December 2, 2011 defpro.com
OTTAWA | The Maple Leaf flag that symbolized the Canadian Forces presence in Kandahar Province since August 2005 was lowered for the last time earlier today, in a ceremony at Kandahar Airfield to mark the end of Canada’s military presence in southern Afghanistan, under Operation ATHENA.
“Over the past several years, Canada and the Canadian Forces played a significant role in establishing the security foundation in Kandahar Province that set the conditions for governance and development,” said the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence. “I'm proud of the work of our men and women in Afghanistan's most dangerous province. Our commitment is now centred in Kabul, with our military contribution to the NATO Training Mission, which is building the professional capacities of the Afghan national security forces.”
Operation ATHENA was Canada's participation in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. It began in 2003 as a peace-support mission in Kabul, and in 2005 became a counter-insurgency mission focused in Kandahar Province. Canada’s commitment to ISAF in Kandahar Province ended in July 2011, when the last combat rotation of Operation ATHENA returned to Canada and the Mission Transition Task Force (MTTF) deployed to close down what had become Canada’s longest-running combat mission.
“After more than six years of continuous combat operations, today we marked the official end of Operation ATHENA in Kandahar Province. Earlier this year, our task force conducted a seamless hand over of our area of responsibility to coalition and Afghan forces in the region. Our partners, thanks to the professionalism and service of our uniformed men and women, were well positioned to build on our progress and to continue reinforcing the safety and stability of southern Afghanistan,” said General Walt Natynczyk, the Chief of the Defence Staff. “While we mark the end of Operation ATHENA, we must also remember that there are 900 sailors, soldiers and airmen and airwomen still serving in northern Afghanistan in support of Operation ATTENTION. I'm very proud of the dedication, sacrifice, and service of all the men and women of the Canadian Forces who served with distinction in Afghanistan.”
Since July 2011, MTTF personnel — actually the last rotation of Operation ATHENA — have worked tirelessly to clean, pack and ship military assets back to Canada and to other deployed task forces for use in other missions.
Items that could not be shipped cost-effectively, such as medical supplies, furniture, office supplies, tools and construction materials, have been transferred to the Afghan National Army, to other ISAF nations, or to the humanitarian assistance depot operated at Kandahar Airfield by the 7th Sustainment Brigade of the U.S. Army. Items delivered to the humanitarian assistance depot, which are used to help Afghans take care of their people, include backpacks, lighting units, mess tins, cooking equipment, generators, appliances, sport equipment, tents, shovels and litters. This contribution is a last gift to the people of Kandahar province by Canadians.
“Over the past several months, the hard-working members of the MTTF conducted mission closeout activities with camp authorities at Kandahar Airfield to ensure consolidation and repatriation activities did not impede the operations of coalition forces,” said Lieutenant-General Stuart Beare, the commander of Canadian Expeditionary Force Command. “As we leave Kandahar Province with our heads held high, Canada continues to support our allies and Afghan partners through Operation ATTENTION.”
Operation ATTENTION is Canada’s participation in the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan (NTM-A), which delivers training and professional development services to the national security forces of Afghanistan, especially the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, until 2014.
Canada is the second largest contributor to NTM-A. The Canadian Contribution to the Training Mission–Afghanistan (CCTM-A) comprises up to 950 Canadian Forces members. With some 4,500 other personnel from 37 partner nations in NTM-A, the men and women of CCTM-A are engaged in helping the Afghan national security forces grow, professionalize and build capacity. The Canadian training effort is concentrated in Kabul with two satellite sites in Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif.