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PMO says troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2011

The CBC reports today that, “Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office, told CBC News there will be Canadian troops in Afghanistan after parliament’s mandate expires, though ‘exponentially fewer.'”

“Soudas said the government would shift focus from combat operations and in-the-field training of Afghan police and soldiers to a development and reconstruction mission. The military’s training mission will continue, but it will take place in the safety of protected facilities, he said. The combat-mentoring role currently undertaken by Canadian troops would end, according to the plan.”

“Defence Minister Peter MacKay. MacKay (has) suggested on three separate occasions over the past two weeks there might be a role for troops in Kandahar post-2011, while at the same time maintaining, ‘the military mission would end.'”

Soudas now says, “Whether there’s 20 or 60 or 80 or 100, they will not be conducting combat operations.”

And speaking in Welland, Ontario on Friday afternoon, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters, “We set out some timelines there for training and for exit and the government has no intention of asking for an extension of that mission. By the time we reach 2011, we will have been in Afghanistan longer than we will have been in both world wars combined, so I think it is time to transform that mission towards development and humanitarian efforts.”

On September 15, the CBC reported that, “Security conditions throughout Afghanistan continue to deteriorate, according to a Canadian government report on the mission, with the frequency of attacks in May and June higher than in any month since the fall of the Taliban.”

Various other news reports also indicate that the country is increasingly unstable, and that due to the war fewer areas of the country are now safe for development work.

The Canadian public is also increasingly concerned about a continued Canadian presence in Afghanistan given the high casualty rates, the billions of dollars spent, the worsening situation, the Karzai government’s human rights record, and the extensive fraud in the recent election there.

Today’s CBC report is at http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/10/09/afghanistan-soldiers-canadian.html. The earlier report is at http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2009/09/15/afghanistan-report.html.