Faced with mounting criticism that Canada's role in Afghanistan is all war and no aid, the Foreign Affairs Department has taken the unusual step of purchasing basic equipment for roughly 2,000 Afghan National Police officers.
A tender was issued last week asking for Canadian companies to bid on providing everything from light protective vests and belts to boots and flashlights.
Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, in an interview with The Canadian Press, acknowledged it's the first time his department has been directly involved in the delivery of this kind of support in the Afghan mission.
But he denied that opposition party pressure and mushrooming anti-war protests had anything to do with the $500,000 purchase.
The absence of a stable, competent and reasonably equipped police force is one factor contributing to the growing insurgency, said MacKay.
"Let's not be naive, we've been in some cases competing directly with recruitment efforts by the Taliban and by those (engaged in) the heroin trade," he said.
"If Afghan citizens are to enlist in policing and armed forces, we have to give them the necessary equipment and better working conditions."
McKay acknowledges the importance of a dependable domestic police force, but unfortunately contradicts the premise by offering a pitance. Does anyone believe a half million dollars matters in the grand scheme? Does McKay expect us to see this initiative as substantive? Add two or three zeros and it might make a difference.
If our mission is too succeed, then pouring massive sums of money into the Afghan security appartus is essential. I think Canadians would fully support a huge infusion of money into equipping and training the Afghan police and army. McKay offers some timid tender and frames it as though it addresses the problem. If this initiative is representative of how our government prioritizes, we are in a world of trouble. The amount of money allocated suggests more damage control than genuine urgency.