Thursday, 26 April 2012

Canada's Role in Afghanistan Post 2014

A media report says that the United States have asked Canada and Australia to keep a small contingent of forces in Afghanistan after NATO's withdrawal in 2014.  Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not ruled out extending Canada's military role.  When the issue was raised by New Democratic leader Thomas Mulcair during Question Period, Harper said that the government would examine all options if asked if to leave special forces in theatre to assist with training and capturing insurgents.

"As we approach that date, we will examine all options and we will take the decision that is in the best interest of this country and in the best interest of our security objectives for the globe,"Harper said.

Canada's elite Joint Task Force 2 has been in Afghanistan since 2001.  Presently Canada has a contingent of approximately 900 trainers in the war torn region.  Canada's combat mission ended in July 2011. 

With a public weary of war and Canada's role as fighters rather than peacekeepers, the New Democrats have a winning issue.  The New Democratic Party leader was outraged at Harper's remarks and said that his party would not support any extension and that Canada must pull out as planned.  An extension would be a violation of a parliamentary motion, which required the combat mission to end last year.

"Canadians do not want another Conservative extension of the mission in Afghanistan and the NDP will not support one," said Mulcair.

The Prime Minister fired back,   "It's not a remarkable statement that the NDP won't support the mission,"the NDP couldn't even make up its mind to support (the Second World War)."

Harper's reply was that the government would not make its decision on a knee jerk response by the New Democrats. 

This was a bit of a low blow on behalf of the Prime Minister, since the New Democrats were not in existence during World War II.  In fact the party had its origins in the Canadian Labour Congress and CCF.  The CCF was formed in 1932 and the CLC.  A merger in 1956 formed the New Democrats. 

The situation in Afghanistan, to say the least, has been votile, especially since the Koran burning and the massacre of 17 civilians in a village near Kandahar. 

NATO has recently completed a "Strategic Partnership Treaty" with Afghanistan, a plan that calls for $4 Billion in funding to support Afghan Security Forces, expected to grow to 352,000 this year, but would level at 228,500 by 2017.  The United States is expected to foot $2.3 Billion of the $4 Billion bill. 

The treaty, which is expected to be signed before a summit in Chicago next month, will be the framework for support post 2014.  The U.S. has already made several concessions to President Hamid Karzai, including the conduct of night raids, which are now to be led and approved by Afghans.  Karzai had also demanded that the U.S. commit to $2 Billion in funding in writing.

In any case, besides the pressure from the United States there will be pressure from Canada's NATO allies.  Australia's Prime Minister Gillard has already announced its withdrawal, one year early, in 2013.  French President Sarkozy has also given signals for an  early withdrawal.

Canada has lost 158 soldiers in Afghanistan, a heavy toll for a nation of 31 Million people. 

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