Friday, July 6, 2007

Harper: Canada will stay in Afghanistan for now.

It seems that the main reason for withdrawing troops from anywhere ultimately comes down to reduced public support for missions because of casualties. The fact that the Afghanistan mission was not legal in the first place and basically an extension of the US drive for world hegemony is irrelevant as are the profits the wars bring to the military industrial complex. The supposed mission of spreading freedom and democracy is pure poppycock as recent expulsion of a female critic from the legisature shows as well as the case of an Afghan convert to Christianity being threatened with the death penalty.

PM firm on troops remaining in Afghanistan
Fallen soldiers weigh on Harper's mind, but mandate intact
Last Updated: Thursday, July 5, 2007 | 8:09 PM ET
CBC News
Canada's soldiers will stay in Afghanistan until at least February 2009 in spite of mounting Canadian deaths in the region, Prime Minister Stephen Harper reiterated Thursday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is piped aboard HMCS Halifax as he arrives to make a defence spending announcement in Halifax on Thursday.
(Andrew Vaughan/Associated Press)
"That's the position we've given to our allies and our military men and women are very committed to that," Harper said in Halifax.

The government has already been "absolutely clear" on its mission mandate and will not back down, the prime minister told reporters and members of Canada's Atlantic fleet.

Harper made his comments the day after a roadside bomb in the Panjwaii district, 20 kilometres southwest of Kandahar City, killed six Canadian soldiers.

He expressed condolences to the families of the six fallen Canadians but said that while casualties weigh heavily on his mind, "I'm aware also of the pride [families] feel for their loved ones and the ultimate sacrifice they made for their country.

"Of course you do a dangerous job; a job that is not without personal risk and sacrifices," he said, addressing the naval officers gathered before him. "Our government knows — particularly on a day like today — the importance of that sacrifice."

When pressed further by reporters on whether the deaths of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan was beginning to influence his perspective of the mission, Harper said the day should be about showing Canada's appreciation for the soldiers' work, not questioning it.

"Today is not the day to engage in political debate about this mission," he said. "We have the House of Commons for that."

Focus on families, not debate
A senior military commander echoed Harper's plea to save the debate for later.

Col. Jon Vance said Thursday that Canadians should focus on offering support to the grieving families of slain soldiers instead of focusing on the debate over the mission in Afghanistan.

"This is the saddest of days and saddest of events for the brigade," said Vance, commander of 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group.

The group includes the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, which four of the most recently fallen soldiers belonged to.

Vance, speaking to reporters in Edmonton, said the focus should be on repatriating the soldiers and ensure their families receive a "clarion call" of support from Canada.

"The families are well aware that there is debate on this mission," Vance said. "Nonetheless, in this particular point in time, the most sensitive and I think mature approach would be to show to them an absolute clarion call of love and support as these soldiers died in a mission that they believe in, and see progress occurring."

Vance said no one embraces the right to debate more than the Canadian Forces and that one of the purposes of the mission is to give the people of Afghanistan those same rights.

Opposition leaders call for troop withdrawal
Opposition leaders were quick to call for a troop withdrawal following news of the six deaths on Wednesday, one of the deadliest days for Canada's mission in Afghanistan.

Both Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion and New Democrat Leader Jack Layton are against extending the mission past February 2009.

Dion told a news conference on Wednesday that Ottawa should give the NATO coalition in Afghanistan 18 months notice for a pullout, while Layton in a separate news conference called for an immediate withdrawal.

Since the mission began in 2002, 66 Canadian soldiers and one Canadian diplomat have been killed in Afghanistan.

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