KABUL - The Canadian army has hauled down the flag in Afghanistan.
An understated ceremony, held under heavy guard, at NATO headquarters in Kabul brings to an end just over a dozen years of military involvement in the war-wasted nation.
The last Canadian commander, Maj.-Gen. Dean Milner, says the training mission taking place over the last three years has been invaluable preparation for the Afghan army, but the progress made is not irreversible and the West needs to continue nurturing both military and civilian institutions.
Canadian commandos, hunting al-Qaeda, were the first troops to hit the ground in late 2001 and they were followed by as many as 40,000 more rotating through different campaigns, including the five-year combat mission in Kandahar.
The war cost the lives of 158 soldiers, one diplomat, one journalist and two civilian contractors.
The Canadian ambassador in Kabul, Deborah Lyons, says the country will remain engaged in Afghanistan and the focus will be on helping build the ruined nation's economy, particularly in the resource sector.