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Does Canada NEED a Special Envoy to Afghanistan/region?

The Bread Guy

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My initial view:  no - WTF's s/he going to be able to do that ambassadors & other diplomats now in place can't?  Discuss....

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Canada may name special envoy to Afghanistan
Need to keep pace with France, Germany, U.K.

Mike Blanchfield, Sheldon Alberts and Peter O'Neil, Canwest News Service, 5 Mar 09
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As a pessimistic new report warned Afghanistan has become a "narco-state" unlikely to experience democracy or peace anytime soon, Canada indicated Thursday it's considering the appointment of a special diplomatic envoy to the troubled region.

The development, revealed by Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, came as Defence Minister Peter MacKay was in Washington to meet with his counterpart at the Pentagon.

The government is weighing that option as a new report bemoaned Afghanistan's continuing spiral into a "narco-state," with few prospects for peace in the near term.

Cannon said Thursday that, although Canada is well-represented by its regular diplomats and senior public servants in the region, he would be briefing Prime Minister Stephen Harper about possibly creating a high-level envoy's post.

"I will report back to the prime minister and give him a full report on what the allies are doing. The Italians, as well, have announced that they will be putting in place an envoy," Cannon said.

The move comes after France announced this week it was appointing Pierre Lellouche as its own senior envoy to the region. French Defence Minister Herve Morin said in an interview on a visit to Ottawa, "This kind of contact group will be able to better co-ordinate the efforts of the allies in Afghanistan."

Morin said all "great nations" have appointed such an envoy. So far, Ottawa has maintained that its ambassador to Afghanistan, Ron Hoffman, with the help of the head of Harper's Afghanistan task force, David Mulroney, is capable of representing Canada's interests.

But speaking from Brussels, where he was attending a NATO foreign ministers meeting, Cannon said it was time to reconsider.

"The French have done it, the Americans have done it. . . . I'll have a chat with the prime minister on that specific subject."

Cannon's comments came as MacKay met in Washington to discuss the future of Canadian involvement in Afghanistan with U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, MacKay defended Harper against criticisms of his statement to CNN last weekend that NATO forces were "not ever going to defeat the insurgency."

Harper's comments were not any different in substance than the views expressed by U.S. President Barack Obama, who has said the Afghan conflict cannot be won strictly through military force, MacKay said.

"I think he very much echoed the comments of both President Obama and others who have said, essentially, that military might alone is not going to do it when it comes to Afghanistan. It is going to require much more," MacKay said.

"It's going to require, obviously, to build the capacity of the Afghan government to deliver more for the people, to do more on the training of the Afghan security forces, police and the army."

Harper's comments have stirred controversy and drawn criticism he is being defeatist.

Harper is under fire on the website of a prestigious Washington journal for what's described as his "pessimistic" view of the war in Afghanistan.

"In an interview last weekend, (Harper) flatly declared, 'We are not ever going to defeat the insurgency,' " Masood Aziz, a former adviser to the Afghan embassy in Washington, wrote in an online article published Thursday by Foreign Policy magazine.

"Those who say that Afghanistan can never be won ignore the fact that the United States has never really tried," Aziz wrote.

"Afghanistan is not a war to be won in the traditional sense, but it can be lost. Curtailing our resolve is the surest way to ensure defeat."

MacKay again signalled that Ottawa's deadline for withdrawal of Canadian combat forces from Afghanistan is firm, but he assured Gates that Canada would remain involved in the mission in other ways.

"Canada, post-2011, will play a role. We will absolutely be in Afghanistan performing important tasks. We will reconfigure what the face of that mission looks like," he said.

"2011 is a fixed date to the end of combat. There is much more that can be done in Afghanistan beyond combat."

A senior aide to Cannon, meanwhile, said the appointment of a new series of senior Afghan-Pakistan envoys among Canada's allies was a new development that now had to be taken into account. Mulroney recently visited Holbrooke in Washington.

Obama appointed Richard Holbrooke to the new senior post in an effort to highlight his administration's renewed efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan and its neighbours. Holbrooke was an architect of the Dayton Accords, which ended the Bosnian war a decade ago.

At the Brussels meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proposed Thursday a high-level international conference on Afghanistan, sponsored by the United Nations, to be held on March 31, just ahead of the NATO leaders' summit.

In a major development, Clinton said Iran would be invited "as a neighbour of Afghanistan," in addition to Pakistan. Obama has said he wants the U.S. to engage Iran, signalling a possible thaw in the four-decades-long diplomatic freeze between Washington and Tehran.

"It is a way of bringing all interested stakeholders and interested parties together," Clinton said.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff urged the government this week to appoint its own special envoy to keep pace with the Americans.

"What they're doing is they're leaving the Obama administration to define the strategic purpose of the Afghan mission. We think that's a mistake," Ignatieff said. "That's why this issue about a special envoy is important. . . . Much as I respect Mr. Holbrooke, and much as I respect Mr. Obama, they should not be defining the foreign policy of Canada."

Meanwhile, a study by two major think-tanks, one American and the other German, called on the U.S. and its allies to re-fashion the counter-insurgency, while seeking to reach a political settlement with Taliban insurgents.

Afghanistan has become a "narco-state" that's unlikely to experience democracy or peace any time soon, said the report by the Rand Corporation and the Bertelsmann Stiftung think-tank.

"Recent events suggest that a clear military victory is unlikely, even if the coalition augments its troop strength," said the report.

"Rather, all indications point to a long, protracted struggle, in which neither side wins a decisive military victory."

Cannon said Canada also supported NATO's call Thursday to resume relations with Russia, which broke off last summer after the Russian military action in Georgia.

"This resumption of formal dialogue with Russia, including at (the) ministerial level, will provide us an opportunity to send strong messages to Russia about the expectations for human rights and international law, including in the context of Georgia," Cannon added.

With a file from Richard Foot