Afghanistan: Still no peace
CBC News Online | July 21, 2003 | Updated Feb. 9, 2004
More than two years after U.S. forces launched the first raids on Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, U.S. and coalition troops continue their "mop-up" operations in the beleaguered country.
And while much of the world focus has since shifted to war in Iraq and continuing unrest in the Middle East, Afghanistan remains a going concern for U.S. and coalition forces.
Pockets of fighters remain and there have been signs of insurgent activity. On January 27, 2004, a Canadian soldier was killed and four injured when a suicide bomber attacked the soldier's convoy in the capital of Kabul.
Warlords are still active in many areas of the country and Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeated calls for the creation of a new national army - built from the ground up - to enforce his ban on private militias.
Although that task is under way, troops of many stripes are actively trying to maintain some stability in Afghanistan. Click below for a look at the major contingents:
Afghan forces | Coalition forces | Canada's contribution | The mission | U.S. forces
Outside of the capital, Kabul, Afghanistan is ruled in pockets by private militias and tribal leaders not connected to the central government.
In late 2002, it was reported that exiled warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was trying to regain a base in the country. The former mujahedeen fighter opposes the central Afghan government and wants to rally support in the country for his plan to oust foreign occupation forces.
In early 2002, Afghanistan's central government said it would like to have a national force of 70,000 troops to keep the warlords in line and to disarm a heavily armed population. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the U.S. were charged with training the force, and the first wave began boot camp in May 2002.
Although as many as 18 infantry battalions were to be trained, only a few thousand troops had been processed by 2003, and by the winter of 2004, it was reported that some of the soldiers had either deserted or gone over to various warlords.
Since December 2001, the UN-sanctioned ISAF has patrolled the streets of Kabul and surrounding area.
According to the ISAF, approximately 5,500 ISAF troops from 33 countries were stationed in Afghanistan as of January 2004.
Command of the ISAF forces is rotated from country to country.
The ISAF contingent is confined mostly to the capital and surrounding area. In the winter of 2004, western forces expanded operations somewhat, with 200 German soldiers in the city of Kunduz and a small team from New Zealand in Bamiyan, although those soldiers were at the time not part of ISAF. President Karzai has requested that the troops be allowed to patrol further afield. The UN has shown no sign it will comply.
Canada is contributing two contingents of 1,900 soldiers each to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. The first group arrived by mid-August 2003. The second group is scheduled to relieve the first by February 2004. It, too, is scheduled for a six-month tour.
What the Canadian Forces call Deployment 1 will come from 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade, part of Land Force Quebec, based at CFB Valcartier, near Quebec City. The core of the brigade is the Royal 22e Regiment, best known by their nickname "The Van Doos."
The Department of National Defence calls the overall deployment Operation Athena. The group in Afghanistan is called Task Force Kabul.
The first deployment, what DND calls "Rotation 0," began in August 2003 when ISAF became a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) mission. The soldiers from Rotation 0 came from 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade, mainly the Royal Canadian Regiment from Petawawa, Ont., along with supporting units.
The man who commanded the first contigent of Canadians was Maj.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, at the time deputy commander of the ISAF. Upon arrival in Kabul on August 11, 2003, he said his troops are embarking on a dangerous mission - but one they are ready for. "If it wasn't complex, dirty and dangerous, why send us?" Leslie said on CBC Radio's The World at Six news program. As he relinquished his command in February, 2004, Leslie told reporters that mission had saved the lives of thousands of Afghans.
According to the ISAF Web site, the Canadian Battle Group will provide security patrols and observation posts in and around Kabul. The Canadians are located at Camp Julien in the southeast of Kabul.
The Canadians are equipped with light armoured vehicles, Coyote Reconnaissance Vehicles and Giat howitzers. The Canadian jeep, the Iltis, used by Rotation 0, is a controversial vehicle. Two men riding in an Iltis jeep were killed by a land mine. Some critics considered the light vehicle with no armour too dangerous for the mission. Others, including officers on Afghanistan, argued the Iltis was well suited for the narrow streets of Kabul.
Rotation 1 will begin using new German-made Gelaendewagens, called G-Wagons by the Canadians.
Along with other units, engineers will be working on constructions of roads, bridges, defence walls and bunkers. Any military police units will support military traffic control operations such as traffic accident investigations, escorting cargo transport and route reconnaissance.
Although the U.S. troop commitment to Afghanistan has declined since the first bombing runs in late 2001, regular U.S. soldiers continue to patrol the landlocked nation.
Because of security concerns, the U.S. has not disclosed exactly how many soldiers it has in Afghanistan, but common estimates peg that number at more than 11,000.
The Center for Defense Information believes the Combined Joint Task Force 180 - established in May 2002 and based just outside of Kabul - is the main U.S. military force overseeing all operations.
During the last week of January 2003, U.S. special forces were among 350 troops battling rebels in the mountain caves scattered across the southeastern part of the country.
The skirmish, which involved U.S. warplanes dropping 900-kilogram bombs, marked some of the heaviest fighting in almost a year.
Area: 647,500 km sq. (same size as Manitoba)
Population: 28,513,000 (2004)
Head of State: Hamid Karzai
GDP (2003): $20 billion US (est.)
Exports to Canada (2003): $618,889
Imports from Canada (2003): $9 million
Median Age: 17.5
Life expectancy at birth: 42.46
Ethnic groups: Pashtun 42%, Tajik 27%, Hazara 9%, Uzbek 9%, Aimak 4%, Turkmen 3%, Baloch 2%, other 4%
(Source: CIA World Fact Book, Government of Canada)