Just a short time ago Harper was firm on a withdrawal in December 2011 now he leaves the door open to extending the time. With Liberals such as Manley, Iggy, et al he could no doubt manage to extend the mission with a little added piffle about peacekeeping, reconstruction, etc to soothe the Liberals sensitivity to hard combat. The reason that the situation is not yet quite as bleak as for the Soviets is that the same jihadis were much better armed by precisely the same countries that they are now fighting during the Soviet occupation or support of their own favored Afghan govt. If the US, Russian cold war heats up the Russians could support the jihadists but I think that is an unlikely scenario.
Harper dodges question on Afghan extension TheStar.com - SpecialSections - Harper dodges question on Afghan extension
But Prime Minister leaves no doubt deployment of troops will last until at least December 2011
December 20, 2008 Tonda MacCharlesOTTAWA BUREAU
OTTAWA–Prime Minister Stephen Harper has appeared to leave the door open to a longer deployment in Afghanistan than the scheduled end of mission in December 2011.
In an interview taped Thursday, to be broadcast tonight on CTV, Harper discusses the difficulties of the Afghan mission, but defends the work Canadians are doing there.
Asked if Canadian troops might possibly come home any earlier, Harper said flatly, "no."
But asked about whether there are any conditions under which Canada could extend its mission beyond December 2011, in light of the vow by U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to increase American efforts there, Harper called it a "hypothetical," and dodged a direct answer.
"We took a resolution to Parliament; we got agreement of ourselves and the Liberal party on the extension of the mission to 2011. We have very definite goals we want to achieve by 2011, including being in a situation where our military mission can end.
"We're aiming for that. A big emphasis is the training of the Afghan military. That is progressing, and we do want to be able to achieve what we set out to achieve. And at the moment, at the end of 2008, I'm not prepared to speculate on other scenarios for 2011. We're committed to the track we're on."
Harper, in response to a videotaped question from a Canadian soldier in Kandahar about what he believes will be achieved by then, concedes "there's no doubt this remains a tough mission."
He said troops are in the "single toughest province in the entire country. Kandahar is the centre of the resistance." But he continued to claim that progress is being made.
Harper says "the big problem" is "with the Pakistan-Afghan border" noting insurgents cross back and forth, and are causing "increasing problems in Pakistan itself."
Harper lamented the "inadequate" NATO troop levels in Afghanistan, saying "Canada, Britain, the United States, the Netherlands – there's a handful of countries (that) are carrying the load."
Canada has about 2,500 troops in the volatile Kandahar region. Since 2002, 103 Canadian soldiers have died in the conflict.
Harper insisted the situation is much different from the bleak scenario faced by Soviet troops in Afghanistan, when U.S.-funded mujahideen countered the invasion.
"The truth of the matter is we have nowhere near the kind of fighting force the Soviets had, and the insurgency is much weaker than it was in that period.
"And this is the tragedy. I think if we would all put our shoulders to the wheel, this is a problem we can deal with. It's a much smaller insurgency than we saw 30 years ago, much less effective, but it does need sustained, concentrated efforts by the allies and this is a big test of NATO." He said there has been renewed engagement by NATO allies, "but there has to be more again."