Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay pushed the message that the Afghanistan mission is going well and Canada's support is firm during an unannounced visit to that country.

"We're here to talk about a lot of the good work that's being done," MacKay said after arriving at Kandahar Airfield on Sunday. He first touched down in Kabul.

"We're going out to the provincial reconstruction team (Monday) and see some of the work that they're going."

During a teleconference from Kabul, MacKay told reporters that areas such as infrastructure, micro-credit projects for small businesses, wells being dug and the construction of new schools provide tangible proof that efforts are moving ahead.

However, an article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, an influential journal published by the U.S. Council of Foreign Relations, paints a gloomy picture of NATO efforts in Afghanistan.

The article claims rebel attacks are increasing and the opium trade -- which helps fund the rebels -- exploding.

MacKay countered claims that Afghanistan is sliding into chaos, and said the opposite is happening. He argued that the military is playing a key role by providing a shield, but the centrepiece of the mission is the development work that is happening around the country.

"There's a lot of on-the-ground advancement that is often overlooked," MacKay said.

"All this shows the Afghan people and the government have moved ahead considerably and the pace is only going to increase, in my opinion, as we're able to bring about greater stability."

He planned to meet with aid workers and Canadian troops during his visit, which he said was evidence of Canada's continued support for the work in Afghanistan.

Development is key

CTV's Murray Oliver, reporting from Kandahar, said there is a close link between development in Afghanistan and a successful conclusion to the mission.

"Canadian troops are going to be here until this country is stable and most experts say this country will not be stable until there is some economic progress," Oliver said .

Economic progress, however, hinges largely on development efforts that can't proceed at full strength until stability is achieved.

"The development efforts and the military efforts which are aimed at creating a secure environment to allow development efforts to progress; the two go hand in hand, you can't have one without the other," Oliver said.

MacKay dodged a question about whether NATO has put too much emphasis on the military fight against the Taliban.

"We're here to talk about the work that's being done on the ground, the construction work, the reconstruction work," he said.

"They will be in keeping with the effort to further the progress that's being made and we're going to have a chance to go out in the field," he said.

MacKay hinted that he would be making an announcement on Monday regarding Canadian development projects.

While in Kabul, MacKay met with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai. They discussed issues like the security of the border with Pakistan and the training of Afghan security officials.

MacKay also said he planned to travel to Pakistan in the next couple of days to meet with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

"The direct diplomacy approach is what we're engaged in here," MacKay said.

Three generations killed

Meanwhile, violence has continued in Afghanistan. On Sunday, a roadside bomb ripped through a vehicle in eastern Afghanistan, killing a woman, her two newborn twin babies and the children's grandmother, an official said.

The father of the twins and the vehicle's driver were also wounded in the blast in Khost province, according to reports.

The babies were born on Saturday and the family was taking them back to their village, Arsallah said.

And in southern Afghanistan, two assailants on a motorbike gunned down a high school principal, an official said.

With a report from CTV's Murray Oliver and files from The Canadian Press