Statement By the Prime Minister of Canada on the Independent Panel On Canada's Future Role In Afghanistan
January 28, 2021
OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued the following statement today:

“Last October, I asked former Deputy Prime Minister John Manley to lead an independent panel of eminent Canadians in the examination of Canada's future role in Afghanistan. I did so because I believed that our mission in Afghanistan is of such national importance that Canadians deserved a level of debate, insight and analysis beyond partisan politics. The panel members last week presented the Government with their findings and recommendations. And the result of their efforts is a balanced, thoughtful and comprehensive report to Canadians.

All of the members of the panel are to be congratulated for the quality of their work and their dedication to public service. Through their work, Mr. Manley and his colleagues affirmed the strong belief that Canada's commitment in Afghanistan matters. It matters because it concerns Canadian and global security. It matters because it concerns Canada's international reputation as well as obligations that we have undertaken for the well-being of some of the world's most impoverished and vulnerable people. And it matters in no small measure because of the dedication and sacrifice of Canada's finest men and women as they work to safeguard our world and bring hope to the Afghan people.

I have spoken with Mr. Manley and advised him that our Government broadly accepts the recommendations put forward by the panel on Canada's future in Afghanistan. More precisely, the Government accepts the panel’s specific recommendation of extending Canada’s mission in Afghanistan if – and I must emphasize if – certain conditions are met; that is, the securing of a partner or partners in Kandahar province with additional combat troops and equipment capabilities. In other words, while the case for the Afghan mission is clearly compelling, the decision to allow our young men and women to continue to be in harm’s way demands the responsibility to give them a strong chance of success.

The panel has made a clear case that there cannot be a definitive timeline placed on when NATO will have finished the job in Afghanistan and when Afghans are able to take responsibility for their own security and we agree. However, Canada's contribution should be reviewed, at minimum, in the context of progress on the benchmarks the panel has advocated, and within two to three years time. In the coming days and weeks we will respond in greater detail to the full range of the panel's individual recommendations. 

Over that same period - in advance of April's meeting of NATO Heads of Government in Bucharest - I will lead a diplomatic effort with our allies to secure specific commitments necessary to ensure that the next steps are consistent with the panel's recommendations. As I stated previously, the Government will bring a motion before Parliament this spring seeking support for Canada's way forward. I look forward to the Parliamentary debate. I have spoken to Mr. Dion and I would invite the opposition parties to reflect carefully upon their positions and to give this report the consideration that it deserves. Mr. Manley's panel has rightly acknowledged the importance of Canada's engagement in Afghanistan and the consequences of failure. Make no mistake: Canada, with its allies, is making progress in Afghanistan. But this is a complex and challenging mission. The great responsibility we share moving forward lies in ensuring that our hard-won gains – and those of the Afghan people – are not lost. “

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