Harper starts Hedging on Afghanistan

Seems like Obaaama and Bush or the north are more than willing to continue the madness. - Dan F.
IMG SRC
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No light at end of Afghan tunnel
Allan Woods - The Star
January 18, 2009

OTTAWA–Canada could be in for a longer stay in Afghanistan as Barack Obama seeks to transform George W. Bush's forgotten war into his top foreign policy priority, say military, political and diplomatic experts.

There are few details on how the new U.S. administration plans to tackle the Taliban insurgency beyond the promise of thousands of additional troops, but governments around the world are already changing their tunes on the troubled NATO-led mission to curry favour with the president-elect.

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All this posturing could set a difficult precedent for Canada, which is seen in NATO ranks as among the most experienced and prepared to fight the counter-insurgency mission. Geography and the tit-for-tat nature of the Canada-U.S. partnership also means Ottawa has the most to gain from keeping on Obama's good side.

"I just cannot see any Canadian government of any stripe entirely withdrawing, on the assumption that there is still fighting going on and, very importantly, on the assumption that the Afghan government wants the U.S. and NATO to be there," said Gordon Smith, a former Canadian ambassador to NATO.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is treading carefully around a tricky question that's bound to arise in the coming months. Last September, on the election trail, he vowed that the 2011 end-date agreed to by Parliament last spring would hold.

By December, he had softened his tone. "We're aiming for that," he told CTV. "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."
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