Rocket fire delays MacKay's flight to Pakistan
Published Monday, January 8, 2007 11:22PM EST
Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay attempted to highlight reconstruction efforts on the final day of his trip to Afghanistan but the focus turned back to security after rockets were fired at the base.
MacKay's flight to Pakistan was delayed 15 minutes after the two rockets were fired. No injuries were reported.
On Monday, MacKay spent time with the Provincial Reconstruction Team and then announced $10 million in funding for Afghan police officers.
"Canada's new government believes that providing a national civilian police force with an adequate and regular salary is critical to helping restore security and the rule of law in Afghanistan," MacKay said in a press release Monday. "Our contribution will help further this objective, resulting in a more professional police force to better serve the people of Afghanistan."
MacKay also presented the provincial chief of police with approximately 1,500 police jackets and 2,500 pairs of winter gloves.
"The equipment that we are providing today will similarly enable the Afghan National Police to more effectively perform their duties."
Canada will make its contribution through the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA). LOTFA has helped institute a payroll system that, for the first time, allows officers to regularly receive their salaries directly from banks instead of through unreliable and irregular payments.
MacKay's focus on reconstruction was also interrupted by calls for more security forces.
"Our biggest problem is security,'' said Asadullah Khalid, governor of Kandahar province, who narrowly escaped a suicide bombing attempt on his life just months ago.
"All people are suffering from this type of activity from suicide bombers, from landmines and from other things. But I'm thinking first for (the safety) of civilians."
In Pakistan, MacKay will hold talks with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on border security and cracking down on Taliban living and training in the country.
"I'm not going to pre-empt what we will discuss in Islamabad, but certainly the issue of the border is one that has been what I would describe as the weak underbelly of our ability to bring stability to the south,'' said MacKay.
"The control of movement across the border is something that has to be brought to heel.''
Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Lewis MacKenzie told Canada AM on Monday that MacKay's trip to Pakistan is more important than his time in Afghanistan.
"It's the meeting with President Musharraf that's so bloody important because Pakistan holds the key to improving the situation in Afghanistan," he said.
"You're fighting an enemy whose head is constantly being re-supplied by the tail parked across the border in the northwest frontier of Pakistan, that's the critical problem and the reason why there has to be an industrial-strength diplomacy (push) and a full court press by the international community, not just Canada."
MacKenzie said it's too easy for Taliban fighters to get weapons from Pakistan.
"When the Taliban needs to be re-supplied some of them are just driving across the border on the backs of trucks and they're not even stopping it."
On Sunday, MacKay pushed the message that the Afghanistan mission is going well and that Canada's support is firm.
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.
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.
With a report from CTV's Murray Oliver and files from The Canadian Press