KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - After three intense days hurtling around by helicopter and armoured vehicle in the Canadian army's area of responsibility in Kandahar, Defence Minister Peter MacKay rejected assertions the situation in the province had become worse.
"I'm seeing tremendous success when it comes to the army, and that is my primary focus," MacKay said shortly before his fifth visit to Afghanistan ended Wednesday with a brief airfield celebration amid a group of NHL oldtimers who brought the Stanley Cup on a goodwill visit.
"As far as some of the infrastructure, for example, we're seeing roads being built, bridges completed in areas where, because of the security situation, those projects couldn't have occurred just a year ago."
Pressed further about the current security situation, the minister, who was in Afghanistan for three days this visit, said "the insurgency remains a real challenge, but you have to look at it in relative terms. You have to do a retrospective occasionally, look at where we were five short years ago, two years ago."
Asked about an allegation by at least one prisoner that Kandahar's governor was involved in human rights violations of detainees, MacKay replied that he understood the matter was under investigation by Afghan authorities and that as "an internal governance matter" it had to be handled by Afghans.
The minister met support troops at the main Canadian base at the Kandahar airfield as well as combat troops at remote forward operating bases and at even more isolated police sub-stations. Mac-Kay said last week's parliamentary vote to extend Canada's Afghan mission to 2011 was seen as a popular move. More.