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Extended Afghan mission planned, critics say
Opposition cites plans as proof troops will stay until 2011

Globe & Mail (Canada)
30 january 2007
By Gloria Galloway
Opposition MPs say documents generated by the Department of National Defence prove that the government intends to keep Canadian troops in Afghanistan long after the current commitment to the NATO-led force ends in 2009.
A communications plan drawn up by General Rick Hillier, the Chief of the Defence Staff, in May of last year outlines Canada's "five-year information strategy" for Afghanistan.
The opposition charges that the duration of the strategy indicates an intent to maintain a Canadian presence in the war-torn country until 2011.
And while Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said "we never leave until our work is done," briefing notes supplied to Defence Minister Dennis O'Connor suggest that the job won't be finished until late 2010.
Those notes are based on the Afghanistan Compact, a document resulting from consultations between the government of Afghanistan and the international community that say the exit strategy of the foreign security forces will be dictated by the return of peace to the region.
By the end of 2010, the Compact says, a respected Afghan army will be fully established, a professional police and border service will be operational, the drug trade will be curbed, and the land area contaminated by land mines will be reduced by 70 per cent.
The briefing documents provided to Mr. O'Connor also make it clear that "our current military commitment is until February, 2009. Any contribution beyond that will be given due consideration by this government at the appropriate time."
But opposition MPs were skeptical yesterday that there is any plan to end the mission in two years time.
The minister "has to come clean with Canadians on the true nature and length of Canada's commitment in Afghanistan," Denis Coderre, the Liberal Defence critic, told the House of Commons yesterday.
And Dawn Black, NDP defence critic, said the memo from Gen. Hillier "makes it clear that the government wants our troops in Afghanistan long after 2009. Clearly the government is preparing the military for a long war and that is not what Canadians have been told."
Mr. O'Connor replied that, while the Afghanistan Compact sets out a plan to 2011, the Canadian government's current commitment remains in place only until February of 2009.
Speaking to reporters, the minister said the government had made no decision about extending the mission past that time.
"We haven't even discussed what will happen, if anything, beyond 2009," Mr. O'Connor said.
But the military has to make plans, he said, and that's why Gen. Hillier's communications strategy extends for five years.
"They have to plan based on the Compact and these goals," the minister said. "It doesn't mean that our military will achieve peace in every part of Afghanistan or achieve all these goals. But we are one of 36 countries and our military's basically built a campaign plan, if necessary, to go on."
Neither Mr. Coderre nor Ms. Black was willing to accept that explanation.
"They are saying something in the House and outside they are saying something else," Mr. Coderre said.
And some Canadians question the likelihood that peace and stability can be restored to Afghanistan, even within the longer time frame outlined in the Afghanistan Compact.
"Building a nation from scratch, which is the case in Afghanistan, would be a mighty undertaking under any circumstances," said Dan Middlemiss, who teaches military affairs at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
"It's sort of a massive paternalistic hubris on the part of the international community to say we can do such a thing [within five years], when there is little evidence to suggest that it's ever been done before."
(c) Copyright 2007 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc.
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