Ministers announce $25M Afghan food program
Published Sunday, October 7, 2007 12:18PM EDT
International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda announced a $25-million program to provide food for Afghan people in areas ravaged by Taliban militants.
The money will enable people in southern Afghanistan to purchase much needed grains and cooking oil and will add to the 8,700 tonnes of food already distributed to nearly 400,000 people in the country this year.
"This renewed partnership will help ensure that vulnerable Afghan children will continue to receive necessary food aid,'' she said.
Oda also pledged $3 million over as many years to finance an archeological dig in Kabul where an ancient market neighbourhood is being excavated from beneath a massive pile of rubbish.
The announcements were made Sunday on the second day of Oda's visit to Afghanistan. She is on a tour with Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier.
Also on Sunday, Bernier shared a casual cup of coffee with Canadian soldiers at a Tim Horton's on the Kandahar base, CTV's Steve Chao told Newsnet.
On Saturday, the two ministers toured Canadian-supported development projects in their first visit to Afghanistan since being named to their new portfolios in an August cabinet shuffle.
Under the watchful eye of a heavily armed security detail, they toured the Murad Khane district of Kabul and met with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai before heading to Kandahar.
Coderre's change of plans
The anticipated and controversial arrival of Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre has been rescheduled.
Coderre's United Nations flight to the Kandahar airfield from Pakistan was delayed, forcing him to change his travel plans and land in Kabul.
Coderre spent the day in the country's capital meeting development and aid workers including an infrastructure specialist from the World Bank and members of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit.
He will depart for Kandahar airfield on Monday.
The Montreal-area MP announced last week he would visit troops at the Kandahar base on an independent fact-finding mission after his multiple requests to Defence Minister Peter MacKay's office were systematically ignored or rejected. A spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay noted that the Liberals had implemented a policy that MPs would visit as part of committees.
The Conservatives criticized Coderre's planned visit as an orchestrated "stunt" that put the lives of Canadian soldiers at risk. Before leaving for Afghanistan on Friday, National Defence told Coderre there was no guarantee he would be allowed on the base.
Coderre maintaines his trip to Kandahar poses no risk to troops and that his preparations were well thought out before he departed.
"I will land in the base itself because the airport of Kandahar is included in the security perimeter, so there are no problems," Coderre told CTV's Question Period on Sunday from Kabul.
On Sunday, Bernier offered a conciliatory gesture to Coderre, telling reporters that although he disagrees with the MP's unilateral visit, he will welcome Coderre to the base and be more than happy to meet with him, Chao reported. However, due to Coderre's change in travel plans, it's unlikely he will be able to meet with either minister as they wrap up their 36-hour tour.
Coderre maintains his visit to Afghanistan is his duty as defence critic and as a parliamentarian.
"My duty as defence critic for the official opposition is to do my job and my job means that I have to be on the field," Coderre said.
"I think for the sake of democracy, as a parliamentarian, it's my duty to do my job and find my own answers and it will shed another light on the mission."
Chao told QP on Sunday that Brig.-Gen. Guy Laroche, head of the Canadian military in Afghanistan, welcomes any politicians to the base because it allows for a more informed debate on Parliament Hill.
Afghan officials reported Sunday that four police officers and four militants were killed after a bombing and gun battle in the eastern part of the country.
In Khost province, two officers were killed and two were wounded in Yaqoubi district on Saturday when a bomb exploded under a car, police chief Wazir Pacha said.
Two other officers were killed on Saturday in Taliban attacks in Nuristan province, police officer Mohammad Daud. Four militants were also killed in the clash, which occurred in the remote Kamdesh district.
Two Afghan civilians died on Saturday in Kunar province after they attempted to speed through a NATO checkpoint. The checkpoint was erected on suspicion that insurgents planned to launch an attack on a nearby NATO base.
Afghanistan is experiencing its most violent period since the U.S. invasion began six years ago. According to The Associated Press, more than 5,100 people -- mostly militants -- have died in insurgency-related violence in 2007.
With files from The Associated Press