Notes from Afghanistan: Final embed

21/09/2019 Posted by admin

by Francis Silvaggio

I arrived in Kandahar on Sunday for my sixth and final embed. The Canadian fighting mission ends here next month and will transition to a training role based in Kabul.

We landed on what’s become the world’s busiest runway in a commercial charter. Six years ago I hitched a ride, with the same company, in a galley seat on their old Russian Antinov Cargo plane. Today, the company runs a 737 charter twice a week. This is just one small example of how much life has changed here since the coalition first arrived.

The rocky roads that wove through the rustic base have been replaced with asphalt; hard concrete structures now sit where tents were once staked; and the small army that built this base has swollen to a number in the tens of thousands.

Without a doubt, Kandahar Airfield has changed significantly since my first visit in 2006 and so has this country.

There are now more schools, better roads, improved health care, governance, military resources and access to water and irrigation. Change has been slow, and security issues present daily challenges, but make no mistake — change is happening. Like a good guest, Canada will leave this place better than it found it.

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Does that mean this mission has been a success? That’s not an easy question to answer. If we measure progress by a North American bar it would be easy to dismiss many of these changes as small and incomplete. This, though, is not North America.

Throughout much of its recent history, Afghanistan has known little more than chaos and conflict. The result was a country divided and a population without guidance. The events that followed 9/11 rocked the country but also presented an opportunity to a people that had the will, but knew no way.

At the end of the day, this mission turned out to be less about creating peace than creating opportunity. Yes, Canada and the international community fought to beat down the enemy but the intent was ultimately to beat down the barriers that prevent this country from standing up for itself.

It’s still a work in progress but as Canada transitions into its new role, Afghanistan does have more tools to build a better future than it did before the mission began. On paper, that seems like a success, but with so much work left to do and 156 Canadian soldiers’ names now written on a memorial here in Kandahar, many people say it doesn’t necessarily feel like it.

Francis is Global National’s Alberta correspondent based in Calgary. He is currently at Kandahar Airfield, reporting on Canada’s withdrawl from Afghanistan. Follow him on Twitter: @FJSilvaggio.

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