News: Canadian takes command of coalition troops in Southern Afghanistan
National Defence Canada
Canadian MGen Marc Lessard assumed command of Regional Command (South) Feb. 2, in Kandahar, from MGen Jacko Page of the United Kingdom. As the commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force troops in southern Afghanistan, MGen Lessard will be responsible for Canadian and coalition operations in that area until November, 2008.
MGen Lessard leads a force of approximately 12 000 Soldiers from Canada and 11 other nations. During the transfer of authority ceremony at Kandahar Airfield MGen Lessard said that his focus will be to maintain the initiative in the south through an intense series of operations and activities. "I see two priorities; firstly, to increase security within the region in order to ensure the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan exercises its legitimate authority," he said. "The second priority is to co-ordinate to the greatest extent, the aspects of governance and development within the overall security framework."
RC(S) encompasses six provinces in the southern region of Afghanistan—Day Kondi, Zabul, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Helmand and Nimruz. The role of RC(S) is to conduct military operations in the south to assist the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in the establishment and maintenance of a safe and secure environment. To accomplish this, RC(S) forces work very closely with their Afghan national security force partners in order to extend the government's authority and influence, thereby facilitating Afghanistan's reconstruction and contributing to regional stability.
"The appointment of MGen Marc Lessard to commander of Regional Command South demonstrates Canada's commitment to NATO and to the Afghans we are there to help," said chief of the defence staff, Gen Rick Hillier. "MGen Lessard's leadership will be of great value as we strive towards greater security and consequent increased development in the South of Afghanistan."
This is part of Canada's commitment to the UN-sanctioned to rebuild a stable and democratic Afghanistan. Approximately 2 500 CF personnel are deployed with Joint Task Force Afghanistan (JTF AFG), which refers to the Canadian-specific contribution as part of coalition efforts in Afghanistan—about 1 000 are with the Canadian battle group stationed at Kandahar Airfield (KAF). Within the multinational headquarters for RC(S) at KAF, approximately 200 personnel are Canadian. At Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar City, Canada also fields a Provincial Reconstruction Team consisting of about 250 soldiers and officials from Foreign Affairs Canada, the Canadian International Development Agency, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.