NATO to meet Canada's demand for troops in Afghanistan

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NATO to meet Canada's demand for troops in Afghanistan

Alliance's pledge fulfils requirement outlined in Manley report

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 2, 2008 | 6:55 PM ET Comments20Recommend15

CBC News


NATO members have agreed to Canada's demand for 1,000 more troops in southern Afghanistan, a spokesman for the military alliance says, in a move that secures Canada's participation in the mission for at least three more years.
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Romanian President Traian Basescu, left, welcomes Prime Minister Stephen Harper during an official arrival ceremony for NATO leaders in Bucharest on Wednesday ahead of a two-day NATO conference.
(Yves Logghe/Associated Press)
Spokesman James Appathurai said French President Nicolas Sarkozy offered a battalion — normally about 700 to 800 troops — for the volatile eastern region of Afghanistan, which will free up U.S. forces to move to the southern region of Kandahar where Canadian soldiers are operating.
Appathurai made the comments late Wednesday after NATO leaders met for dinner in Bucharest, Romania, ahead of a two-day summit.
The CBC's Keith Boag confirmed the details with spokespeople for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office, with an official announcement on Thursday.
The privilege of announcing the troop commitment traditionally goes to the country providing the soldiers, Boag told the CBC's Don Newman on Wednesday from Bucharest.
Last month, the Conservative government, with support from the Liberals, passed a motion that would keep Canadian soldiers in Kandahar until 2011.
The motion was contingent on two recommendations of the Manley report on Canada's role in Afghanistan:

  • NATO allies provide 1,000 extra troops.
  • Ottawa secure access to unmanned surveillance drones and large helicopters to transport Canadian troops around the region.
Earlier in the day, in Bucharest, Harper would neither confirm nor deny a report that U.S. President George W. Bush made a personal pledge to Harper to provide the 1,000 extra combat troops.
Better 'political optics' if troops not American: Manley

Harper spoke during a panel discussion Wednesday with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
"I make it a habit never to speak on behalf of other people," Harper said. "We've had good discussions with our allies, and I am convinced that we will achieve our objectives and achieve it in a way that causes the overall level of troop commitment to Afghanistan to be increased, not merely shifted laterally."
Asked again about the report, Harper responded: "You'll have to ask Mr. Bush what his position is," but added, "we're very confident we'll get a commitment."
Speaking to CBC News, former Liberal deputy prime minister John Manley said the additional troops could come from any NATO country. But he said that politically, it would look better for Canada if they didn't come from the U.S.
"A lot of Canadians are still confused between the mission in Afghanistan and what the Americans were doing in Iraq which is totally different situations. I think for political optics, I'd guess the prime minister would prefer that they be from somewhere else."
Canada has about 2,500 soldiers operating in and around Kandahar province, many of whom will be watching the NATO summit discussions with interest, the CBC's David McGuffin said.
"Certainly, there is a keen awareness of what's going on in Bucharest and a real hope that the promise that seems to be out there of more troops for Kandahar province and to help Canadians, that this will come through," he said.
Canadian soldiers interviewed by the CBC said that additional troop support would allow them to push out the security perimeter around Kandahar City, and the province as a whole.
 
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