Will the US ask the new majority government to tell the CF Soldiers to stay in Afghanistan for an even greater role than just training?
interesting article that explores the American need for international help in their mission in Afghanistan.
A Canadian Chinook transport carries a sea container across the desert to the Horn of Panjwaii in Afghanistan February 9, 2011, where about 800 Canadian, American and Afghan troops have taken control of one of the last Taliban sanctuaries in southern
Afghanistan. Chinooks have provided a vital air bridge to the area, transporting nearly 1.3-million tons of cargo there in December and January
John Ivison, National Post · May 20, 2011 | Last Updated: May 20, 2011 5:02 PM ET
OTTAWA — The election of a Conservative majority government has encouraged Canada’s NATO allies to renew efforts to persuade Stephen Harper to station Canadian trainers in the more dangerous south of Afghanistan, after the combat mission ends this summer.
Diplomatic sources say countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Denmark, which have combat forces in Helmund and Kandahar provinces, are pressuring Canada to move some of its trainers to the South from the more secure areas around Kabul.
“We would like to see Canada fill gaps where there is a need and where the security situation is more complicated than in Kabul — that is, in the South,” said one diplomat. The moves behind the scenes follow a public call last January by NATO’s top training commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Lt.-Gen. William Caldwell, who said trainers are especially needed in Kandahar region, where the Canadian combat mission has been based.
Peter MacKay, the Defence Minister, has said that the training mission will be “Kabul-centric,” with most of the 950 troops based “behind the wire” in and around the Afghan capital. CBC reported this week that 50 will be based at Mazar-e-Sharif in the North and another 25 at Herat in the West. Military trainers will act as advisers to Afghan forces, who will in turn train the new troops. CBC said more than half of the trainers would be drawn from the Third Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
The government announced last November that it would keep some troops in Afghanistan after the combat mission ends this summer. But, in a move designed to defuse political opposition and reduce casualties, it resolved troops would not be based in the volatile Kandahar region - a stipulation of the Parliamentary motion that extended the mission to 2011 back in 2008.
Jay Paxton, a spokesman for Mr. MacKay, said Canada’s international partners are delighted Canadian Forces will continue their presence in Afghanistan and that, working with those partners, Kabul has been deemed the best place to fill the training void identified by NATO.
Yet this does not accord with the noises coming from various NATO allies, who say it is ironic that Canada has placed caveats on its operational flexibility, after years of criticizing others for doing exactly that.
Despite the Harper government’s insistence that no Canadian troops will be stationed in Kandahar, Canada’s allies will take heart from their experience last November, when the Prime Minister did an apparent U-turn on his promise that all the troops were coming home this summer. In fact, according to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable, Stephen Harper promised NATO earlier in 2011 that he would consider staying in Afghanistan to conduct army training.
One diplomatic source said controlling a majority government might make it easier for Mr. Harper to have a similar change of heart. He said that, while there is no doubt the Prime Minister is sick of Afghanistan and its government, any move to share the training burden in the south would be looked upon favourably by the U.S., in particular.
New Democrat Jack Harris said he was caught by surprise when the decision was made to stay in Afghanistan. “We could be taken by surprise again but it would be very unwise for Mr. Harper to start changing these things. We should be resisting what our allies want. They may have been emboldened by the majority government but it would totally contradict our current plans. Whatever the government wants, I’m sure the Canadian people don’t want it,” he said.