
In order to define success in Afghanistan, Lalani believes that Canadians must first understand the reason for Canada's involvement.
"Our security is dependent on the development of Afghanistan," said Lalani, noting the example of 9/11. "We cannot continue to have economic prosperity and security in our countries if there is none in other countries."
Afghanistan is a failed state that has become a safe haven for terrorists and extremists, according to Lalani. The Taliban is becoming more violent towards foreigners such as soldiers and aid workers.
"The Taliban is throwing everything they've got at us up until the Afghan election," said Lalani.
He suspects their tactics are aimed at destabilizing voter turnout and ruining the democratic election. In spite of this, Lalani insisted that progress is being made. He pointed to the Canadian effort that has resulted in six million more children in school, one-third of whom are female. More roads and bridges are built each day with more Afghans working and greater police presence on the streets.
"Education, economic development, reconstruction-- these are the basic building blocks from which we fight the Taliban," he said. "We want to be in a place, in two to three years, where the Afghans are holding the status quo that we are currently holding and Canadians acting in a supporting role."
The transformation from a failed state to a viable state and then eventually a self-sustaining state is how Canadians will ultimately know that the Afghanistan mission is a success, according to Lalani.
There are three initiatives of the Canadian mission that is especially critical in transforming Afghanistan into a viable state. The first is rebuilding the Afghan governance structure, the second is securing trade on the Afghan-Pakistani border and the third is properly training the Afghan police force. Of the three, Lalani places the most importance on an effective Afghan police force.
"Without the maintenance of law and order, it would be impossible to have the first two," he said.
Lalani is optimistic about Afghanistan and Canada's relationship in the future.
"Afghans have tremendous respect for Canadians and the level of our involvement," said Lalani. "We are sacrificing our soldiers, spending our treasure and Afghans recognize this. When Canadian soldiers are hurt and killed, the Afghans take it personally."
He acknowledged that Canadians should grieve for their fallen soldiers, but he reminds them of the stakes Canada has already invested in the Afghan commitment.
"Now is not the time to question our resolve," he argued. "We cannot give up pre-maturely or else everything we've worked for will collapse. We will have bad days-- a lot more of them-- but that doesn't mean progress has stopped."