Wednesday, November 11, 2009

CDS serves a hard Afghan ball to the government

That ball is now very firmly in their court. Time soon to end their dancing. Good on General Natynczyk, after having been much quieter that his predecessor, for coming through loud and clear:
Soldiers out of Kandahar by 2011: defence chief

Amid speculation over a future role for Canadian forces in Kandahar, Canada's top commander says he will withdraw all of the country's soldiers from the region by 2011.

"The parliamentary motion directs that it will be the end of the military mission in July of 2011. I mean those are the words that are there," Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk told CBC News in an exclusive interview. "And for me it's pretty clear. What we do for the Canadian Forces are military missions."

CBC News had previously reported that Natynczyk ordered his commanders to start preparing military plans [more here] to pull out of Afghanistan and return thousands of soldiers and billions of dollars' worth of equipment to Canada.

The government has insisted Canada's military mission will end in 2011. But its ministers and staff — including Defence Minister Peter MacKay — have suggested Canadian soldiers could remain in Afghanistan beyond that deadline, though perhaps not in combat.

Speaking before a parliamentary committee last month, MacKay said they would shift to a role that focuses on more development, reconstruction, training and helping Afghans enhance their own security.

As well, the prime minister's spokesman Dimitri Soudas told CBC News last month that Canadian soldiers would remain in Afghanistan. He suggested a force much smaller than the 2,800-troop mission currently in Kandahar.

But Natynczyk said he couldn't see a role for any soldiers in Kandahar that would respect parliament's declaration.

"We provide protection, we provide security, we enable governance, we enable development, we enable training. But our function is security and protection. That's the military mission."

Asked if there's any role for Canadian soldiers in a non-military deployment, Natynczyk said there will be some representatives in Kabul as part of the embassy staff.

"But right now, everything else we do is a security mission, is providing protection and security."..
Afghan ball still in Obama's court...


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