Living among the Population in Southern Afghanistan: A Canadian Approach to Counter-Insurgency

By Caroline Leprince

The Munk Debate on Canada’s Foreign Policy brought together last September the three federal party leaders to defend their foreign policy visions for the country. The first question of the debate was on Canada’s military involvement in fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This highlights the importance of the role Canada has to play internationally to stop threats to international peace and security. As the world appears to be becoming a more dangerous place with ideological extremism spreading throughout the poorest regions of the globe, Canada must be ready to operate in these complex environments as future conflicts are likely to occur within weak and fragile states.

To do so, the hard-won lessons learned during the Canadian intervention in Afghanistan can help better prepare Canada for the challenges of the twenty-first century. The chapter “Living among the Population in Southern Afghanistan: A Canadian Approach to Counter-insurgency” captures first-hand experiences of the counter-insurgency tactics used by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) during its engagement in Kandahar Province from 2005 to 2011. During the first years of the intervention, the hard fought battles to maintain ground proved unable to tackle the insurgency. The influx of additional American troops to Kandahar in 2009 was the turning point that gave the Canadian-led Task Force Kandahar (TFK) the means to realize its ambitions. It created an unprecedented opportunity to adopt a new counterinsurgency strategy centred on the protection of the population. First introduced in the village of Deh-e-Bag in June 2009, the implementation of the key village approach rapidly demonstrated its capacity to address the root causes of the insurgency. With the American surge that arrived in Spring 2010, the key village approach expanded and was used to plan stability operations in the villages of Dand and Panjwayi districts.

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