The Afghan-Canadian academic named as Kandahar's next governor says he plans to be the bridge between his two home countries.
Tooryalai Wesa, 58, accepted Afghan President Hamid Karzai's offer Thursday for the top political posting in the troubled province where Canada's troops are deployed. He'll be sworn in on Saturday.
"I will try to get to the people and try to explain what the Canadian Forces want in Afghanistan, especially in Kandahar ... to restore peace, to restore security and implement the development projects the Canadian government has in the pipeline," he said.
The governor of Kandahar is generally considered Canada's biggest ally in the volatile southern province where the bulk of the roughly 2,700 Canadian troops are stationed.
An agricultural expert at the University of British Columbia, Wesa grew up near Kandahar City. He served as Kandahar University's first president until he left the country in 1991 with his wife, who also works at UBC. The couple have three children and have lived in Coquitlam, B.C., for 13 years.
Worked in Afghanistan
Wesa downplayed the dangers of the job, saying he's spent the past three or four years criss-crossing Afghanistan working as a consultant.
"I would not call this a dangerous job. There is no difference between Kandahar and other provinces in Afghanistan," he told CBC Newsworld Thursday.
The governor's post has been filled by two different people in the past eight months.
Former army general Rahmatullah Raufi left the post in early December. He has said he was fired for running afoul of regional power brokers.
Raufi replaced Gov. Asadullah Khalid, whose tenure was marred by allegations he was personally involved in the torture of at least one prisoner in Kandahar. Khalid denied the reports.
Former Canadian foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier committed a diplomatic blunder earlier this year by publicly musing that Khalid should be fired.
The gaffe reportedly forced Karzai to delay firing Khalid for several months.
Agriculture a key focus
Agricultural development will play a large role in helping to rebuild Afghanistan, said Wesa, who specializes in agricultural infrastructure.
He said he plans to share his expertise with Afghan farmers.
"I have … plans from the grassroots level. We will work with the small farmers, we will work with the large farmers and hopefully we will increase the production the way people are expecting," he said.
By increasing farmers' production levels, Wesa said he hopes to reduce and eradicate opium production.
Elissa Golberg, the Canadian government's senior civilian representative in Kandahar, welcomed the appointment.
"We look forward to working with him to strengthen the bonds between Kandaharis and their government, including by helping the government to deliver essential services and maintain law and order," she said.
Canadian soldiers are working alongside NATO and U.S.-led coalition forces in an effort to restore security in the region that is a hotbed for Taliban activity.
Since the mission started six years ago, 103 Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.