Canada faces renewed uncertainty in Afghanistan, with the death of more than 60 Canadian troops and new pressures on its humanitarian mission there.
Under pressure from a dispirited public to withdraw troops, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada would end its combat mission in February 2009 unless parliament votes otherwise.
Harper is now seeking a consensus vote to extend the mission; the Canadian Press reports that “‘consensus’ means 50 percent plus one MP in a parliamentary vote.”
Fearful of losing one of its greatest assets in Afghanistan (Canada has 2,500 troops in Kandahar alone) British and Polish NATO officials are calling for “strategic patience” at a crucial time for security there, reports the CanWest News Service.
Canadians, however, seem to be out of patience.
The Times Colonist in British Columbia reported that protestors at an anti-NATO rally last week accused officials of “war crimes” for the bombing of Afghan civilians.
Canada’s $1.45 billion humanitarian mission in Afghanistan also faces major obstacles, according to the United Nations news service.
Violence in southern Afghanistan has eliminated Canadian medical workers’ access to five provinces, and Canada’s reconstruction team, which took over from American efforts in Kandahar in 2005, cannot rebuild the thousands of homes it has committed to.
The Canadian aid program has also come under sharp criticism from a British think tank for the way it funnels its money directly into the Afghan government’s coffers to do with as it pleases.
The report said millions of dollars are being wasted this way.
“Protesters take on NATO generals”
Times Colonist (Canada), September 9, 2007
“Harper wants troops to ‘finish job’ in Afghanistan; dims hope for quick vote”
Canadian Press, September 9, 2007
“Canadian exit from Afghanistan would be sorely missed, top officer says”
CanWest News Service, September 10, 2007
“Afghanistan: Canadians and Kandaharis differ on security and development”
Integrated Regional Information Networks (United Nations), September 9, 2007