U.S. officials ask Canada to extend Afghanistan mission

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

There are rumblings today that Canada's mission to Afghanistan might be extended beyond the 2014 withdrawal the Conservative government promised.

According to an article by David Pugilese of the Ottawa Citizen, the U.S. has devised a plan to leave thousands of its special forces troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to both train Afghan soldiers and to hunt down insurgent leaders.

They'd like Canada's help.

"The U.S. has asked both Australia and Canada to contribute special forces for both of those missions," Pugilese writes.

"Canadian and U.S. government officials confirm that the request has been made."

Currently, a small contingent of 950 Canadian soldiers remain in the war-torn country as part of a NATO training mission in Kabul and are scheduled for withdrawal in the spring of 2014.

But, as has often been the case with Canada's role in Afghanistan, the Harper government is not averse to changing course.

In a blog post for Maclean's, Aaron Wherry winds through Harper's yo-yo policy on the mission:

"Stephen Harper, May 11, 2007"We can't set arbitrary deadlines and wish for the best."

Stephen Harper, September 10, 2008"You have to put an end date on these things. By 2011...the mission, as we've known it, we intend to end."

Lawrence Cannon [Minister of Foreign Affairs], November 23, 2010. "We might be pressured obviously, but I think the prime minister has made this perfectly clear. March of 2014 is when we will be leaving."

Canada can expect more pressure to extend their military presence when leaders of NATO nations meet May 20-21 in Chicago to discuss the war.

Meanwhile, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair says there should be no more extensions to Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan.

He told the Canadian Press that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is playing with fire by even entertaining such a call from the Americans.