Senator Joseph Day
Hailing from New Brunswick, Senator Joseph Day is a graduate engineer from RMC, and respected lawyer with degrees from Queen’s University, and Osgoode Hall. In the Senate for six years now, he is the Deputy Chair of the Subcommittee Veterans Affairs. Among his many other duties, he is a member of the Committees on the Anti-Terrorism Act and on National Security and Defence, and a member of the NATO Parliamentary Association and the Inter-parliamentary Union. He has been to Afghanistan, knows our role there and has read the Report of the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan. He spoke with Clive Addy, editor of FrontLine Security, on the following topics:
Considering your extensive experience with Canada’s security challenges, having been a member for some time of the Senate Standing Committee on Security and Defence, what general comments would you offer on the Manley report?
Well, as you know, I have followed the military throughout my adult career. I am obviously very interested in this report on Afghanistan as this touches on the major focus for our military. I am also very interested in what we are doing from the point of view of the involvement of our reservists as well as that of our regular force.
Members of the NATO Parliamentary Committee, as do our confrères from allied countries, parallel our Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence when they meet. We follow their discussions and have our own debates. I am, therefore, also on the NATO Defence Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly as Vice-Chair.
It is with that Committee that I visited Kandahar six months ago. I was privileged to go on this trip organized by NATO because I could see aspects that I otherwise would not. I was able to talk to our soldiers in Kandahar, and spoke with British troops in Helmland province and visited U.S. troops in the North East in the Panjshir Valley, where I witnessed some very good examples of development. I certainly had a better perspective from which to evaluate what our soldiers are being asked to do. From this perspective, I was not at all unhappy with the Manley Report.
I thought that the Independent Panel touched on the most important points; I was particularly supportive of how the issue of Communication was strongly, and justifiably, stressed. The history that was covered in the report was also well done and very important – to get a real understanding of the issues and the people. I took over 20 copies of the report to my colleagues in NATO at our most recent meeting. I could have passed out twice that many. This excellent report also provided me with a clear format from which to explain the Canadian point of view when I had a chance to discuss the Afghan situation with them last month.
As parliamentarians, we have an understanding of the very vital importance of communication and showing progress in what we are doing on this mission, both in meeting our national commitments and in protecting those we send to do the job. This means making sure that our soldiers have the right equipment and, as General Hillier recently said, that they understand what their mandate is and that everyone is working together towards achieving it. I would say that parliamentarians are even perhaps more candid and sensitive to this issue than, say, the Ministers.
Are you satisfied with the information accruing to the Canadian public about this mission? Is there a need for more openness and clarity upon which to judge the success and conduct of the mission and discuss accountability in Parliament? Has the issue of security and military operational security been fairly handled in this respect?
I think we are asking General Hillier to do too much of this important task alone. Quite honestly, parliamentarians and Ministers must get up to speed and play a role on this. There is a need for more open and clearer communication.
As Mr. Manley indicated in his report, you cannot make these decisions and then pretend that everything is secret. I certainly understand the necessity of keeping some things secret, but I am leery of the use of secrecy to avoid legitimate debate by just not giving people the facts. I feel that the Ministers should be more open and forthright. I think it is their responsibility to do so. It is unfair to have the CDS be the spokesman on much of this. He sees the gap in information and fills it, where I consider that Ministers and the PM should be the ones providing the information directly to Canadians. The CDS then gets criticized for doing what is needed. It is very unfair, and clearly more effort is needed here, as pointed out in the Manley Report.
A key issue in what has been deemed the “Canadian” motion seems to be the inclusion of a specific date of withdrawal in 2011 to stimulate NATO allies to strengthen or replace us in Kandahar and to encourage the Afghan Government to accelerate improving its own security and governance. Do you deem it realistic that we leave Afghanistan in 2011 or that we stay beyond without a military component?
I would look at this dilemma from two perspectives, the first is that of conducting military operations and the other is that of performing our international obligations. We took before the House of Commons the request for military operations until 2009 and the House approved it. Some of the other things in training and development were still not being done and it seemed we were focusing almost purely on our military operation.
In respect of international obligations, we were one of 36 nations to sign the London Afghanistan Compact which said we would be there to help with reconstruction until 2011. There will undoubtedly be a need for help even beyond 2011, but that would best be identified in 2010 rather than now. So let us set a target date – that will help all of the other departments and contributors work towards a common goal, with just urgency, knowing that we are not about to abandon anybody or let the previous work and sacrifices go for naught.
This leads to the second issue, that of “Burden Sharing” in the NATO sense. This principle is very important. We considered in 2002 that those members of NATO that helped make the decision to go in as a collective body would accept their fair share of risks and costs in seeing the commitment met. That is not being done. That is a very serious NATO issue. What will happen the next time there is a major problem? Will we say: “Well, we made a collective decision the last time and nobody came.”
Everybody has an excuse, some say that they have people in Africa, Kosovo, etc… but the reality is, if we could get the French Legion, Spanish, German and other troops, it would be very helpful in meeting the commitment. Others are afraid to approach their legislature about the scale of their participation or to adjust the time limit or location and scope of their contribution. There is a need for a true and equitable sharing of the burden to reestablish trust among the allied nations.
I am a bit pessimistic that any will reopen the debate in their parliaments. Even the UK are pulling out of Iraq and feeling some public pressure to do so in Afghanistan. We are very sorry that those NATO allies that helped make the decision to go to Afghanistan are not there to help out now, when and where it counts.
I believe we will get the 1,000 extra troops but, is that all that counts? I do not know what will be the case in 2011, I do feel that there will always be a need for some military component to assist in securing development. We will have to wait and see how well we do in training, equipping and paying the Afghan security forces. In fact, there are key provinces without any NATO PRTs in action, even though we have taken a training commitment for the whole country. Are these provinces peaceful? I am told not. For instance, the drug trade has seen the greatest growth along the Iranian border in the last year, and it is that trade that supports the insurgency. We have no NATO PRT in that area.
There is particularly important diplomatic work to be done with bordering nations to eliminate havens and weapon supply trade. Many are profiting from what is going on. Most of these countries are suspicious of the Americans and that is why all allies, and particularly countries like us, must engage in these diplomatic initiatives. People of the region must understand that it is in their interest to help stabilize Afghanistan. These issues were pointed out in the Manley Report.
In respect of reducing military operations against the Taliban, there seems to be a perception, on the one hand, that we can and should clinically reduce the military component while still assisting with the training and development in Kandahar region and, on the other hand, that the 1,000 troops requested of NATO allies should replace our “battle-group” component. What do you think?
First, I must point out that the Panel identified that “at least” 1,000 additional military forces were required right now in Kandahar province to help achieve what is necessary from a military perspective alone. I have heard from credible authorities that up to five times that figure are needed. The Brits next door in Helmland province are also facing similar shortages in troops. Remember that there are still provinces with no NATO PRT or Afghan security forces at this time. My view, quite frankly, is that there is a need for another 20,000 soldiers. When Manley says 1,000 soldiers, these are hard-core fighting soldiers “outside the wire.” These realities must be made very clear and explained to Canadians and our allies.
The other important part of Manley’s message is not only the need for soldiers on the ground, but also that we must get a commitment from our NATO allies. There is probably no way we’d get 4,000 additional soldiers in Kandahar province at this time, the number probably needed, but the point had to be made and 1,000 troops was deemed an achievable and helpful increase. Some burden-sharing commitment had to be extracted.
On the training of the Afghan Army alone, a serious number of battalion-sized Afghan units lack mentoring at this time to achieve an Army capable of providing its own basic security. Essentially, the five Division Army needs some 90 battalion-sized sub units, a mere 27 of which are being mentored and trained at present. NATO has called for soldiers from its partners to help train these people and, to date, there is only silence.
Overall we are 15 to 20% below what are deemed minimum military commitments across the board to achieve the aim, and in some areas the percentage is greater.
The sad part is that the alliance we all joined in 1949, where we believed that when Article 5 was implemented it would be “one for all and all for one,” seems to have become a discussion forum wherein no firm and common commitment can ever be assumed. At the recent meeting in Brussels, I found that most of our European partners are focusing on Kosovo, which will lessen even further the possibility of necessary European military commitments in Afghanistan. They are now saying they will not commit in Afghanistan until there is more clarity in Kosovo.
Command of NATO Forces in Afghanistan is difficult with the various members imposing caveats. Mr. Sikorsky, the Polish Minister of Defence, said “a Nation that gives Forces without caveats ... gives twice.” It seems that we are now about to impose such caveats on the size and use of our troops on the Commander of NATO Forces. What do you think of this?
There was mention of this in the press at the outset of the debate, but there was not in the Manley Report, nor in the Canadian parliamentary motion, nor the original Liberal motion, ever the intent to tie the hands of Commanders on the ground with caveats. They are there to do the job in the field and should have the flexibility to use their resources as they see fit. The government gives them broad strategic objectives, the NATO commander gives them operational guidance and they should be as free as possible to get on with the job at the tactical level. What goes on in Kandahar city must be dealt with by the commander on the ground, not back in Ottawa.
On the development and diplomatic sides, I would add that a similar type of delegation of responsibility on the ground is required. I was pleased to see, at the last Conference of Defence Associations meeting, a panel with David Mulroney of Foreign Affairs and DM of the Afghanistan Task Force; Lieutenant-General Michel Gauthier, Commander, CEFCOM; and Mr. Stephen Wallace, Vice President CIDA, Afghanistan Task Force who were able to show symmetry and cooperation in the job ahead. There will also be a new representative of the Canadian Ambassador in Kandahar to speed up the coordination of development there on the ground.
This is far different from the previous attitude that cancelled what little funding CIDA had been providing to the military for small local help. They withdrew that because they simply did not want to have anything to do with the military. The young Captains had made commitments based on these small amounts to try and build a rapport with the local Afghan communities. Based also on this role, collections were made throughout military and civilian Canadian communities for other gifts of books clothing and so on. I did a similar collection in caucus before I went over. CIDA has come around I hope, though I need yet to be convinced by what happens on the ground.
On the other hand, the new concept of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams has been run by the military since the beginning and they have done well, but the time, I believe, has come for PRTs to be run by civilians with the military in support in security and logistic assistance.
When I was recently in Kabul, I was told everywhere that we need the UN to step forward and do some meaningful work here in redevelopment; this is not a NATO task. Paddy Ashdown was proposed as a leader to assist in doing this, however, the Afghan President turned him down. That was unfortunate, but I believe others are being considered. From what I have seen, such a top notch civilian figure in Kabul is necessary to focus UN reconstruction and to work with the lead NATO military Commander. It might even be, as some rumours suggest, John Manley, who would be a wonderful choice.
This same cooperation will have to occur between the Canadian Military Commander in Kandahar and the recently appointed Elissa Goldberg from Foreign Affairs to monitor all Canadian government contributions and represent Canada in that area on behalf of the Ambassador.
There has been much discussion about the handling of Taliban detainees. What is your perception of where we should go in this matter? Should there be a NATO policy?
I think there should be a NATO policy on this important issue. To ask each PRT and military group to look after their detainees, takes away from the few soldiers that we do have providing security and fighting insurgents. It is a hugely manpower intensive job. There should be a common NATO policy, and an area where Afghans could guard the detainees, while being monitored by NATO on behalf of alliance members. We must work on helping the Afghan Correctional Service equivalents to become more civil in their approach. We should mentor the Afghans to guard their captured insurgents. It is curious that we have never had this discussion at the NATO Assembly of Parliamentarians. Perhaps it is because only a few nations have detainees, and that in itself is telling of the commitment of the NATO nations in Afghanistan.
MGen (ret) Clive Addy is the Executive Editor of FrontLine Security magazine and Chair of the National Security Group.
© Frontline Defence 2008