Western-based regiment ends 7-month mission in Afghanistan

Command of Canada's battle group in Afghanistan has been handed over to the leadership of an incoming regiment, ending a seven-month mission for the Western-based Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

Command of Canada's battle group in Afghanistan has been handed over to the Royal Canadian Regiment, based in Petawawa, Ont., and Gagetown, N.B.

After a seven-month mission in Afghanistan, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, which has battalions in Edmonton and Shilo, Man., is returning to Canada.

Two unidentified Canadian soldiers, belonging to Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, dismount from their light armoured vehicle near the village of Chara Bagh in May. (Murray Brewster/Canadian Press)

The Patricias officially signed over command Sunday morning to the Royal Canadian Regiment during a ceremony at Kandahar Airfield.

This is the sixth rotation of troops through Kandahar since Canada's military involvement in the country began in 2002.

After the ceremony, Lt.-Col. Dave Corbould, the outgoing commander of troops in the field, said the Afghan army and police have come a long way in their fighting ability and efforts to earn the trust of civilians.

"That's where the progress has really been made — their interaction with the local nationals and their credibility with the local nationals in order to be a real force in providing security," he said.

Afghan support grows, but also Taliban attacks

Corbould said Afghans are becoming much more forthcoming in providing information on the location of both Taliban fighters and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). He also said training in both professional police procedure, including ethics training for the notoriously corrupt Afghan National Police, is starting to pay off.

"Their whole approach to matters seems much improved," he said. "We get an increasing number of reports from nationals on likely insurgent locations and where IEDs are being planted."

Still, Taliban activity doesn't appear to have slackened off. In a recent briefing to reporters, officials acknowledged that the number of IEDs reported has steadily increased during Ramadan, the Islamic holy month now nearing an end.

At least 80 roadside bombs were planted over the last 18 days in Kandahar province alone, the official said, although the great majority were discovered before they were detonated.

Attacks on both NATO and Afghan soldiers — including IEDs, ambushes and what Corbould described as "shoot and scoots" — are now coming at the rate of at least 10 a day.

Those attacks have taken their toll. Since the spring fighting season began, 19 Canadians have been killed.

With files from the Canadian Press