Politics·Updated

Baird vows support for Afghan women at Bonn summit

Canada will continue to support the women of Afghanistan after international forces withdraw from the Asian country in three years, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, left, meets Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird at the international Afghanistan conference in Bonn, Germany, on Monday. (Martin Meissner/Associated Press)

Canada will continue to support the women of Afghanistan after international forces withdraw from the Asian country in three years, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says.

"The government of Canada, the Canadian people stand with the women of Afghanistan in the post-2014 environment," Baird said from a summit in Bonn, Germany. 

He wouldn't say how much Canada would commit to development assistance in the war-torn country after that date, "but obviously we have made a major commitment to development in Afghanistan and we'll continue to stand by them," Baird said during a conference call.

Canada halved its annual spending on aid to Afghanistan when its combat mission ended this summer. The Conservative government now plans to spend $100 million a year on aid to the war-torn country until 2014.

Baird made the comments after meeting with about a dozen Afghan women's rights activists at the summit, which was devoted to the future of Afghanistan beyond 2014.

Some of the activists, such as Mary Akrami, voiced concern over the proposed withdrawal of troops by NATO countries including Canada.

"The war is not over," Akrami told The Canadian Press. "If the international community ignore or forget Afghanistan, we are really afraid, maybe we will be the losers and we are afraid that maybe we might lose all the achievements that we had during these 10 years."

She described the summit — which drew representatives from about 100 countries and international organizations, including 60 foreign ministers — as a "political game" that will affect the lives of Afghan women.

Pakistan boycott

Earlier in the day, Baird said he was disappointed the Pakistani government had opted to boycott the summit after a NATO airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last month.

"I think they could have made a contribution," he said.

The airstrike was the largest loss of life in a cross-border raid since the war began, and came amid deteriorating relations between the Obama administration and Pakistan.

Pakistan closed its border to NATO convoys, complicating efforts by private contractors to ship out Canadian equipment and supplies over land and on to the Pakistani port of Karachi for repatriation.

Baird declined to comment on the effect of the border closure on the final pullout of the last remnants of Canada's combat mission in Kandahar, a process that began in the summer and was to be completed by the end of the year.

Afghanistan remains mired in political instability, the relentless violence of the Taliban insurgency, and the clear prospect of financial collapse after the planned drawdown of international troops and foreign aid.

Canada's military remains engaged in a Kabul-based training mission, with 950 troops providing assistance to Afghan security forces.

with files from Associated Press and Canadian Press

now