By Josh Howald
The Canadian mission in Afghanistan ended with a peaceful, formal ceremony one week ago.
Master Cpl. Daniel Choong, left, Cpl. Harry Smiley, centre and Cpl. Gavin Early take down the Canadian flag for the last time in Afghanastan, bringing an end to 12 years of military involvement in a campaign that cost the lives of 158 soliders. (Murray Brewster photo/Canadian Press)
Last Wednesday, the Canadian flag was taken down at NATO headquarters in Kabul, under heavy guard in the war-ravaged country.
More than 40,000 Canadian Forces members saw action in Afghanistan over the last 12 years, and 158 did not come back alive.
Canadian Forces were there to "fight the threat of terrorism, and to ensure the freedom of others to build a stronger, safer world", said Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Among all the dignitaries at last Wednesday's ceremony was Kincardine native Cpl. Harry Smiley.
Smiley is the son of David Smiley and Amanda Alexander. His sister, Katrina Smiley, of the Hair Connection in Kincardine told The Independent how proud she was of him last week.
He was one of several troops who took part in the ceremony of taking down the Canadian flag. His photo was seen in hundreds of newspapers worldwide, and all over the internet, the image representing Canada's exit from Kabul.
The final 100 Canadian soldiers, including Cpl. Smiley, had stayed to help train members of the Afghan National Security Forces. They were scheduled to leave Kabul over the past week, with the last of the troops scheduled to arrive back on home soil yesterday (Tuesday).
Canadian troops first arrived in October of 2002, and despite great debate over their deployment, it can't be argued they made a positive difference. There have been improvement to education, particularly for females, as well as infrastructure projects led by the Canadians. Canada spent $1.65 billion on reconstruction and development in Afghanistan and made efforts to improve women's rights and living conditions in rural areas.
Unfortunately, security has been deteriorating as more troops come home. The country's future is once again in question as terrorist splinter groups grow in size and power. Access to health care is another major issue, with diseases like polio, measles and TB a huge burden on an underfunded health care system.