After serving 12 years alongside the United States and other allied forces, Canada has withdrawn from Afghanistan. The departure of Canada from the country comes as NATO begins to wind down even further in Afghanistan, and as the nation struggles to make a formal forces agreement with the United States. Overall, 158 brave Canadians lost their lives in service in Afghanistan.
After more than 12 years and under a blanket of security in Kabul, Canadian military operations in Afghanistan came to a formal close this week. As the Canadian flag was lowered at NATO headquarters in a low-key ceremony, officials looked back at a mission that began in 2001 and cost the country 158 military lives.
Two Canadian civilian contractors, a diplomat and a journalist also died during Canada’s involvement in Afghan operations.
Canadian troops were active in the restive Kandahar province in the south of the country, dubbed the “home of the Taliban,” from 2006 and have latterly been involved in training Afghan National Security Forces in the capital, Kabul.
Over 40,000 Canadian troops have been rotated in and out of the country since NATO’s ISAF operations began — the largest deployment since the end of the Second World War. The remaining 100 Canadian military personnel will leave the country by the end of the week.
In a statement released to mark the occasion, Minister of National Defence Rob Nicholson said, “From the first arrival of our ships in the Persian Gulf, to our combat and leadership roles in Kandahar Province, to our most recent training operation in Kabul, the contribution of the CAF will be honored by Canadians as we express our heartfelt thanks for the strength of this commitment.”
Major-General Dean Milner, commander of the NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan led 3000 Canadian troops in Kandahar from September 2010 to July 2011 and said that his troops had made a real difference in the troubled region.