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Canada to extend Afghan mission until 2014: report
by Staff Writers
Ottawa (AFP) Nov 8, 2010
Canada could keep up to 1,000 soldiers in a non-combat role in Afghanistan through 2014 as part of a plan to extend its mission beyond a mid-2011 deadline, CBC public television reported Monday.
According to the plan detailed by CBC, up to 750 trainers and at least 200 support staff would work outside the combat zone at a training academy or large training facility for Afghan soldiers and police officers.
On Sunday, Defense Minister Peter MacKay said Canada was "considering" keeping troops in the war-ravaged nation beyond its parliamentary-mandated mid-2011 exit.
His comments came just two weeks ahead of a NATO summit in Lisbon, just as Canada comes under growing pressure from the United States and other allies to extend its Afghan mission.
The head of Canada's opposition Liberals, Michael Ignatieff, asked the Conservative government for more information Monday on plans to possibly extend the nation's Afghanistan mission.
Although Ignatieff has previously said he supported the notion of extending the mandate for Canadian soldiers, though only in a non-combat role and with a clear timeline and mission, he kept mum about the Liberals' position on the matter.
"I have nothing to say because there isn't a plan. I don't know how many troops, I don't know what the timeline is, I don't know what the mission would involve and it's not a matter of a secret deal with the Liberals," Ignatieff said.
"There is no deal, and there are no discussions."
He urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to hold an "open discussion" with the Canadian people first.
Harper's spokesman meanwhile said the government was studying three options for Afghanistan: "aid, development and military training in a non-combat role."
"After 2011, we've always been clear on the fact that we will continue to play a role in Afghanistan in a non-combat role," Dimitri Soudas said.
"The government "is in the process of finalizing the details," he added, declining to indicate when a decision would be made public.
He told CBC that any potential training mission beyond the 2011 deadline would take place outside Kandahar.
MacKay stressed that regardless of whatever decision is made, Canada's 2,800 combat troops now routing insurgents as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force would come home next year.
Canada currently also has 400 troops training Afghan soldiers
to take over security from ISAF. The proposal being contemplated would have the Canadians remain in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar, just as NATO has requested 900 more military trainers from its member countries.