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Article / March 13, 2014 / Project number: 14-0028

Kabul, Afghanistan — As the flag lowers in Kabul after a 12 year presence in Afghanistan, the last round of troops deployed on Operation ATTENTION are coming home.

I am proud to be the last Canadian commanding our troops in Afghanistan as we get ready to bring the troops home. It has been an honour and a privilege and I have been extremely proud to be leading our great Canadians,” said Major General Dean Milner, the commander of the Canadian Task Force known as the Canadian Contribution to NATO’s Training Mission in Afghanistan.

Canadian soldiers have been present in Afghanistan since 2001 starting with Operation APOLLO and then Operation ATHENA.  Afghanistan was Canada’s largest military deployment since the Second World, with more than 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces members deploying between 2001 and 2013.

We did see huge improvements in the development side: we’ve built a number of schools; we constructed a large number of roads. It’s outstanding to see because those roads and schools are everlasting,” added MGen Milner.

Since the end of combat operations in Afghanistan in 2011, Canada has been assisting in the training, mentoring and development of the Afghan Nation Security Forces (ANSF). The goal has been to prepare them to shoulder the responsibility for their own nation’s security.

I have seen outstanding improvement, night and day really in the change of Afghan Security Forces. And our Canadians have been an absolute huge part of that. I am convinced the [ANSF] can defeat the Taliban,” noted MGen Milner.

Chief Warrant Officer William Crabb, the Canadian Task Force Operation Sergeant Major has deployed to Afghanistan three times: in 2002, in 2007 and currently.

In 2007 there was a bit of police and army but they were very poorly trained, not very good at what they were doing, certainly very brave folks but not well trained, ” said CWO Crabb.

He has experienced some tangible highlights since then:  “kids in school uniforms, cell phones, and people who are now connected to the internet. I think the bulk of us have a positive outlook on what can happen in this country if the elections go well.” 

Elections will be held in Afghanistan on April 5th, 2014.

First time, I wasn’t sure we had really accomplished that much and when I got back to Canada people were asking me: was it worth it, because we were in the middle of losing all those great Canadians and it was hard to say it was worthwhile because we just weren’t seeing the improvement in the security force, in the kids school, improvements in the economy. This time I can honestly go home and tell people that it really was worth it, ” said CWO Crabb.

All the Canadians that came before me helped to get us to the point where we are very confident that we could leave that brigade pretty well on it’s own to continue this capable confident security force above 350000,” explained MGen Milner.

CWO Crabb is proud of the fact that over the past 12 years the Canadian Army has grown in experience and capability as a result of the deployments in Afghanistan.

I think that it’s really made us a more capable and proud force. We’ve got some outstanding soldiers and they have risen to the occasion,” added MGen Milner.

He noted that there are a lot of young soldiers currently serving their first tour on this deployment and are getting a chance to experience Afghanistan.

CWO Crabb’s advice to those soldiers returning to Canada is:  “just realize when you get back there, what you have seen over here. Try not to take for granted what most Canadians do, and that is a safe and secure place to raise their children.” 

MGen Milner plans to return to Afghanistan with his wife for a visit in the future. He is optimistic he will continue to see a brighter future for the Afghan people then.

Absolutely, if you look at 12 years ago the country’s infrastructure had been destroyed and more than 10% of the population had been killed. Approximately, one third of the population had fled the country. Now, eight million students are in school. They are absolutely going to need continued international support and good leadership because they are in a difficult part of the world with some of the surrounding countries. They have a chance and it will be up to them, ” said MGen Milner.

I really do believe we have made a difference in the country, there are some 30 odd million people here, we have certainly touched a lot of them,” adds CWO Crabb.

By Samantha Bayard, Army Public Affairs

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