Canada says it needs more support from NATO allies in Afghanistan
Its threat to remove its troops from the south comes amid friction over bid to appoint UN 'super envoy.'
Canada has threatened to pull its troops from insurgency-plagued southern Afghanistan unless NATO allies send reinforcements. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose Conservative minority government faces increasing opposition in parliament, said NATO's reputation was on the line. The mandate for 2,500 Canadian troops deployed in Kandahar Province, a Taliban stronghold, is set to expire next year.Skip to next paragraph
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Last week, an independent panel chaired by John Manley, a former Liberal deputy prime minister and foreign minister, advised Mr. Harper that the mandate should be extended provided another NATO country sends 1,000 troops to Kandahar, reports the Associated Press. The panel also demanded more helicopters and surveillance aircraft for the mission.
NATO has 42,000 troops in Afghanistan. One-third are from the US, in addition to a separate US combat mission. Troops in the south and east of the country have borne the brunt of escalating Taliban violence.
Other NATO allies with forces already deployed in southern Afghanistan include Britain, the US, the Netherlands, and Denmark, The Times of London reports. However, "national caveats" have prevented other allies from switching troops from less-troubled areas to insurgency hot spots. Since 2002, 78 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have died in Afghanistan.
The Winnipeg Sun reports that Stephane Dion, Canada's Liberal Party leader, opposes the panel's recommendations and will turn up the pressure on Harper's Conservative government. The Liberals want Canada to stop fighting the Taliban in Kandahar and concentrate instead on training and equipping Afghan security forces.
Dissatisfaction over Canada's slowing economy is also costing Harper support in parliament, potentially triggering early elections, reports Bloomberg. Harper has promised to hold a vote on the NATO mission extension, as well as introduce a supplementary budget amid growing criticism over fiscal policy. Under parliamentary protocol, a budget defeat represents a no-confidence vote.
Support among Canadians for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan has dropped by seven points since last October, to 37 percent, in a poll conducted after the release of the panel's recommendations, reports Canada.com. The number of Canadians willing to extend the mission if it shifts to a noncombat role rose by five points to 45 percent. Only 14 percent want to stick with the current combat mission.