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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence

Issue 5 - Evidence - Meeting of June 7, 2010


OTTAWA, Monday, June 7, 2010

The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 4:01 p.m. to examine and report on the national security and defence policies of Canada (topics: the state of the Canadian Forces; and the role of our Forces in Afghanistan currently and post 2011).

Senator Pamela Wallin (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. We have with us today General Walter Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff. It is a pleasure to have you here, sir. Thank you very much.

We have invited General Natynczyk so we can get a view on a wide range of issues from his very particular perspective. General Natynczyk has had a very long and successful military career. He joined the Canadian Forces in 1975 after five years as an air cadet. He has held regimental command positions from tank troop leader to commanding officer of the Royal Canadian Dragoons. In operational terms General Natynczyk has done NATO duty in Germany, UN peacekeeping in Cyprus, was a UN sector chief with British forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, chief of land operations with the UN mission in Croatia, and also commanded the Canadian contingent in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Here in Canada, he led the Dragoons when they helped out during the Winnipeg flood and after the ice storm.

The American army knows General Natynczyk because he was the third Canadian to serve as deputy commanding general of III Corps and deployed with them to Iraq in 2004, ending up as deputy commanding general of the multi- national corps.

Returning to Canada, amongst many other things, he was appointed the first chief of transformation of the CF — a process that is still under way — and more recently Vice Chief of Defence Staff. He has been the Chief of the Defence Staff since July of 2008.

Welcome, sir. We are glad to have you here. I assume you have opening remarks.

General Walter Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff, National Defence: Madam Chair, I do. Good afternoon to all of you.

This is my first opportunity to address this committee. As your Chief of the Defence Staff, I want to thank you not only for your continuing interest in the Canadian Forces but also for your support for the men and women who wear the uniform and also for the department and all the public servants who support the Canadian Forces.

I am glad you have already had the chance to hear from the chiefs of the army, navy and air force. I am sure you have understood from their testimony how the Canadian Forces works every day to defend Canada and Canadian interests.

Every one of our men and women who I have met is proud to wear the uniform and to serve. I think you all recognize that Canada has a very professional military. We hold ourselves to a high standard and we expect — and I expect — men and women to do what is right. However, we are all human and sometimes we make mistakes. When that happens, we, as an institution and as a profession, do the right thing, in line with our Canadian values.

Operationally, this is a demanding time for the Canadian Forces. I was reminded of that with the funeral of Trooper Larry Rudd on Friday, and then the news that the country learned about this past day and a half about Sergeant Martin Goudreault, of Sudbury, who died in Afghanistan. We will embrace their families and console them over the next days, weeks and years.

Indeed, my function is to enable all of those who are in harm's way to achieve their mission and, to the degree that I can, mitigate the risks they face each and every day. These are tough times, but overall I am optimistic about what the Canadian Forces are doing and how we are doing it.

[Translation]

Madam Chair, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to see our Forces serve around the world. This past February, we were carrying out four of the six core missions as outlined in the Canada First Defence Strategy simultaneously.

We were conducting daily domestic and continental operations, from Search and Rescue in the Arctic to our work in NORAD. We had over 4,000 military personnel assisting the RCMP in providing security for the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

At the same time, our troops were in Afghanistan, where they're making progress in protecting Afghans against a ruthless enemy.

And yet, our dedicated men and women were ready to answer the call for help when the tragic earthquake struck Haiti on 12 January. Within weeks we deployed a strong air, land, and sea task force.

[English]

This remarkable ability to conduct concurrent operations effectively over that month of February speaks to the agility and the ingenuity of all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and women.

We do not expect the pace to be slowing down any time soon. You will be well aware that this month's G8 and G20 summits will have nearly 3,000 men and women supporting the RCMP once again, alongside the federal, provincial and municipal partners to provide security to our guests. They will be leveraging all of the lessons learned and achieved over the past year's preparation for the Olympics.

Let me turn to Afghanistan, where close to 3,000 men and women are doing what I believe to be an outstanding job. I was in Kandahar in March, and I was struck by the changes that are accelerating as a result of NATO's new approach to counter-insurgency, but also the reinforcement by many of our NATO allies, especially the United States.

Yes, the Canadian Forces will end our military mission in 2011, but before that we have a lot of work to do. We are focusing on achieving results today, tomorrow, next week and next month to enable the Afghans to succeed, to enable the Afghans to secure themselves.

Today, NATO and coalition forces are providing enduring security for much larger parts of the population than we have ever done before. With security comes development, better governance and improved economic conditions.

I am proud of the fact that we have helped to train 50,000 Afghan National Army and 2,100 Afghan National Police forces to allow the Afghans to stand on their own and to secure themselves. Although the Taliban are using even more sophisticated techniques, we are adapting and learning. We are finding and disarming more improvised explosive devices, IEDs than we did last year. We are finding those individuals who have killed Afghans and Canadians.

We are facilitating the work of other government departments and agencies in building the Afghan capacity, especially in governance, to do things on their own. There are many reasons for cautious optimism.

The Canadian Forces are also successfully executing operations around the world. I have just been aboard HMCS Fredericton, which came home from a successful operation off the Horn of Africa.

We are supported in all of our operations, no matter where they might be, by the Canada First Defence Strategy, the government's plan to modernize the forces. We are advancing in each of the four pillars of the Canada First Defence Strategy in terms of equipment, infrastructure, readiness and personnel.

Today we are going through one of the most significant military re-equipping efforts since World War II, and our men and women need the right equipment to be effective in their mission and to them keep safe.

This is a promising time. In March I was on a Hercules aircraft E model, which means it was purchased in the 1960s. I said to the crew, ``Boy, this aircraft is working great,'' and they told me that it was the aircraft's last mission. As soon as she goes home to Trenton, she will be a spare parts bin. To see a new C-130J Hercules show up in Trenton this past Friday was wonderful.

You may have heard me say over the last while that while we can purchase aircraft and vehicles, we need to build ships. Since I got into my job almost two years ago, I have said that building ships is my number one procurement priority, because it is the hardest activity. Therefore, I welcome the minister's announcement last week for the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. I look forward to the day when we are cutting steel.

I was pleased to see an additional allocation towards defence infrastructure that has occurred over the past two years since we started Canada First Defence Strategy, and we are getting the right facilities to house all the new equipment being delivered. We are also very much focused on enhancing the readiness of air, land, sea and special forces.

[Translation]

As we move into the future, we are growing the Forces. This year we have achieved our personnel targets — with both recruitment and retention. The Regular Force now stands at a little more than 68,000 people and we count 30,000 in the Reserve Force.

But, as you've already heard from the Chiefs of the navy, army and air force, it takes time to train an enthusiastic recruit into a combat-ready member of the Forces and our schools are at capacity. We have about 12,000 in our basic training and trade schools.

We are growing the Canadian Forces with incredible Canadians, who have the skills that we need in the military, not just those who can fly aircraft, sail ships, or drive tanks, but also the technicians we need to maintain our equipment.

[English]

We are continuing to improve how we care for our men and women, including the ill and injured and their families, who sustain our personnel. I am finding that family support is essential, not only for the well-being of our service personnel, but also for the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Forces.

All of our efforts are key as we work to keep a balance across those four pillars of our Canada First Defence Strategy.

Before I conclude, I would like to offer a few comments on the budget. It contained two important clauses that impact the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence. First, it announced a freeze on operating budgets that require the department to absorb salary increases for civilian and military personnel until the end of the freeze in 2012-13. Second, it included provisions to slow the rate of previously planned growth for DND by about $525 million in 2013 and $1 billion annually thereafter.

On a positive note, the defence funding will continue to grow with Canada First Defence Strategy escalator; the escalator still applies. We are using the time we have in the next two years before these reductions take effect to adjust our long-term spending plans and to ensure we maintain the balance across those four pillars and deliver the maximum effect with the allocated funds.

We are also using the Treasury Board mandated strategic review process to find the savings and the efficiencies required by Budget 2010. This involves a 100 per cent review of all of our spending activities, and the review assists us in focusing on efficiencies and enabling us to deliver effectively on the core priorities of the Canada First Defence Strategy.

As you heard from the chiefs of services last week, while there is no denying that challenges exist, the Canadian Forces are well positioned to deliver what Canadians expect of us.

In conclusion, Canada has a professional military, a force that I say, man for man, woman for woman, is second to none. We must continue to ensure our military has the capabilities needed for our duty: To defend our nation, to be a strong partner in cooperation with the United States, to contribute to international peace and security, and to be prepared for tomorrow.

Thank you again for showing interest in the Canadian Forces.

The Chair: Thank you for your comments. Let me clarify one point regarding the comments you made about the budget. As you have seen since the trip of the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan, there is now increased activity and discussion about possibly staying in Afghanistan in some way or another.

Is that accounted for under the budget or is the reduction in expenditure of being in Afghanistan already accounted for in the budget in some way?

Gen. Natynczyk: Today, we received incremental funding for operations like Afghanistan. What I described there was the baseline funding for the department.

The Chair: What happens if there is some agreement to extend the mission while you are in the midst of planning to extricate?

Gen. Natynczyk: Whenever we do or are planning an operation, in Haiti or anywhere around the globe, we put forward within the planning process a costing of that operation.

Senator Dallaire: This is a procedure question. When general officers come to this committee, what procedure exists within the department with regard to the content they will be presenting and any guidance they are given to speak about policy or operations in the field? Are there any procedures whatsoever or are the generals coming with what they know and providing pure military advice?

Gen. Natynczyk: Senator Dallaire, it starts with what questions the committee might have. In my case, I saw what the committee was interested in and I gave some staffers some guidance with regard to answering those questions. The general officers are on their own to answer the questions, although with additional assistance as they require.

Senator Dallaire: When we listened to the service chiefs last week, the tone of things going quite well was a bit overwhelming. That put a kink in the credibility of the proceedings. We know the incremental increases have been stymied by the current budget and that the operations and maintenance budget, O&M, is taking some significant hits because you are trying to protect the personnel costs. Those costs have gone over the 51 per cent in the Canada First Defence Strategy. You also have a capital program and I am wondering whether it is affordable.

Are all those balancing out in terms of what is being felt in getting the spare parts, getting the militia reasonable pay, providing enough ammunition, and providing sailing days and flying hours in the forces, or have you established a minimum standard which is lower than what was anticipated in the Canada First Defence Strategy?

Gen. Natynczyk: I went into the job of the vice chief in 2006 and I took over from Vice-Admiral Ron Buck. I know he was dealing with the total defence budget in the order of $13 billion in 2005 and in 2006, when he handed it to me. This year, we are handling a budget in the order of $21 billion. Over these past years, especially since 2008, we have been able to put a significant injection into O&M, into all the services.

When I became the vice chief in 2006, the navy's O&M or national procurement budget, which is the amount of money that goes into their spare parts and maintenance, was 54 per cent of their overall demand. We are pushing them into 70 per cent of the overall demand. Part of it is getting ships into the shipyards and so on, but part of it is getting sufficient money into those pots.

Comparing notes with some of my international colleagues, there can never be enough money to give you 100 per cent. That is one of the challenges in this business. Some of our allies to the south, going into operations, are funded in the order of 110 per cent of the requirement. That is a lot of cash and it is almost difficult to spend that cash.

We are constantly managing the budget throughout the entire year and through every quarter. One of the challenges we faced, which I think the Auditor General put her finger on, is our carry-over from one year to the next. Until very recently, our carry-over was only $200 million. If you look at a budget of $21 billion, it is an art to properly land a budget at $200 million, especially given the complexities and the multi-faceted nature of our business, be it with regard to capital programs on ships, helicopters, aircraft, tanks, artillery, and so on, or into O&M. It is difficult getting into that year and closing to $200 million and being efficient at the same time.

Working through the Canada First Defence Strategy, we found the real efficiencies come if you can spend the money early and make the best investments possible early in the year. Those lead to multi-year budgeting, which some of our allies have taken on. Therefore, you do not have to close every year at the $200 million. I would be a strong proponent of that kind of approach. In that way, we use the money which is there as efficiently as possible.

Going back to your key issue, I think all the services can be quite comfortable with the amount of money out there and not only their initial allocation. Throughout the whole year, we find monies allocated to one command or another and they cannot spend it. At each quarter, it is turned back to the vice chief for reallocation to the other services, which will actually reallocate it to a higher priority, which is the nature of our business.

Senator Dallaire: I thought the carry over was up to 2 per cent of your budget, but I did not realize you were limited to $200 million.

Gen. Natynczyk: I think it is up to 2 per cent. Some of the departments are at 5 per cent.

Senator Dallaire: With the movement of funds to the right, and although you have received incremental funding for Afghanistan, you have had to absorb some of the costs. Some of the wear and tear of the equipment will have to be incorporated into your O&M costs as you bring them up to scratch.

Have any of the capital projects been moved to the right because of the budget shift and the removal of those allocations from your funding originally planned under the Canada First Defence Strategy?

Gen. Natynczyk: With regard to the vehicles, you are right. The tanks and especially the LAVs have been driven hard. We are happy that the LAV rebuild is part of a capital program. The rebuild will not fall under O&M but under a vote 5 capital program. That is why General Leslie mentioned that we want all the LAVs to come home. Even if they are really tired, we can rebuild them into vehicles that will be ready for tomorrow.

You might be aware of the track vehicle, the TLAV, which is a 1960s era APC, which we have extended by installing a new engine and transmission. It affords much better protection and is being used today. The soldiers have a lot of confidence in those vehicles.

We have begun a capital program to deal with the O&M on those vehicles.

[Translation]

Senator Nolin: Since you're an expert in the area of transformation, for which you have been responsible since 2005, how do you assess the progress that has been made in this area in the past five years?

Gen. Natynczyk: We have brought about a lot of changes in 2005 and in 2006. All these changes have been made before Operation Medusa in September 2006. We had no idea at the time of the really high tempo that the operations in Afghanistan would require at that time. So the benefits of CEFCOM are extraordinary. The headquarters of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) had such a strong command and control capacity and such flexibility that we have been able to manage simultaneously a humanitarian operation in Haiti, operations in the Persian Gulf as well as the preparations for the Olympic Games.

Together with the headquarters of the Canada Command, there was all the training, planning and cooperation with the RCMP and all other Canadian departments and agencies and even with the headquarters of NORTHCOM and NORAD.

It is really an advantage to have these headquarters as well as the HQ for Special Forces and Support Operations.

Senator Nolin: Everything works well with the four new headquarters that you had envisioned?

General Natynczyk: Yes. In February, we had the pressure from all these operations that were held simultaneously: Afghanistan, the Olympic Games, Haiti and even the HMCS Fredericton in the Persian Gulf. That structure gave us agility, flexibility, command and control. We will even soon be ready for the G8.

Senator Nolin: Given the significance of our multinational operations and the interoperability of our equipment and our operations, as the Chief of Transformation, were you cooperating closely with your colleagues from the ACT in Norfolk?

General Natynczyk: Not really.

Senator Nolin: No?

General Natynczyk: They learned many lessons from us.

Senator Nolin: I asked the question to representatives from the ACT. They told me that you have had a very good cooperation.

General Natynczyk: As Chief of Transformation, I went to Norfolk to share our experience on the evolution of our command and control structure and even our capacity in the area of expeditionary operations. And for NATO, it is always difficult to do that.

[English]

Senator Lang: General, last weekend, the Chair of the Defence Committee, Senator Wallin, and I were in Yukon. She had a couple of speaking engagements and we fit in time to see the cadet camp. We were able to spend some time with the legionnaires, who celebrated the grand opening of their new hall. It was a worthwhile weekend.

I will direct the committee's attention to the question of Arctic sovereignty and the responsibility of the Department of National Defence. We are going through some significant climate change, perhaps faster than most of us think things are happening up North. As well, more and more interest is being shown by other countries in terms of the resources in the North.

Could you give us a short overview of your thoughts on the security environment in the Canadian North and the Arctic?

Gen. Natynczyk: Absolutely. When we talk about the Canadian Arctic, we are talking about a vast area. I am glad you were up there recently. I remind people that the area north of 60 is about the size of Europe but with a population of only 104,000 people. It is massive. I also remind people that from a Canadian Forces standpoint, it is harder to sustain operations in the Arctic than it is to sustain operations logistically in Afghanistan because there is no host nation support. What you bring is what you have. In other locations, you can get some support. What you have in the Arctic is what you bring up there with you.

As you mentioned, the Canadian Forces support other government departments. We are not the lead agency with regard to Arctic operations, but we enable the success of everyone else. Obviously, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs has a lead in the North, but all the players, be they with the RCMP, the Department of Public Safety, and the Coast Guard and so on, have functions in the North in enabling the territorial and municipal governments. The Canadian Forces support all of them. We are represented not only by Joint Task Force North in Yellowknife with the detachment in Whitehorse and HQ in Yellowknife, but also by rangers from communities working throughout the Arctic and in coastal areas.

When we talk about sovereignty in the North, normally we are talking about exercising that sovereignty. I do not see a conventional military threat to the Canadian Arctic, which is the broadly held view. My comment is if a country invades the Canadian Arctic, my first challenge is search and rescue to help them out.

The North is about all the things that are not military in the sense that it is about search and rescue, the environment, its criminality and all of those other aspects that are in the domains of others. The Canadian Forces has an important role to play in supporting the success of others. That is why we run the three series of annual operations in the North. The one that people talk about the most is Operation Nanook. We work with other government departments to determine what kind of scenarios they would like to exercise, whether an environmental spill, a cruise ship with a viral infection of some nature, a criminality issue or a drug issue. The Canadian Forces can help other departments to attain their training objectives.

We still provide the search and rescue umbrella over the entire Arctic. Recently, when I travelled in the Arctic with Minister MacKay, we heard about the successful rescue of an Australian adventurer on the ice 500 nautical miles north of Alert. The adventurer was a six-foot-eight-inch retired British soldier who decided to cross-country ski and walk to the North Pole. Five hundred nautical miles north of Alert he fell into the ocean. He was in the water for 10 minutes and hit his beacon, which was an afterthought purchase. Six hours later, a Twin Otter from 440 Squadron Yellowknife flew over him and moments later, three SAR TECHS from Gander, Newfoundland arrived.

I heard this later from the search and rescue technician, in a wonderful Newfoundland drawl — the SAR TECH, search and rescue technician, said he rolled up and the Australian stuck his head out of the tent and said, ``I have no money and no insurance.'' The search and rescue technician said, ``She's okay, b'ys. You're in Canada; she's all free.''

The fact is that was the most northerly SAR mission that I am aware of, 500 nautical miles north of Alert. Therefore, what you see in the North is really about cooperation, about all the departments working together.

We have here today in Ottawa the new commander of NORAD and NORTHCOM, Admiral Sandy Winnefeld. I know you had General Gene Renuart here a little while ago. Now Admiral Sandy Winnefeld is in command, and we talk again about not only the NORAD dimension but the NORTHCOM dimension of the U.S.-Canadian cooperation in the North.

As I just had my Danish colleague here, we must member that with Greenland, Denmark is a geographic neighbour to Canada. When you stand up at Alert and look out at the horizon, Greenland is 40 kilometres away. At its most narrow point, it is about 20 kilometres between Greenland and Canada. Therefore, we work together in the Arctic for the survival of people who are living in very harsh conditions.

Senator Lang: I would like to draw our attention to the question of the budget for the North and the budget that comes under your responsibilities. That has to do with the commitments made over the last number of years. In view of the readjustments going on with government, could you update us on the projects that are under way and whether we will meet the timelines as outlined when they were announced? There are the docking facilities in Nanisivik. I believe there is a training facility in Resolute. There is a commitment to the rangers and a number of other outstanding commitments.

Could you tell us if we will meet the objectives that were outlined in the last couple of years?

Gen. Natynczyk: For the detail, I will have to go back to the department on each of those projects. That would be reasonable to come back with the detail.

The Chair: Just send that along to the committee.

Gen. Natynczyk: I know of no impediment. The issue with Nanisivik is the environmental study, because the site was a mining facility. That port facility had a lot of fuel and so on. I know that there is an ongoing environmental study with regard to Nunavut.

Similarly, with regard to Resolute, at the Arctic training facility we are working together with NRCan who actually owns the facility now. We are basically building on top of their facility to provide a much greater capacity.

I have spoken to the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group. They are working very hard on recruiting rangers. They have the resources to do that, so they are going out to the communities to recruit additional rangers to meet that target. Finally, Admiral McFadden has commented on a mature design for the Arctic offshore patrol ship. When I was up in the Arctic recently, I met with those young reservists who were part of the Arctic company out of Edmonton, the Loyal Eddies. They are up there training, many of them for the first time. They are training with rangers and learning a lot.

At this point in time I would go back to the department for detailed answers to your questions, but I know of no impediments at all.

The Chair: I have always said we could see Greenland from our backyard, but I am glad you clarified that for us today.

Senator Segal: General, could you set aside — I know you cannot do this because you occupy it 24-7 — your role as CDS and try to put on the hat of a senior military leader who has been involved in international military operations around the world on behalf of Canada and with allies.

I know that when we withdraw from Afghanistan, militarily or otherwise, it is beyond your pay scale. Your responsibility is to serve the Parliament and government of the day and the decisions they make so I will not ask that question. However, I will ask the question in the context of the message that you think NATO, as the grand alliance now engaged in support of Afghan forces and the Afghan government, must send to the Taliban and to those forces who support the forces of darkness in that part of the world. What message do you think NATO will send about its commitment to stay the course, its commitment as an alliance, in terms of military, civilian and other aid to be there as long as it takes? What message will be sent so that the classic Taliban line that we often here, namely, you have your watches, we have the time, is addressed directly by the alliance in saying that we have the time as well; we are not turning our backs on this country, and we will be here for as long as it takes?

From the point of view of the strategy of dealing with an entrenched insurgency of that kind, if the head of NATO asked you for your advice on that kind of proposition what would be your comments?

Gen. Natynczyk: Having done many operations with many folks, time is always the enemy for us. People want effects right away and it is difficult. I will not speculate with regard to any of the operations that are happening and unfolding.

One of my lines when I speak to a lot of the soldiers and families, I talk about the fact that last September two things occurred. One, I attended a NATO meeting and the gentlemen sitting beside me was the chief of defence of Croatia. Fifteen years ago, when I was serving in Bosnia and Croatia, I could never have imagined that a NATO ally would be Croatia. Not only is Croatia a NATO partner but they send peacekeeping troops to Afghanistan, as does Bosnia and Herzegovina. That takes time. It has been 18 years since we have been in Bosnia and Croatia.

In September, I also signed off the directive that closed out our operations there because they were no longer required. Therefore, the issue is always time.

With regard to the operations we are going through right now and having spent a little bit of time in Iraq, I remember where we were in 2004 and how tough the campaign was there. I could not have imagined the game changer that occurred through the surge through 2007-08. Major-General Peter Devlin — now Lieutenant-General Peter Devlin because I promoted him about an hour ago — to noted how much the surge worked. The success of the surge and the game changer of the Sunnis, who took control of their country, resulted in the progress you are seeing in Iraq. The game change resulted in governance.

In Afghanistan today, the key question is how do you get a game change in governance? The huge reinforcement of forces is there to enable that game change. That is why I am sure everyone is looking at the jirga that just occurred over the last few days and everyone is looking at the outcome. Some people have their concerns about it, but will it be the game changer that changes what happens with regard to those who are sitting on the fence whether to go with the Taliban or to go with a government of Afghanistan. I would say that the issue is time.

Senator Segal: The more time the better?

Gen. Natynczyk: Yes.

Senator Banks: Good try.

Senator Nolin: Have you mentioned we are pulling out of Bosnia and Herzegovina?

[Translation]

Gen. Natynczyk: In the month of March, we. . .

Senator Nolin: We meaning Canada.

Gen. Natynczyk: Canadians.

Senator Nolin: But not the others?

Gen. Natynczyk: It is a European Union operation. We keep a small contingent of Canadians in Kosovo, but not in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Senator Nolin: I understand that in Croatia, everything goes well, but that we must stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There must be some foreign force.

Gen. Natynczyk: With the European Union.

Senator Nolin: Thank you. Sorry.

[English]

Senator Segal: I tried by best, Madam Chair.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Segal.

Senator Manning: I want to welcome the general and thank him and all of his troops for your great work on behalf of Canadians and the free world. I am delighted with your story of the SAR TECH from Gander, which just cements the fact that we in Newfoundland believe that we have Newfoundlanders and Labradorians everywhere, and 500 miles north of Alert confirms that.

The Chair: He will be helping you work on your accent, general.

enator Manning: I am sure they understand free medical care anywhere, in any language.

I want to shift to the recently announced National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. I am delighted with your comment, general, that it is your number one procurement priority. The breakdown, as most of us understand, is large ship construction, small ship construction, and repair and refit.

There seems to be some concern in the general public with the announcement that only two Canadian shipyards will be able to do the majority of this work. Perhaps you can elaborate on some of the details for us. My understanding is that the two successful shipyards that will be asked to put forward a plan to construct the larger ships will not be able to compete on a smaller vessel construction. That would be opportunities for other shipyards. The refitting and repair will be open to the competitive process completely. Is that correct?

Gen. Natynczyk: As the Chief of the Defence Staff, I represent all those sailors who have to sail those ships coming out, and so I am not into the detail of the strategy itself. I just want to urge progress in getting through to contracts being signed and ships being built. I remind people the last time we built a warship was the HMCS Ottawa. She came off the rails in 1996. The sooner we get rolling to replace a ship like HMCS Iroquois, which next year will be the oldest front line warship in the world, the better.

Senator Manning: I am sure we are all delighted with the shipbuilding strategy and look forward to what it will bring.

I would like to shift to Afghanistan. It was my pleasure to attend the 2010 Defence and Security Trade Show, at which you spoke last week. I enjoyed the tone of your message, but I enjoyed your message just as much. You spoke about the success that we are seeing in Afghanistan, and the work our troops are doing there.

You compared a couple of scenarios in relation to two years ago versus today about the troops that are on the ground with regard to the U.S. division. You talked about the Canadians working in five communities two years ago and now they are working in 30 communities and the capacity building, including the Afghan National Army.

Could you elaborate for us what is being done there? Many people in the country question what is happening in Afghanistan, and understandably so, especially when we have a soldier killed. From your comments, I believe that our soldiers are making a tremendous difference in that part of the world, and I would like to give you an opportunity to expand on that subject.

Gen. Natynczyk: Canadian Forces have a secret weapon, which is a young corporal or private with a smile on his or her face and an open hand to shake somebody else's hand. That is proving to be successful in a place like Afghanistan.

Two years ago, our Canadian Forces, with Task Force Afghanistan, a force under 3,000 was basically on our own in Kandahar province. That was even before the independent panel recommended a battalion show up. It was the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment that showed up. We visited that great unit at Camp Ramrod out in the Maiwand province west of Kandahar. They were the first U.S. unit to come under the command of the Canadians. Their first battle honour was Lundy's Lane, the War of 1812. To have that battalion now under command was quite ironic.

From that time, when we received this battalion, I think the battalion has about 600 people, augmenting our force of about 2,850 to where we are today, where, in addition to our Canadian task force of just under 3,000, there are 20,000 Americans in Kandahar province. I am not talking about Helmand province to the west or Oruzgan up to the north or Zabul to the northeast, but within Kandahar.

I was at an award ceremony Friday afternoon at Rideau Hall to see a squadron commander, a sergeant major of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, whom I saw in a camp by the Arghandab River, near Dahla Dam. They were there with a squadron of 100 soldiers at Christmas of 2008, and today we have two U.S. battalions in that same battle space.

In Kandahar City where there was just one company of infantry supporting the provincial reconstruction team, you have two battalions of U.S. going to a full brigade of U.S. troops, which is in the order of 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers.

The same can be said with regard to the highway west coming out of Kandahar, where in Forward Operating Base Wilson, where we had a company of 150 or 200 Canadian soldiers doing all of the work along Highway 1, the major artery for transportation to Kandahar and to points north and west. You now have a brigade of the 101st Airborne Division in that location in the order of 3,000 soldiers working in that area.

What has occurred through the process of these soldiers coming in over the past year and a half is that Canadian operations have become condensed to the south of Kandahar City in an area called Dand District, and a location to the southwest, Panjwaii District, areas that we know and we have operated since 2006. The bonus is you have a density of forces that can live amongst the Afghans.

At this point a year ago, it was five towns and now it is 30 towns, so that the troops are dispersed into the villages, providing security where the Afghans live. They are partnering with Afghan units such that when the Taliban come back, their efforts to intimidate locals are thwarted by the fact that the NATO forces, Canadian, U.S. and others, are right there.

This is what has been transpiring over the last little while. The point to me is flying over and seeing green fields, and the picture that I show now was taken from the helicopter in March when I was there. It is stark because had you taken the same picture a year ago, it would have been brown fields because people were not there nor were they working the fields. You need to have a level of security so that farmers can go out in the fields, till their fields and open the weirs and work the irrigation systems. That was a sign of huge hope to me.

Senator Manning: General, we had representatives here last week to talk about the morale in the troops and the interest in the Canadian Forces. Most were meeting their targets of recruitment and retention. When you spoke at the conference, you referred to having 12,000 troops in the pipeline.

Where do you see the future of the Canadian Forces on what we have learned in Afghanistan or how we have built the interest in the Canadian Forces from our role in Afghanistan?

Gen. Natynczyk: There has never been a better time to be wearing the uniform of the Canadian Forces. I have 35 years, as of this summer, and with my five years of air cadets, that is four years of polishing boots, but there has never been a better time because of the professionalism in air, land, sea and special forces — all of them — and the joint capabilities. We have people who now have exceptional skills, professionalism and experience.

I was walking through the Ottawa airport a while ago, and I met a petty officer in the navy wearing a CADPAT, the desert uniform. He was coming off a plane. I asked him where he was coming home from? He replied, ``Kandahar.'' I said, ``What do you mean, Kandahar?'' ``What have you been doing?'' He said, ``Well, for my shore posting off the ship, I thought I would spend my time in Kandahar rather than dockyard Halifax.'' I said, ``What?'' He said, ``Yeah, it's the second time I've done this; so I come off a ship, go to Kandahar for a tour, go back onto another ship, and that is what I want to do.''

The Afghan experience has brought the level of the Canadian Forces' professionalism — air, land, sea and special forces — to a level we have not seen in generations.

The person that will sit here 20 years from now is currently a young lieutenant or captain or major who has earned his or her spurs as a platoon or company commander, maybe battalion commander, in Afghanistan over the past few years, or as a naval lieutenant commander or commander because of the experience that this operation has provided.

Not only are we in better shape today because of this experience but also the confidence in the men and women of the Canadian Forces to do a combat operation, no matter what, will set us up for the future. In fact, you saw a reflection of that in Haiti. We rolled into Haiti basically overnight. The air, land and sea forces that were used had extensive experience, whether off the Horn of Africa, in the gulf, in Afghanistan and in the Arctic.

I was thinking about those aircraft landing at Jacmel Airport, a 3,000-foot asphalt runway, which is tough if you are landing a fully loaded Hercules aircraft. If you can land that same aircraft in Pangnirtung, then you can land it in Jacmel and open up a hub.

I cannot emphasize this enough. I am being told by our allies who work with us, whether it is in Afghanistan, Haiti, on the West Bank or anywhere in Africa, that the professionalism of our men and women are second to none.

Senator Banks: Thank you, general. It was nice to see you in Edmonton last week, and I am grateful for your words there.

I have been asking my first question of your predecessor and his predecessor and his predecessor. What is the word on fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft in the North? How soon can we expect a decision?

My second question returns to the Afghanistan issue. There was a point in which, for all intents and purposes, the secretariat of the President of Afghanistan, Canadian military personnel, ran the machinery of the country. At one time, Colonel Serge Labbé headed it. I believe he is now Brigadier-General Serge Labbé. Is that still the case?

I know you know the answer to my next question because the reason you are held in such high regard by the people you command, including the privates and the corporals, is because you pay attention to them. It cannot have been other than that some of the things that the President of Afghanistan has said and done in the last six months or so has, perhaps, had an effect — not on the commitment of our Canadian men and women in the service, because we know their commitment is absolute and they have the right attitude. Is it not a bit disheartening, never mind to the generals and colonels, but to the privates and corporals in Afghanistan, when those things — and you know what they are — happen and are done and said by the government of Afghanistan. You rightly said we are there to help and prop up and ensure that it becomes able to continue to be a functioning state.

Gen. Natynczyk: As to fixed wing search and rescue, we are conducting search and rescue operations with the Cormorant helicopters with the Buffalo and the Hercules. Many of the Hercules are the newer of the old version H model Hercules aircraft, working hard on the serviceability of the Cormorants. Really, the Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue project is there to replace the H model Hercules and the Buffalos.

I want to emphasize that when talking about fixed-wing search and rescue, people tend to focus on the Buffalo aircraft. There are only six and we use them only in Comox, providing search and rescue support in the mountains. The Cormorant is equally capable of doing that kind of mission. When we talk about replacing fixed-wing search and rescue, the key aircraft for me to replace is the Hercules that is conducting that operation.

This effort to replace those two aircraft is part of the Canada First Defence Strategy. The latest development is that Defence Research and Development Canada and NRCan have looked at the requirements and validated them. People are poring over the report right now. I want to encourage a quick resolution to that project to replace both the Buffalo and those older Hercules.

With regard to Afghanistan, we had the strategic advisory team, SAT, that evolved into the government support office, which is a DFAIT-led organization. That is right, because they are in the policy business doing that capability or capacity building inside the Government of Afghanistan.

With regard to the Afghan government, it is their country, talking about the governance and the messaging and so on. The key part of the six priorities of the Government of Canada was reconciliation in dealing with the Taliban. The lead is with the Afghan government. It is difficult as we, with our Western lenses and glasses, watch what they are doing and try to understand the messaging that they are providing.

At the end of the day, the solution to this counter-insurgency must be an Afghan solution. All of us on the bleachers watching this must be patient to see how this unfolds for the game changer that I talked about before.

Again, it is reconciliation at a national level. I know that General Stanley McChrystal has intent for a reintegration at a local or tactical level. Those fighters who are out there are just those poor kids without a lot of education. If they had an alternative to firing a rocket-propelled grenade or laying an IED, if they had a better option to till a field, work on a road, work in a shop or a small business proposition, hopefully they would take that rather than plant an IED. That can only be enabled by a national-level reconciliation effort. The international community, the United Nations, with NATO, must enable the Afghan government to get on with that reconciliation effort. This is difficult, but if we can get it squared away, that will be the game changer.

Senator Day: We have just learned that President Karzai asked certain Taliban to participate in a meeting and as a result, the minister of the interior and the minister of intelligence have resigned. I see that as a major setback in what you are talking about.

Can we continue with this game changer at the provincial reconstruction level and working all over Afghanistan, or does it have to be — as we have come to think in the last little while — directed out of Kabul?

Gen. Natynczyk: With regard to the jirga, the attacks on the jirga were unfortunate. I received some notes, though, from Kabul. It is unfortunate because the cameras are focused on the attacks and not the fact that the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army did a terrific job of stopping many attacks, finding many rockets, bombs, and so on, but nothing is perfect. Obviously, a few slipped through.

I want to emphasize the fact that the Afghan police and Afghan army have come a long way because of the leadership of ministers Atmar and Saleh. They are the two ministers who resigned because of the attacks. I agree with the senator that it is a setback because they were credible partners.

In this business, though, you have to be an optimist. Again, I go back to how difficult it is to get governance moving in this country. We will have to see what the assessment is and how the President Karzai moves ahead.

Senator Day: Thank you for that comment. I guess we will wait and see on that.

We are trying to think of roles for our Armed Forces and for the Government of Canada following next year. In rough numbers, can you give us the number of military personnel involved with the International Security Assistance Forces, ISAF? Can you give us the number of military personnel supporting the provincial reconstruction team? Can you give us the number involved in training the army, police, and involved in Kabul? Can you tell us how many people are at the headquarters and involved in general governance support?

Gen. Natynczyk: You will have to get detailed numbers of the make-up of Task Force Afghanistan from the department. In Kabul, we have about 100 men and women working at the ISAF headquarters, working at the NATO Training Mission—Afghanistan, and who are also working at the staff college. We have also had the approval for another 90 men and women to augment the overall task force. Some of them will go into headquarters, but the preponderance will go into a language school, an aviation school, and what is basically a military law school in Kabul. The numbers in Kabul will be changing.

The majority of our task force is in Kandahar. Though you would have to get the details, the battle group is in excess of 1,000 men and women, between the infantry, armour, artillery and logistics. The PRT numbers 300 people, because there is also an intimate infantry company providing security. They also have an engineer design and reconstruction capability that works along with DFAIT and CIDA in terms of working on the design and contracting of various projects. Therefore, we have Canadian military engineers working with CIDA and DFAIT, as well as working alongside the RCMP at the Afghan police training school at the PRT.

We have approximately 300 men and women working with the Observer Mentor Liaison Team focused on outside- the-wire training of the Afghan army. They are throughout Kandahar province, working on six battalion-sized organizations. Four of those are infantry kandaks, which are battalions. One is combat service support, which means it has signals, engineering and so on. One is a combat service support, which is logistically focused. Our national security element is about 700 people.

In addition to that, we have a very capable air wing that flies the eight Griffins, six Chinooks and the Heron unmanned aerial vehicles. That is about 700, if memory serves, but again I would refer you back to the details.

Senator Day: We understand NATO has been looking for a significant increase in observer mentors. Can we participate further in that regard? I hear Canada is doing an excellent job, particularly with respect to the Afghan National Army.

Gen. Natynczyk: We had the approval from the Government of Canada to put in the additional 90 staff and trainers. We are showing others what ``right'' looks like with the quality of the instruction we are providing. Our men and women who are part of the mentor liaison team go into operations with the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police after having conducted the training. They partner and those bonds of trust are established. At the same time, and as a result of those strong bonds of trust, we see the Afghan army and police growing and building confidence. They will soon be able to execute operations without our help. We start taking a step back from the operations and support them when they get into difficulty.

Senator Day: I hope you will pass on to all of the soldiers how much we appreciate the work that they are doing. Several of us participate in NATO parliamentary meetings and we hear the same positive comments about Canada's contribution in Afghanistan.

Senator Dallaire: You have a veterans force with some non-veterans in training. They will be reduced with time and you will be 2,000 short of the ultimate aim of 70,000 regulars. I do not know the impact of that. That will be played out. You have a lot of combat capability and experience, but you also have acquired a lot of capacity-building skills.

Do you see the Military Training Assistance Program, MTAP, being expanded to offer that capability to developing nations to assist them in building their capacities?

Gen. Natynczyk: I am thrilled by what we are doing and by the military training capacity programs. They changed the name just to confuse the older guys. They are the same kind of skills we have had before that we are applying elsewhere, whether it is in Jamaica or Africa. We have a huge capability potential to do those kinds of missions.

The Chair: Thank you very much. We appreciate the information you have been able to condense in this past hour. Thank you, General Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff, for being with us. Thanks again to all our men and women in uniform.

We are pleased to welcome to these hearings of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence Afghanistan's Ambassador to Canada, His Excellency Mr. Jawed Ludin.

We have asked Ambassador Ludin to give his government's views on the Canadian role in Afghanistan, about the evolution of both civil society and the war there, as well as provide insight into the progress his government is making, including an update on the jirga that just occurred.

Ambassador Ludin grew up and began his education in Kabul, but had to interrupt that when the Taliban took over. He resumed his studies at the University of London and earned a Master's degree in political theory. He is now a candidate for a master's of law degree at the University of Oslo.

The ambassador has brought experience in humanitarian development work, conflict resolution, management, media, public relations and politics. In addition to working with several international non-governmental organizations based in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United Kingdom, he has had helped to organize the Bonn Agreement that laid the foundation for a democratic Afghanistan.

Mr. Ludin served as President Karzai's Presidential Spokesman and Director of Communications in 2003, was appointed Chief of Staff, became Ambassador to Norway and arrived in Ottawa just over one year ago.

Welcome. We are pleased that you could be with us today. Would you like to make any opening comments? Please, go ahead.

His Excellency Jawed Ludin, Ambassador of Afghanistan in Canada: I have prepared a brief statement.

Honourable chair, distinguished members of the committee, it is a true privilege to be here this evening. Allow me to thank all honourable senators of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence for their concern, support and commitment to Afghanistan, of which this hearing is an example.

I am grateful for the opportunity to testify before you today. I have a great deal to share with honourable senators. I would like to share my perspective from Afghanistan about the situation there and the important role that Canada plays.

Allow me to express my condolences on the death of Sergeant Martin Goudreault of the Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group who was killed in action yesterday in Kandahar. He became the latest Canadian life sacrificed for the mission in Afghanistan. Sergeant Goudreault and the 146 other Canadian soldiers before him laid down their lives in a noble cause and deserve the ultimate honour and reverence any life can earn. True to the great Canadian tradition of generosity and concern, they have died not only for their own great country, Canada, but also for the sake of peace, democracy, rule of law and the alleviation of suffering in my country, for which my fellow Afghans and I are grateful.

Thanks to the support and sacrifices we have received from Canada and many other nations that are part of a truly international effort in Afghanistan, we have made tremendous progress. This is also thanks to the long-standing desire of our own people, of course, but we would not have been able to do that without the support that we have received from the international community. It has been an uphill struggle and the road ahead is still long and arduous. However, I am certain that you are aware of the historical progress that has been made in access to health and education, in economic recovery and in achieving some of the basic freedoms that are the cornerstone of a democratic society like the one you have in Canada. The effort is to ensure that those achievements are not reversed in any way and to ensure success for the part that remains. For that reason, we continue the struggle. The struggle today is to consolidate those gains. We are at a critical time. We are pleased to see that there has been a positive international trend to recommitment. In the first year of his administration, President Obama of the United States recommitted his country to its important role in Afghanistan, to NATO in general and, probably more importantly, to a discernible strategic shift we have seen in the region that is extremely critical for our success. Most important is the situation inside Afghanistan and the trends there.

Despite a number of years of relatively negative news that has emanated from the reality that security has been worsening and the difficult times that we have had, the news has not always been good. However, as things stand, moving beyond some of the essentially one-dimensional reporting that we see in the media, we see a situation that has promise and an expressed determination by Afghans to not go backwards at any cost. That is why the role of partners such as Canada becomes extremely important.

I speak for Afghans and for my government in saying that we are determined to achieve our goals. For us in Afghanistan there is no plan B. We would like the international community to share this goal with us, and I am certain that is the case. We are extremely grateful to Canada for what it has done for Afghanistan, which few nations in history have done for others. We will always remain grateful. However, we still have goals to achieve. There is still some work to do.

We understand the existing parliamentary resolution and completely respect the decision that the mission in Kandahar will come to an end next year. We hope that Canada's future role, as indicated, will continue and will focus on a number of areas that are important for us and the priorities that we face. To discuss those priorities and our determination, I have the honour today to appear before you, and I look forward to your questions.

The Chair: Thank you for your kind words about our country. We agree that our soldiers and civilians have done an amazing job.

Senator Dallaire: In nation building in nascent democracies, one would think that the countries prepared to support must be prepared to spend 40 years in place. Canada has been in Cyprus, where things are stable, for 45 years but one day the blue berets might leave. We have been in the Balkans for 18 years. Yet, we are putting significant limits on the security side of the mission in Afghanistan when that result has not stabilized. The decision does not seem to be based on any sort of strategic or tactical analysis but on a purely political one.

What do you expect Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs to bring forward at the meeting of foreign ministers in Kabul, from July 19 to 21, with regard to development, nation building, capacity building, governance and security?

Mr. Ludin: The voice of Canada is very important around the table. Apart from what Canada can contribute to Afghanistan in the areas from democratization to development to the role that it has played in security, we hope that it will play in a different way in the broader security context. Canada also brings a reflection of the truly international nature of the effort.

Countries around the table at that conference will listen to each other and they will gauge the level of commitment. There are debates in Europe. There are debates in NATO countries. I think the debate should not be about whether to help Afghanistan or whether this mission is important, but about progress in terms of the political message, to get across how to achieve this mission. There are express calls.

For Canada, it will be important, regardless of the shape of the mission in 2011, to remain a partner for the rest of the world, for NATO. That should be repeated.

I hope that by then there will be some clarity in terms of the elements of Canada's contribution. The Kabul conference is a very important conference. That is where we hope to have some specifics laid out. Afghans will lead the reconciliation agenda, but NATO will lead the military agenda in the South, where we expect the United States will take the larger share of the role. However, the most important things will be progress on the governance side; the role that Canada plays in support of institution building in Afghanistan; support to the election process in September; and support to civil society, which is really the grain of Canada's commitment. A restatement of those commitments would be helpful.

Senator Dallaire: Do you see that in order to enhance an atmosphere of security, an emphasis should be shifted significantly from a country like ours, which has been doing this particular type of work in many other countries, to concentrating on both judicial and police development and ultimately effectiveness as we transition beyond 2011?

Mr. Ludin: Absolutely, and I am pleased you raised the question of police. The one extremely important lesson over the last nine years, is that there was a severe under-investment in the training and the buildup of the police. The minister who left the cabinet may have left his job but he has actually left an extremely important achievement, and that is a plan for reform. Of course, it will take time for that plan to be implemented, but it is likely that the most basic steps have already been taken.

What we really need to focus on is numbers. We still need to recruit and train, basic things, but also to work on quality. It would probably be the single most important contribution that a country can make in the broader security agenda. I am not just talking about fighting, because security somehow is seen as fighting. It is not just fighting, but it is about enabling Afghan institutions to enforce the rule of law and focus on security. Therefore a focus on police is extremely important.

Senator Dallaire: Instead doing the training of the Afghan leadership, police, military, and maybe even politicians in Afghanistan, do you see a positive option in bringing more Afghanistan selected potential leaders to this country to be trained, educated, and developed? Would that be a viable option?

Mr. Ludin: That in fact is music to my ears, because that is exactly what I believe has to be done. I know from experience what it is to have the opportunity to receive an education in a world-class university. I went to university in the United Kingdom. I know it is not just the education that you get; you get a complete shift in world view.

I am grateful that Canada is already focusing to some extent on that option. As we speak, there are four Afghan cadets studying at the Royal Military College in Kingston. It would be an immensely valuable step to increase that type of training. For an army that was built from scratch nine years ago, an army that was built by NATO, it is consistent and interoperable with NATO structures, and it will remain. As an Afghan, I am absolutely sure that we will overcome these difficulties, but once those are past, in the future it will remain an asset for the region and for the world.

Leadership is extremely important. I would be grateful and in fact I am already discussing with the government for increasing that activity.

Senator Banks: Your Excellency, it is nice to see you again. Thank you for being here.

I will ask two questions at the same time. They are related and they both have to do with questions that we just had the privilege of asking the Chief of the Defence Staff.

You quite kindly and correctly observed the noble cause in which Canadians place themselves at risk and sometimes at risk of everything. Canadians are used to doing that far afield. We have not done it on our home territory for a very long time, but we are used to doing it in the interests of governments that are more like us and who do not sometimes criticize us. This question may seem obstreperous but I believe you will see it is well intended.

We have seen in Afghanistan — and most recently yesterday and the day before — things that the Afghan government says and does that seem on the face of them to be ungrateful. I know they are not intended to be ungrateful. However, Canadian soldiers are there to help protect Afghan citizens and enable the Afghan government to function as a state that eventually will be able to protect its own citizens. It is difficult for Canadians sometimes to accept and understand the setbacks, and always the slow progress and sometimes the setbacks in that progress. If you had the opportunity, which you now have, in fact, to talk to Canadians, what would you say to them about those setbacks?

A subset and corollary of that — and this is my second question — we must be careful not to presume that we are going to help to put into place in Afghanistan a government that is anything like ours. All we want to put into place in Afghanistan is a functioning government devised by Afghans. What we sometimes see as corruption — this is a subset of the previous question — has in some cases been a fact and a way of life for a long time in Afghanistan and in many other countries.

Again, what do you say to Canadians who see and who argue that they are sending their sons and daughters to protect a government in which there is and which sometimes seems to tolerate what we would regard as corruption? How would you address Canadians in that respect?

Mr. Ludin: Honourable senators, those are very pertinent questions. I have to be clear on the gratefulness element, because I have worked closely with President Karzai and I am starting from him because he is obviously the president now. I know that there are a fewer moments when he really feels pained other than those when he hears about the loss of life among the foreign forces. As you well know, and he has made it clear in his statements, he is also very pained by civilian losses, like we all are. He also feels that there is no greater sacrifice than the loss of life for a young man or woman who has come thousands of miles away for what is essentially our security. I know him and I have worked closely with him; that is his mentality. Whatever his recent remarks may be, I do not identify with them. That is how I know him.

The same thing trickles down. I sometimes say that history will tell the story. In Canada, obviously, you have experiences. You mentioned Korea, World War II and the Netherlands. In Kandahar, it will be 10 years from now when people will have the opportunity to sit back and reflect on what Canada's contribution has meant for their lives. They are now in the middle of the struggle, so they have not had an opportunity to express it, but it is there.

On the question of setbacks and corruption, in particular, I would appeal to the Canadian people. In the one year I have spent in this country, I have had some opportunities to do that. I will appeal for their understanding. I will just say, ``Imagine where Afghanistan was 10 years ago.'' It was not any other country in a normal state or in a state of poverty or conflict. The country was utterly devastated and did not have a state structure to speak of. To suddenly bring it and make it responsible for a task that would probably take an extremely well developed state a lot of effort to achieve, there are bound to be failures, setbacks and things that are not accomplished. Corruption is a symptom of this. No one, from President Karzai down to any Afghan, would be able to deny the fact that corruption is a problem. No one can condone or deny the problem; however, it is a complex problem.

One complexity is that out of the money that has come to Afghanistan, only 20 per cent has gone to the government. Putting it into proportion, 80 per cent has been spent directly by donor countries. There is corruption in both. There is corruption in the 20 per cent and in the 80 per cent. In the 80 per cent, it may be a bit of unconventional corruption. It may be done in multiple contracting because many of the companies that get the contracts do not even leave their home country. They then give the contract to another company that gives it to another company, and that is waste, if not technically corruption, which is the same thing for Afghans.

I would appeal to your understanding that in Afghanistan we need not just your support but also your understanding and, ultimately, time. As an Afghan, I was optimistic when I first went to Afghanistan in 2001. I thought that we could become a democracy and a developed country in a short time. However, I am now realistic, and I know now that these things take time.

Senator Lang: Thank you very much for coming today. It is worthwhile for us to hear directly from a representative of Afghanistan how you view not only your country but also the countries that are there to aid and abet you in your objective of getting a secure government in place. Someone like you, with the age that you are, and, obviously, the education that you have, certainly gives us hope for the future.

I would like to direct my attention and yours to the question of the surge, the increase of troops in Afghanistan, similar to what happened in Iraq. It was a short period of time when that was done, primarily with the Americans, and the success came quickly.

Can you give us an update as to where we are with the advent of the surge? Do you see it as being successful in the fall?

Mr. Ludin: Senator Lang, the surge was the absolutely right strategy at the right time. We needed it, which is not to say that some people may be concerned about the dichotomy that is perceived to exist between the military and political solution, but both are essential. It was particularly essential now and was particularly needed in the south. Helmand had become a stronghold of the Taliban. Kandahar — many of you will be more informed about Kandahar than I may be — may not have strongholds of the Taliban, but it is insecure. It is very vulnerable to assassination attempts, suicide bombings and other forms of terrorist activity. It is required.

Where we are is that a significant effort is still going on in Helmand, after the Marjah operation earlier this year. Obviously, the effort was not supposed to be an operation where you can measure its success. The effort was that it will be a military operation but it will involve staying and enabling communities to come out and feel protected. That is when we can see success. The first step is the operation itself and the cleaning; that has been done. However, the other phases, which are staying there and making communities feel protected, are ongoing.

The same thing has started in Kandahar, except in Kandahar, as I said, because there are not any of the organized formations needed to conduct an operation, it may not involve a military operation of the kind that we saw in Marjah. Make no mistake: Helmand is a different challenge, but Kandahar is perhaps the single most important battle in this fight. This battle does not involve just physical operations but involves blocking the relative freedom that terrorist's feel they have or have to conduct their terrorist activities.

A few years ago, they had the freedom to organize themselves in corners such as Panjwaii where Canadians have fought with exceptional bravery. They have now denied them those safe havens and strongholds. Today, the challenge is different. The freedom they have today is not of an organization and military organizations but of defying our intelligence capability, of killing tribal elders, religions elders and normal people and attacking your forces. Predominantly, the loss of life over the past two years has been through IEDs, suicide bombings and those sorts of attacks.

It will not be easy. The most important thing is a surge, which was basically our input as the Afghans, and I am glad that it was taken up by NATO and the United States, suddenly, and any side should have an international factor. I am not saying that there should not be forces in Pakistan or in other places, but without an action on the upstream of this terrorist enterprise, we will not be able to secure any place, let alone Kandahar. That is important.

That is where we are. We are doing a number of things, and discussion is ongoing at the international level and there is a strong presence at Kandahar. There will be continued buildup. More American troops are running into the summer and, until July, will be coming to Kandahar. The Canadian contribution is still extremely relevant. It is now focused in a smaller area around the city and to the west, but it is vital.

One important thing that Canada's mission has there is not the scale but the approach. The approach that General McChrystal, the NATO commander, has now adopted is what Canadians started a long time ago. There is credit to Canada for that. There is credit for the fighting that Canadians did in the previous years and there is credit to the approach that they are now implementing in feeding into the broader NATO strategy.

Senator Lang: You heard the general earlier today talk about game changers. We have read about the meetings in the past week in the Afghan government and with various representatives from around the country and the fact that the Taliban were not there.

What is the game plan over the course of the next year? Will we see a series of meetings where reproaches will be made to see whether we can bring the various factions of the country together?

Perhaps you could comment also on the Taliban and the prospects of the more moderate Taliban being represented in some manner or another.

Mr. Ludin: The peace jirga that took place last week was the most important exercise in the reconciliation process and is recognized by all of us as an important element in the strategy, but not the only one. As I said earlier, the military should continue, and it is a precondition for any chances of success that the political solution might have.

What will it involve? This particular peace jirga was an exercise by President Karzai to build a consensus across the country. There were elements questioning, in Afghanistan, in civil society, in political groups in Parliament, predominantly among women, about what a political solution or a negotiated settlement or reconciliation with the Taliban might mean. What will it mean for Afghanistan, for its Constitution, for its democracy, for its future and for them in particular?

Obviously, President Karzai might have thought that he had a mandate to do something like that, but he thought he needed a specific mandate for reconciliation and that is what he has done. Today he has it because the peace jirga basically unanimously endorsed that this should be done and that we should speak to the Taliban. It was not supposed to be a forum with the Taliban. It was only supposed to be a forum with all sorts of other elements in the society that would give the President and the government the mandate and the parameters within which to reconcile with the Taliban. It will now lead to other steps which will be taken.

There was a time when we could have had some moderate Taliban participation, but it goes back to a few months ago when there were some arrests made in Pakistan that made it impossible.

The Chair: Is there a Taliban for you to bring to the table? Is there a Taliban that is willing to come to the table? We use that as a general rubric, but that is a diverse group.

Mr. Ludin: That is an absolutely important point. Afghans hope that we will not bring people as Taliban. Taliban has been a label more than anything else. What the peace jirga has determined is that whatever arrangement is made, it must respect a few things. First, the Constitution is beyond compromise. Second, some of the basic freedoms enshrined in the Constitution — the equality between men and women — are beyond compromise. The democratic process cannot be compromised. They cannot come and say, ``We do not accept this process; we would rather have a theocracy.'' That is beyond compromise. There are a number of red lines, which is important.

In terms of who can come, we have now realized, by experience, again, that it does not help to exclude people in advance. It is better to put them through the process. If they do not meet some of the criteria — that is, if they are related to al Qaeda, which was another thing the peace jirga clarified — if they still engage in terrorist activity and do not meet some of the other criteria, then they will be automatically excluded. To make some advance announcements about A and B or X and Y being excluded does not help the confidence building process that we need.

Senator Manning: Thank you, Your Excellency. Glad to have you here with us today.

Throughout Canada there are always questions with regard to the Afghan mission. When I travel, people ask about the difference that the Canadian troops are making to your country and to the people in your country. We try to pass along some of the stories that our soldiers tell us when they return. It comes to a point of measuring the effectiveness of our troops in your country.

In your opening remarks you touched on health care and education. Can you elaborate on some of that? I know, in the Taliban era, little girls were not allowed to be educated, as an example, and now we learn that several hundred thousand are participating in education — not just the girls alone, women too. Could you elaborate on that situation and give us some of the ideas that the differences our troops are making?

Mr. Ludin: I could take hours to talk about this. I really feel deeply distressed when I see the image that is projected of Afghanistan, predominantly by media but widely enough in Canada. The media does not reflect those realities. It is a one-dimensional image focused on security and negatives.

On the other hand, in 2001, when the Taliban was still there, in a country of 33 million people there were 900,000 students. They were all boys and they had infrequent access to school. Today, 6.5 million children go to school of which 35 per cent are girls. In fact, the percentage of girls in Afghan schools was higher by 5 per cent, but regrettably, over the past few years in the South many schools have been closed because of insecurity. We were expecting many more school enrolments to reach the 8 million mark, but it has not.

In health in 2002, 8 per cent of 33 million people had access to basic, rudimentary health care. Today, it is 82 per cent. This 82 per cent figure is from 2008. It is not today, regrettably, because I did not have the recent figures.

I lived in England in 2001. If I wanted to call a relative in Kabul, the relative had to travel all the way to Peshawar in Pakistan, a journey of two to three days because of the road conditions. Talking about roads, you can reach Pakistan in three hours. Talking about telephones, if I had to make a call to a relative in Kabul the relative had to go to Peshawar to receive my call. Today Afghanistan has one of the highest rates of mobile phone use in the region, per population ratio.

The trouble with us is the fact that this continuing insecurity has created a shadow that prevents us from seeing everything else that is going on behind this. I am not saying that there are not problems. There have been setbacks. Over the last 10 years, our Afghanistan story has been a story of several steps forward, one or two steps backward. Again, a few steps forward; one or two steps backward. I think that is very natural.

Senator Manning: Concerning the withdrawal of the Canadian Forces, I am wondering about the security situation for Afghans and for our own soldiers who might be there participating in some type of assistance with the Afghan army. I read some of the comments you made with regard to the planned pullout of our troops and from your statements, I read a great concern about security. Could you touch on that, and give us some indication of what your main concerns will be in relation to the progress made and whether that can continue without being in a secure country?

Mr. Ludin: As I said in my previous answer to your questions, security is not just preventing us from seeing all the progress but also has the potential to reverse all those achievements. Unfortunately, most of the achievements are still reversible.

Therefore, Afghanistan needs everything we can get. We develop on all fronts, in all dimensions. As an Afghan, if I had just one choice to make for which to get help from the international community, I would choose security. On that front, we have moved on from a few years ago when we needed just a pure deployment and military intervention. Today, it is complex and we need a number of things.

I was a witness to the 2006 Operation Medusa in Panjwaii in Kandahar. I commend the Canadian soldiers' courage. You have done that element, which is fighting. Now the single most important contribution that we Afghans need in the area of security is to build up our own forces — our police and our army — and sooner rather than later, and not just from Canadians but also from the rest of the world. We think it an intolerable situation for Americans, Canadians, British and any other soldiers to die because of our security. There should be no illusions anywhere that we Afghans like the situation. We absolutely suffer because of it. We would like to be in a better situation.

In terms of major and important countries for us, we consider Canada as among the top contributors in Afghanistan. If a country like that comes and tells us that their role is changing — if it is; I am not saying this is happening — as an Afghan, I should have my answers ready. My answer to Canada is to remain involved in the security agenda by building up our forces. As I said, that is our single most important and strategic priority. We would like to get it right, with your help.

Senator Nolin: Your Excellency, thank you for accepting our invitation. After the election of President Karzai, and reading the reports from the London conference, I am still hopeful that everyone is on the right track.

An important part of the solution is your relationship with Pakistan. What is the executive relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan? I think the key to the solution is there.

Mr. Ludin: Absolutely. That is a relevant question. Our relationship with Pakistan has transformed dramatically over the past two years.

Senator Nolin: Has it transformed positively?

Mr. Ludin: This corresponds to the emergence of a civilian government in Pakistan.

It has shifted to the positive side. We believe there is now a realization across Pakistan, in both the civil and political society — among people in the Parliament and the civilian government — that terrorism is their enemy as much as it is our enemy. They have seen it. Terrorists have hit them as hard as they have hit us.

There is an opportunity for an unprecedented cooperation. We have also benefited from some of the actions that Pakistan has taken against terrorism. We have yet to see the full range of benefits that we can reap from a Pakistani commitment.

Unfortunately, there are still examples that the Taliban leadership remains at large in Pakistan and that some of the enabling infrastructure that the terrorists use to launch their operations in Afghanistan are regrettably based upon their soil. The attack that happened over the weekend on the peace jirga in Kabul was traced directly to the Haqqani network on the other side of the border.

Those are examples of challenges that still exist in this relationship. However, we are more positive than we have ever been in recent times — by which I mean decades — about our relationship with Pakistan. We hope that the shift in Pakistan towards a different approach to terrorism will happen quickly, because the international community does not have much time.

Senator Nolin: Some of us met with some of your parliamentary representatives a week ago. We gave them, again, the solid support to favour ongoing talks between Afghan and Pakistani parliamentarians. We have been talking about that for the last three years and we do not see that happening fast enough. Maybe you can help.

When parliamentarians, representatives of the population, meet, there is parliamentary diplomacy. I have a great deal of respect for executive diplomacy but parliamentary diplomacy can work well.

Mr. Ludin: I have tremendous respect for parliamentary diplomacy. I had a meeting last week with Senator Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate. I was extremely encouraged when he emphasized this point. He said that there may be a role for Canada's Parliament and Senate to play in encouraging that sort of diplomacy between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and even the wider region. We in Afghanistan would welcome that.

Senator Nolin: If you need a forum. . . .

Senator Day: Thank you for being here. I am concerned that the elected Parliament is not meeting and is not sitting. I am concerned that two of the finest cabinet ministers have resigned. We have had a lot of problems with the minister for the interior in the past and you got that cleaned up and fixed for us and now the new minister is gone.

Is the approach of trying to do everything from the top-down still in effect? Can we turn that around and go back to the provincial reconstruction and have a bottom-up revival happening? Would that not work better, given all the problems we are seeing in the first top-down approach?

I will ask my second question as well to get them both on the record. I want clarification. You talked about assuming we will no longer be involved in insurgency next year and we will not have the 2,800 soldiers involved in insurgency. However, there are many other roles that Canada is playing now and could play. You indicated one of the most important is the Afghan National Army, and then you talked earlier about the police. Were you talking about the Afghan National Security Force, including both the army and the police, which is a broader place for us to be involved?

Mr. Ludin: To answer the second question, yes, I did mean that. In some respects, the police might need more help than the army might need. The army has a history of receiving generous support.

By nature of the threat that we face, both the army and the police are playing similar roles. Whichever way you contribute, the results are visible.

With respect to your first question, I hope that the move away from institution building and away from support to state institutions will not take place. At the end of the day, individuals come and go, and the two much respected and highly capable individuals that, unfortunately, we lost over the weekend have left a legacy. We pray that others will take it up. This is part of the challenge.

President Karzai realizes that his most important priorities include not only carrying the various burdens of governance but also ensuring that there is a good government in place. That is why he is taking a long time in deliberating over half of his cabinet; now, there are two more positions to fill. It will take time. At times, as an Afghan I feel anxious and unhappy about the time that is wasted when they are not debating, et cetera. However, this is a new experience for us. The past five years of a new democratic experience with a parliament and an elected president have been historical. It is not perfect, but this is the best we have had in generations.

The Chair: Ambassador Ludin, we really appreciate your being here today. A lot of blood and tears have been spilled on both sides. We look forward to a successful resolution.

That brings the formal part of our meeting to a close. We will meet briefly in camera.

(The committee continued in camera.)