MA'SUM GHAR, Afghanistan - Canadian forces in this sprawling region of grape orchards, opium fields and heavily fortified mud walled compounds have gone from being run ragged to being firmly in control according to Canada's top soldier.

Despite initial success with the invasion of Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime in 2001 and 2002, the militants have since regrouped and mounted an increasingly strong insurgency over the past three years.

A surge in American troops has been a godsend for Canadian soldiers here. U.S. President Barack Obama committed 21,000 new forces to Afghanistan this year, part of a record U.S. commitment of 68,000 by the end of this year.

Canada has been going it largely alone for the past three years and the reinforcements couldn't come at a better time.

"It's been a huge bonus. When you think three years ago we were covering this massive region with a single battalion and here today in 2009 we're covering this region with eight battalions," said Chief of Defence Staff General Walt Natynczyk in an interview with The Canadian Press at Forward Operating Base Ma'sum Ghar, a mountainous area in the heart of the Panjwaii district - the birthplace of the Taliban.

"We also have an entire brigade of Afghan army and hundreds and hundreds of Afghan police. So the conditions are quite different today and that's allowed us to make some progress."

Despite the political instability and constant concerns about security in the area - the population by and large seems to be relying more heavily on government and NATO troops. Village leaders argue that the location of new schools, community centres and even outdoor bazaars, should be within site of Afghan National Police, Afghan National Army or NATO bases for the sake of security.

Shuras between district leaders and representatives from aid groups such as the Canadian International Development Agency, or CIDA, include long wish lists which usually start out with better roads, irrigation and schools.

The Canadian military has maintained that the ultimate goal of the presence here is to allow the Afghan people to provide their own security and to determine their own path to prosperity.

That is working in some areas and has given hope in some regions. There is a school for girls a stones throw from this armed compound but it remains empty and will do so until the Taliban are gone once and for all.

"You mentioned hope. The Taliban just represent destruction. They want to retain power at any cost. They hide behind a veil of extreme fundamentalism but indeed all they do is destroy and kill," Natynczyk said quietly.

"What they don't want is to have that hope. We are seeing that in the past three months," he added. "They really did step up their activity in this region and certainly before the election, the number of attacks and IEDs went up significantly."

"Yet the Afghan Army, Afghan police with our support and our training was able to support an election in the middle of a war. To consider that this country was able to hold an election in the midst of a war is really quite spectacular."

Going it alone in Kandahar has taken a rising toll on Canadian soldiers. IEDs, the constant favourite of the Taliban insurgency, has claimed the majority of the 129 Canadian soldiers who have died since the mission began.

Despite the technical superiority the threat remains.

"We are using every piece of sophisticated technology that we can get our hands on and each piece is a lifesaver for our soldiers and so we're not holding anything back," said Natynczyk."We're seeing more and more finds, but again there is tragedy... when you don't find all of them, it's absolutely tragic."