Can DFATD learn from its mistakes in Afghanistan?

By Flavie Halais 25 May 2015

Construction workers build a brick wall at a construction site in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Canadian government spent CA$1.5 billion in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2012, as part of what became the largest aid program in Canadian history. Photo by: Kanishka Afshari / DFATD / CC BY-NC-ND

During a surprise visit to Iraq earlier this month, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced an additional 139 million Canadian dollars ($113 million) in humanitarian assistance to countries affected by the crises in Iraq and Syria, of which CA$39 million will go to Baghdad. An additional CA$23 million was announced in support of development initiatives in Iraq.

The renewed aid package came weeks after Harper introduced a motion in Parliament to extend Canada’s participation in the military operation against the Islamic State group for up to 12 months. Further, in 2014, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development made Iraq a “development partner country” for bilateral assistance.

DFATD’s “whole-of-government” approach in Iraq, where humanitarian, development, security and diplomacy tools are being used simultaneously, resembles Canada’s past involvement in Afghanistan in many ways, and not just because both countries are Middle Eastern fragile states. Recent declarations by Minister of Foreign Affairs Rob Nicholson indicate the government is looking at Afghanistan as an example to replicate in Iraq.

“Being in this for the long term — it’s similar to what we did in Afghanistan, for instance,” Nicholson told local media, adding a military operation could be coupled with significant humanitarian assistance.

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About the author

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Flavie Halaisflaviehalais

Flavie Halais is a freelance journalist based in Montreal who covers cities and international social issues. In 2013-2014, Flavie was an Aga Khan Foundation Canada International Fellow, reporting for Nation Media Group in Nairobi, Kenya. She’s also reported from Rwanda, Brazil and Colombia.

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