Farzad Ramezani Bonesh
Adjunct Researcher 2020-2021 at ACPCS
Diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and Canada
The Canadian government decided to establish full diplomatic relations with Afghanistan in 1968 by establishing Canada’s first embassy in Afghanistan, but Afghanistan’s internal crises severed ties after the Soviet invasion. After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan and Canada resumed diplomatic relations in 2002. Then the embassies started working.
Meanwhile, the official visits of the presidents, prime ministers and high-level delegations from the two countries over the past two decades have led to further expansion of friendly relations between the them.
The main goals and motivations in Afghanistan’s view of Canada
Afghanistan as one of the least developed countries and because of its dependence to foreign powers is more susceptible than effective, and this has led to its serious susceptibility from international system. Afghanistan’s geopolitics and being located along the Silk Road, have also attracted the attention of the superpowers.
In previous years, President Ghani, in a speech after the inauguration ceremony in 2015, divided Afghanistan’s foreign policy into five circles: neighboring countries, Islamic countries, Western countries, Asia and international organizations. However, even now, after the formation of the incumbent government, Afghanistan’s foreign policy is a combination of the two parts of the government’s body and the former National Unity Government.
Meanwhile, there are still ambiguities about the exact principles and approaches of Afghanistan’s foreign policy. But Afghanistan’s foreign relations with Canada now appear to be influenced by several principles of independence, the country’s geopolitical position, the composition of the inclusive government structure in Afghanistan, and the type of influential figures and institutions.
Canada’s Assistance in Building national localization in Afghanistan
Following the overthrow of the Taliban and the entry of NATO into Afghanistan, Canada has made efforts among NATO members to equip the Afghan National Police, especially the Afghan National Army, with the necessary personnel, facilities and training.
However, coincide with the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, many challenges to security and localization of security in the country have been the matter of concerns, and the fleeing of forces from the army and the possibility of their joining to the opposition and the use of drugs and corruption is still a permanent problem.
Canada also pledged at NATO summits in Warsaw to continue its financial assistance to Afghanistan’s national defense and security forces until 2021. Kabul seems to be hoping that by using Canada’s assistance, the police and national army will be able to provide full security in the country independently.
This assistance can be in the areas of training, providing technical assistance, counseling and assistance to the security forces, financial sustainability of the security forces and increasing the participation.
In addition, several years have passed since the rise of ISIS in Afghanistan, and as ISIL terrorist group activities continue, Kabul seems to be hoping that Canada will provide new assistance in a more serious fight against the terrorist groups in line with the preserving its independence, national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Financial issues and economic aids to strengthen Afghanistan’s economy
Unemployment and poverty have caused half of the country’s population to live under the poverty line. However, despite the country’s strong dependence on foreign aid, there are about 4,500 mines worth hundreds of trillions of dollars in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Kabul hopes that Canada will provide more assistance in rebuilding Afghanistan, economic growth, combating corruption, and more.
The Afghan government will also be able to take advantage of the Canada’s markets by developing trade relations with the country. It can also develop relations by consider the previous economic agreements between Canada and Afghanistan despite low bilateral trade between the two countries.
Helping strengthen social and health issues
There have been many positive changes in the social and health situation in Afghanistan in the years since the fall of the Taliban. Kabul still seems to be looking at Canada’s continued participation in the process of social and health development, such as education, health, women’s rights.
More contact with Afghan Canadians
Over the past four decades, Afghanistan’s population in Canada has increased. According to the 2016 Canadian Statistical Census, approximately 84,000 Afghans live in metropolitan areas such as Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Canada, who have active participation in the country. 
In fact, in addition to providing effective consular services to Afghan citizens, Kabul hopes to expand its ties with the Afghan community in Canada and exploit their potential for growth and stability in the country.
Canada’s help to bring peace with the Taliban in the future
2019 witnessed an unprecedented progress in peace in Afghanistan. In fact, Canada welcomes the US-Taliban agreement in Afghanistan. Kabul now hopes that after decades of war, Canada’s commitment to greater support for the Afghan-led peace process will continue.
Challenges of strengthening bilateral relations
To a large extent, Afghan diplomacy is involved in domestic and regional issues. Meanwhile, war-torn Afghanistan needs to strengthen ties with Canada. But there appear to be significant challenges in strengthening relations between the two countries. On the other hand, we are still witnessing civilian deaths and more poppy cultivation, failed strategies and wasting some of the aid.
In fact, the level of internal disputes between the incumbent government over domestic and foreign policy, the imbalance in Afghanistan’s foreign policy, the lack of significant infrastructure for Canadian companies to invest in the country’s economy and mining and so on, have put serious hurdles in the way developing relations between them.
Also, the low volume of trade relations has practically prevented the strengthening of relations in the field of economy and relation has practically taken on a one-sided dimension.
What is clear is that the current incumbent government is taking a serious look at developing relations with Canada after the 2019 presidential election. But the reality is that considering the uncertainty of the Taliban’s presence in power and the way the group is looking to the relationship with Canada, as well as the Canadian government’s approach to the relations with Kabul, it can be said that the current relationship will be maintained in the short term. In fact, any development of relations with Canada will be depended on the future of peace or war with the Taliban.
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