MacKay visits Afghanistan, sees progress not 'chaos'

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay defended the mission in Afghanistan as he arrived there Sunday for a two-day visit, rejecting a recent analysis in a U.S. journal that the country is sliding into chaos.

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay defended the mission in Afghanistan as he arrived there Sunday for a two-day visit, rejecting a recent analysis in a U.S. journal thatthe country issliding into chaos.

"I don't see a factual basis for a commentary suggesting that this country is sliding into chaos," MacKay told reporters during a teleconference call.

He said there is more evidence "capacity-building" isstarting to take hold and pointed to the efforts of the Afghan government "to build a more functioning and more dedicated police force."

MacKay was responding to an article in thewidely read U.S. journal Foreign Affairs, which said that with the "Taliban resurgent, reconstruction faltering, and opium poppy cultivation at an all-time high, Afghanistan is at risk of collapsing into chaos."

MacKay said there was a lot of "tangible proof" of improvements that have been made in Afghanistan, citing new schools, hospitals and roads, along with vocational training and microcredit programs to help develop the Afghan economy.

"All of this shows that the Afghan people and the government have moved ahead considerably," he said. "And the pace, in my opinion, is only going to increase as we're able to bring about greater stability— particularly in the southern region."

First visit since May

This was MacKay'sfirst visit to the country since May of last year, when he reassured Afghan officials and Canadian troops that Canada's support won't waver.

"We're looking at the whole of government's approach and looking at all of the development that's underway, now," he said Sunday.

MacKay visited a vocational training centre in Kabul that was funded by the Canadian government and said it was something that never could have happened in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, which was ousted by a U.S.-led international coalition of troops in 2001.

Afghan boys take part in carpentry, welding and tinsmith workshops at the Vocational Training Centre for Vulnerable Afghan People, which opened in August.

MacKay stopped to greet a local woman who receives money from the micro-finance section of the centre and told reporters Canadians need to hear more success stories from Afghanistan.

He said he has seen progress around Kabul that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

Spoke with Karzai

The minister said he also talked to Afghan President Hamid Karzai about ways to fight government corruption and also how to deal with the problems in the training of the Afghan police force. People throughout the country have complained the police are themselves criminals.

"We did have discussions on the necessity to continue this work," he said. "We're working with all the NATO allies to profile the importance of helping the Afghan people build this country."

After Afghanistan, he will travel to Pakistan to press President Pervez Musharraf to tighten border control. Taliban insurgents and weapons regularly cross into Afghanistan from Pakistan.

Pakistan recently said it may mine its border with Afghanistan, despite objections from that country.

Women, babies killed in bombing

MacKay's visit to Afghanistancomes amid more violence in the country. A roadside bombing in Afghanistan killed family members of three generations on Sunday.

The explosion ripped through a vehicle in eastern Afghanistan, killing a woman, her two newborn babies and the children's grandmother.

The father of the twins and the vehicle's driver also were wounded in the blast.

An official says the twins had been born on Saturday and the family was taking them back to their village.

It's not clear why the vehicle was targeted.

Militants usually use roadside bombs to attack Afghan and foreign troops on patrol.

Meanwhile, in southern Afghanistan, two assailants on a motorcycle gunned down a high school principal on Sunday.

Taliban militants have warned teachers they will be killed if they continue to work for the government.

Some 20 teachers were killed last year.