The good, the bad and the ugly of Canada’s Afghanistan mission in Kandahar

As Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan winds down analysts and pundits will no doubt ask the question — were we successful?

Unfortunately, in Afghanistan there's no clear answer.

The Good: Rebuilding a nation

Canada, along with its NATO allies, entered the conflict in Afghanistan in early 2002. NATO's official mission was to "provide and maintain a secure environment in order to facilitate the rebuilding of Afghanistan and the establishment of democratic structures, and to assist in expanding the influence of the central government across the country."

Specifically, Canadian soldiers were charged with securing the southern provinces in Afghanistan so civilian aid workers could carry out their mission of building roads, schools and hospitals. Since 2002, Canada has contributed thousands soldiers and more than $10 billion to the initiative. The evidence shows Canada and its allies have collectively achieved many successes in the region.

Since 2002, school enrollment in Afghanistan has increased nine fold, health care has improved and child mortality rates have dropped dramatically. Tim Grant, Canada's former military commander, states 40,000 children in Afghanistan are alive today because of the actions taken by Canadians and other involved nations.

In 2009 and 2010, the first Afghan-led presidential and parliamentary elections since the fall of the Taliban were held. Canada has played an important part in helping build new democratic institutions and bringing about electoral reform.

Moreover, the country now has a buoyant economy with an annual growth rate of 8.2 per cent, a stable currency and rising foreign domestic investment.

The Bad: Unfinished business

As other countries join Canada in withdrawing troops over the next couple of years, there are fears the country will regress.

"The government does not control Afghanistan's territory. The Taliban have been neither defeated nor included in a political process. The Afghan security forces have been expanded, but they remain depressingly ineffective and enlistment remains far below the one peacekeeper to 30 civilian rule-of-thumb for counter-insurgency," noted National Post columnist David Frum.

"Odds are that when the U.S. surge ends, Afghanistan will revert to the conditions that prevailed before the surge: a weak government in Kabul beset by a growing Taliban insurgency in the Pashtun parts of the country."

The Ugly: The deaths

The tragic part of any war is the casualties.

Since the start of Canadian military activities in Afghanistan, 156 Canadian soldiers have lost their lives.

A Canadian diplomat, two Canadian aid workers and a Canadian journalist have also been killed over the course of the insurgency.

(Reuters Photo)