Canada is considering withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, according to an interim report by the Canadian Senate committee on national security and defence. The report demands more money for the operation and a bigger commitment from other NATO countries within a year. If these demands are not met, Ottawa should reconsider its mission, the head of the Senate committee Colin Kenny said when releasing the report. He asked: “Are Canadians willing to commit themselves to decades of involvement in Afghanistan, which could cost hundreds of Canadian lives and billions of dollars with no guarantee of ending up with anything like the kind of society that makes sense to us?” Canada presently has 2,500 troops in the Afghan province of Kandahar, where they have sustained 42 fatalities. (DPA, Feb. 14)
President Bush angered some northern neighbors Feb. 15 when his speech calling for an all-out allied effort against the Taliban failed to mention Canada. Bush singled out for praise Britain, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Turkey, Greece and Iceland.
Asked about the omission, White House spokeswoman Kate Starr noted other allies like the Netherlands weren’t mentioned. “Canada is a key ally and the president appreciates Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper for his leadership,” she said. “He thanks Harper and the Canadian people who’ve dedicated personnel to support NATO’s efforts and for leading a multinational headquarters brigade responsible for southern Afghanistan.”
In Ottawa, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay was conciliatory. “I’m certain it’s just, maybe, a little error,” he said in French, noting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice often praises Canada’s role in Afghanistan. Opposition leaders were far less sanguine. “Maybe with Harper leading Canada, he thinks it’s become the 51st American state,” said Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe. “That might explain it.” (Canadian Press, Feb. 15)